Maserati's Most Sexy : Maserati GranTurismo [review]

Car Specifications
Engine: 
4244cc, Normal Aspirated
Cylinder Layout: 
V8, 32 valves, DOHC
Top Speed: 
285 km/h
Transmission: 
6-speed ZF automatic with manual selection
0-100km/h: 
5.2 sec
Power: 
405 bhp at 7100 rpm
Torque: 
460 Nm at 4750 rpm
Features: 
  • Best looking coupe today
  • Lovely sounding V8 exhaust

It would seem that Maserati have turned a corner of sorts, posting a slim but nonetheless significant € 1million profit in 2006, the first ever since they were acquired by the Fiat group since 1993. As if to commemorate this significant milestone Maserati conjures up the most stunning piece of automobile art in the form of the gorgeous GranTurismo coupe.

The latest offering from the Maserati stables is a masterstroke of design. Nothing quite prepares you for the surprise just how large and grand this GranTurismo is. It may look svelte in photos but it is a full sized coupe matching the coupes like the Mercedes CL or Bentley Continental GT.

It fits into the Maserati line-up as an additional model aside the Quattroporte limousine and will not replace the smaller GranSport coupe. It is more like a Quattroporte coupe and indeed is just 171mm shorter. It defines GranTurismo or GT in the true sense as it is first comfortable and then impressively sporty. It will seat four adults with elbow and headroom to spare and carry two whole golf bags or just a special Salvatore Ferragamo 5-piece luggage set for that weekend getaway.

Not surprisingly it is based upon an abbreviated Quattroporte platform and so inherits the wonderful chassis it has. Thanks to the new frame and just two door openings, the body strength is around 30% stiffer then the Quattroporte. The engine sits deep behind the front axle giving it a front midship configuration which is great for handling balance.

Maserati also has worked hard to get the weight distribution to be just a bit more sporty biased with 51% on the rear, not quite the 53% they could get with a rear transaxle gearbox but remarkable nonetheless considering the gearbox is now mated to the engine directly in the front of the car ever since doing away with their famous transaxle design that housed the controversial DuoSelect transmission.

Although this V8 is derived from the one in the Quattroporte it is uprated for 405 bhp and 460 Nm which is 5 bhp and 9 Nm more than before. Moreover this engine has quite a nice exhaust bark though it sounds a tad muted from inside the well-insulated cabin should all the windows be closed. It does impress all bystanders though when the GranTurismo sails by.

With a kerb weight of 1880-kg  it is a large and relatively heavy car though lighter than the Merc CL or Bentley Continental GT. The performance is surprisingly quite competitive posting a 0-100 km/h time of 5.2 seconds making it a bit faster than the BMW 650i and CL500 both of which have bigger 5-litre V8 engines. Maserati goes one better and has decided not to electronically restrict its top speed to 250 km/h which now stands at an impressive 285 km/h thanks to its efficient aerodynamic shape cleaving the air with a Cd of 0.33.

Inheriting the new ZF Automatic transmission from the Quattroporte limousine confers a huge advantage to the GranTurismo coupe. It is the only automatic transmission designed to operate up to 7200 rpm to match this powerful V8 engine and has whittled its gear shift times down to 100ms in Sport mode.

Though slightly more leisurely in normal mode it is noticeably smoother too. It appears that Maserati will use this new automatic to replace the previous DuoSelect paddle-shift type transmission inherited from Ferrari as the autobox has all the functionality of the DuoSelect including manual shifting via the steering column mounted paddle shifts.

Its greatest advantage being a torque converter type autobox allows it to slur shift points till they are nearly imperceptible quite unlike the jerky progress made by the DuoSelect.

Punching the Sport mode button firms up the Skyhook suspension settings, quickens transmission shifts, sharpens engine throttle response and firms up steering feel. It is an all-or-nothing setting that does not provide for a mix and match of the various system settings.

However at the firmest setting it is not jarring at all, in fact it is comfortable though over rippled tacmac it feels a bit knobbly. On most roads, Sport setting can be used all the time but with the optional Skyhook suspension, the normal damper rates give a softer ride at some expense to steering precision and body control.

Again in city driving one could just leave it on the default(Sport-off) setting and enjoy the added comfort. The standard suspension uses passive dampers and is calibrated to be close to the Sport type settings.

There is no “Start” button so one starts the car via the good old column mounted key lock switch and we applaud Maserati not to have blindly followed the trend of having a redundant starter button for the sake of fashion The inside of the cabin of the GranTurismo is like a showroom of designer Italian furniture.

The choice of 10 colored Poltrona Frau leather against the two veneered wood or piano black inserts illuminated the interior. It is a far cry from the clinical sameness of the German competition. Here they have lifted the bar another notch over their competitors.

True the seats may not have a zillion ways to adjust them but it is easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the motorized rake and reach adjustable steering column.

Headroom is surprisingly generous up front and there is genuine space within the cabin. The two individual seats in the rear have better than expected proportions and more than adequate leg and headroom.

