Maserati's GT Coupe gets Serious: Maserati GranTurismo-S [review]
Fri, 11/28/2008 - 13:31 — admin
Although we never felt that the original Maserati GranTurismo was too soft it did not stop Maserati from searching for an answer. However if you do compare it to the likes of the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti it might pale in comparison but for an “affordable” grand tourer, we felt it hit the sweet spot with its blend of styling, size, sportiness and user friendliness. However living in the long shadow of Ferrari must give Maserati some sort of inferiority complex and hence it promptly went to work on a hot version called the GranTurismo-S.
Maserati must have wanted the F430's 510bhp V8 but obviously there are team orders. Fortunately there is an obscure version that propels the Alfa 8C, the 4.7-litre V8 that pumps out 440 bhp but more importantly it produces 490 Nm of torque and revs hard all the way to 7600 rpm.
It only puts on the show when you press the Sport button on the central console. This closes the exhaust pathway into the noise-canceling baffles that attenuate the exhaust beat and routes it nearly straight through making a huge impression.
At first we thought it was just for the occupant's benefit but after noticing numerous villagers stop and take notice we realized it was not just because of the new rosso color of the test car or its new aerodynamic addenda. It was the delicious sonorous V8 howl that shades everything including some of Ferrari's own.
Of course it is rather anti-social but one can switch it out by leaving the car in normal mode. It is useful for cruising where a monotonous exhaust drone can be a tad tiring or merely giving your neighbours some peace when you come and go, something an aftermarket system cannot offer nor can Ferrari come to think of it.
To get down to these shift speeds, Maserati has adopted what Ferrari has done making the three phases of opening, gear shifting and closing overlap. As we have seen previously, with the shift times falling to 100ms and below, the shift shock actually gets less but there is no way one would think this a DSG type transmission.
During acceleration the traction at or near zero km/h benefits from more static load to better resist wheelspin. To counter this added rear load, larger tyres are used and again adds tractive surface area which also aids balance in the corners. Secondly it forms an image-link with Ferrari using basically similar technology in their faster cars.
To counter this many manufacturers use a floating disc design which allows the rotor to expand independently of the hub but the floating design causes a host of other problems if not properly done.
This time Brembo casts the iron rotor directly onto a special aluminum alloy hub with numerous spokes. It appears there is more than a mere friction fit, perhaps an alloying of both materials at the joint. Since aluminum expands more than iron, with the large temperature gradient between rotor and hub the actual expansion of both parts are similar given the temperature difference, negating the need for a complex floating mechanism.
As for carbon-ceramic brakes, its not really necessary especially since there are many more difficulties involved with ceramic brakes apart from the high cost, proven temperature resistance and weight-saving properties notwithstanding.
Perhaps its just production variation or just that the test vehicles were pretty trashed at the end of the month-long launch event. It might be lightweight but it is very sharp and wields accurate influence on the excellent chassis which moves all of one piece. At speeds below 100 km/h it seems to feel better and makes light work of town driving.
When asked why there was no weight reduction compared to the 1880-kg GranTurismo, the engineers replied that they actually did but the addition of the new performance parts like the engine, transaxle gearbox and torque-tube added the weight back. In perspective the great all-aluminum Ferrari 612 weighs in at 1840-kg so this GT-S is pretty good for an all-steel monocoque.
We did note that there is still a potential for weight saving as there was no evidence of any expensive carbonfibre seats nor body parts. Of course the 612 feels more of a livewire and cuts through the curves more convincingly but that is only to be expected though it should be said the GT-S is no slouch when it comes to the twisty bits.
Of course without the trick E-Diff and sophisticated F-1 derived Traction control, putting max power down is perhaps not as good as the Ferrari but with 440 bhp versus 540 bhp, the GT-S does not really need the Ferrari trick parts.
With a 0-100 km/h time of 4.9 seconds it is some way from threatening the 4.2 seconds set by the 612 but is faster than the normal GT by 0.3 seconds. Top speed has moved up 10 km/h to 295 km/h, just a whisker away from the magical 300 km/h mark and 25 km/h off the mark set by the 612.
The entire test fleet came with fixed rate dampers and springs but there is an option for a Skyhook adaptive system. While the fixed rate suspension does a pretty good job of things, it is calibrated toward the firm end of the spectrum and those huge 20-inch P-Zero tyres do not help too much much though we acknowledge Pirelli's superiority in this area of ride-handling compromise.
Get the Skyhook suspension and one can enjoy a wider spectrum covering more comfort and a little more firmness.
Through the tortuous mountain roads, the GT-S displayed tremendous front end grip though it was felt more through the side forces acting on the seat-of-ones-pants than through the steering. Learn to trust it and one can really push hard in corners. Powering hard in the corners can bring the tail out a bit but the stability control steps in to help. Not quite as seamless as the Ferrari 612 but effective enough.
It became sort of an obsession and perhaps irked some of the village folk as we pummeled through their main street with the exhaust woffle and afterburn bouncing off their houses... which brings us to the point that this system actually manages to circumvent the strict EU noise regulations.
As we have eluded to earlier, the exhaust system only sounds like this in Sport mode which has to be manually selected. In the default, normal mode, the exhaust is completely silenced all the way to the redline. It merely purrs along, especially useful when you do not want to upset the neighbours or authorities.
Although it also cuts the monotonous drone in the cabin when one is merely cruising at a fixed speed, there is a small but perceptible lack of top end 6000+rpm sparkle when compared to the straight-through Sport mode. No prizes then which mode we left it in.
Its supposed to compete in a market filled with the likes of the Porsche 911, BMW M6 and Aston Martin Vantage. Each has its strengths and weakness and often it is a case of Germany vs Italy. Stoic mechanical excellence vs exuberance and sexiness.
Aston Martin plays the neutral card but if your proclivity leans toward things Italian, the Maserati offers an affordable option as the Maserati GT-S is going to be priced around $495,000. Maybe two decades ago we would be worried about the insouciant quality of the Italian exotics but today they have improved dramatically, enough to remove that from the equation.
If you previously had a visceral stirring by just looking at the GranTurismo then you will be in for a treat as the GranTurismo-S takes polite out of the equation. With the Sport button and the aggressive Electro-Actuated gearbox this vocal 4.7-litre V8 Maserati is unique in this market segment looking less like a 911 competitor and more like a bargain price Ferrari 612.
ORIGINAL 2008 PRICE : $495,000 without COE