The seating positions are so generous that for those of normal Asian build, seated so forward highlights two problems, first the window switches are located a little too far back so reaching them is awkward and secondly thanks to the huge door opening the B-pillar is far back so reaching for the seat belt is a bit of a stretch.

Other than that it is really a work of art and they have even acceded to include four cup holders, remarkable for an Italian whose idea of coffee is a tiny cup of delicious expresso, not the jumbo sized Starbucks sized cups and certainly not drunk on the go but at leisure in a proper restaurante.

The GranTurismo beggars belief as it completely ignores the 1880-kg it is carrying. It even feels more nimble than the GranSport. Of course one has to get used to the sheer size of this coupe but once on the move, there is nothing but enjoyment in store.

With a well-judged power assistance, the steering is direct and positive and as you press on it becomes obvious there is genuine front end grip allowing the GranTurismo to do your bidding. This remarkable composure is maintained right up to the limit where it displays mild understeer unless the tail is urged into oversteer under power or trailing throttle.

Only when accelerating or braking does the car’s mass begin to weigh in taxing the engine and the brakes. But the engine takes great delight in revving to the redline, singing as it blasts along.

Thanks to the very stiff body structure and suitably firm suspension, handling precision does not come with a penalty in ride comfort. As mentioned even in Sport mode the ride is firm but pliant, only the potholes rattling the cabin.

The standard tyres are 19-inch P-Zero Rossos and they do deliver a good balance between ride and handling but the 20-inch option which might be standard fitment for our cars will be shod with the new P-Zero and those are truly amazing tyres delivering a level or performance and ride comfort never before attained by any performance tyre. Make sure you check this option box.

Over the tortuous mountain roads the large coupe never threatened to head for the other lane, so positive was the front wheels' turn-in and so obedient its rear end. As for the gearbox it is of course better to manually shift when faced with such arduous driving conditions as the gearbox does hunt for lower gears to gather enough torque to sling the GranTurismo through the corners.

Motorways are the true stalking grounds of the GranTurismo though it has to be said the car is equally adept in the twisty bits. The confident gait of the GranTurismo along the Autostrada is a testament of the correctly sorted spring and damper rates. The steering is a touch light at the straight-ahead position but it nevertheless tracks straight and true, always responding accurately to steering inputs at high speeds, a trait it shares with the Quattroporte.

Here it is acceptable to leave it in “D” as it delivers the correct gears during kickdown each time, making the most of its V8 power. Lesser traffic readily gives way as their rearview mirrors are filled with a view of the most aggressive looking intake grille in the automotive kingdom bearing down on them. But it could have been merely because were were in Italy and the natives were content to allow their latest ambassador to zoom by.

 

 

Strategically the move to offer a CL-class competitor with styling to die for should already ensure a steady stream of sales. Its outright performance need not be blistering but it should be entertaining and on most levels the GranTurismo hits the bulls-eye.

That it behaves impeccably as a town car and has the ability to zip up north at 285 km/h on occasion is enough to seal the sale. Being priced so competitively some will draw comparison with the 911 but it is really in a size class way above that.  If you order  yours now it will only be delivered by the end of 2008 if you are lucky. Jaw dropping, gorgeous looks with an Italian attitude, the GranTurismo is a real knockout.

SPECIFICATIONS
ENGINE
CAPACITY : 4244cc
CYLINDER LAYOUT : V8, Normal Aspirated
VALVES : 32, 4-valve heads
BORE X STROKE : 92 x 69.8mm
COMPRESSION RATIO : 11.1:1
MAXIMUM POWER : 405 bhp at 7100 rpm
MAXIMUM TORQUE : 460 Nm at 4750 rpm

TRANSMISSION
TYPE : ZF, 6-speed automatic with manual select
DRIVEN WHEELS : Rear with mechanical LSD

PERFORMANCE
TOP SPEED : 285 km/h
0-100KM/H : 5.2 seconds

SUSPENSION
FRONT : Double wishbones
REAR : Double wishbones

BRAKES
FRONT : Ventilated Discs
REAR : Ventilated Discs

TYRES
TYPE : Pirelli P-Zero Rosso
SIZE : f: 255/40 R 19, r295/35 R 19

SAFETY
ABS : Yes
AIRBAGS : 6
TRACTION CONTROL : MSP (Maserati Stability Program)

MEASUREMENTS
LENGTH : 4881mm
WIDTH : 1847mm
HEIGHT : 1353mm
WHEELBASE : 2942mm
KERB WEIGHT : 1880-kg
POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO:
TURNING CIRCLE : 12m

ORIGINAL PRICE : $428,000 without COE
WARRANTY : 3-year/100,000 km
 

 

Summary
The GranTurismo is not a hardcore coupe, for that Maserati offers the GranTurismo-S. With the new ZF Automatic the GT is a smooth, comfortable drive but has attitude. However the fact that it has Ferrari sourced internal bits like the engine and suspension, wrapped in the most gorgeous body and cabin makes this a desirable cult car.- AL in Bolzano, Italy; Photos: Roberto Carrer, Wolfango Spaccarelli
Photos: 
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