16 Feb 2014

Maserati GranTurismo Sport Review

The first thing that strikes you about the Maserati GranTurismo Sport in the metal is the fact photographs don't do justice to its sheer beauty.  Walk around it, look at the lines, the detail and you'll be transfixed.

It is disarmingly pretty.  As you can see in the image below the GranTurismo fulfils the classic coupe silhouette with deeply raked screens front and aft, sculpted haunches over the rear wheel-arches, a wonderfully crafted boot-lip spoiler, tightly stretched flanks and a sloping bonnet uncompromised by the 4.7 litre V8 that lies within.

Indeed the front of the V8 ends just ahead of the front axle, leaving the forward section of the bonnet to curve down to that snout, but with two bumps over the front wheels, that look wonderful from the cockpit.

The GranTurismo has been around since 2007 and the only external change since then has been to revise the grille slightly for the MC Stradale and the Sport.  Under the bonnet lies a Ferrari built, naturally aspirated 4.7 litre V8 with 454bhp and 384 lb ft of torque.  0-60mph takes 4.6 seconds and the top speed is 186mph.

The car I tested sits on optional 20" Neptune alloys painted black - or Grigio Mercury as Maserati calls it - which look sensational, albeit they would be easy to kerb.  The gearbox fitted to the car was a 6-speed, electro-actuated, single clutch, manual transmission.  In other words it changes gear itself and you can either let it get on with it or use the column mounted, carbon paddles behind the steering wheel.

The other piece of tech worth mentioning is the standard-fitment Skyhook suspension system which uses the bumper-mounted sensors to analyse the road ahead in milliseconds and prepare the suspension accordingly.  Maserati themselves explain it in better detail here.

The interior is pretty much the best I've encountered.  No god-awful wood cladding that looks fake but is actually real, no acres of elephant hide plastic, no tacky piano-black trim.  Just lots and lots of tastefully adorned leather, in a shade that Maserati call Bianco Pregiato but that I call white.  Looks great, will get dirty very quickly - a darker colour would be recommended even though it does look gorgeous.

Where there is plastic it's a firmly textured matt black rubbery plastic which is nice to touch.  There are also carbon fibre touches.  The automatic gearstick is shaped like a manual 'stick and the steering wheel is squared off at the top and bottom and feels sumptuous to the touch.  The pedals are also worth a mention - a huge brake pedal and bottom-hinged accelerator, both finished in drilled, cast aluminium.

The exterior of the car is large and this is apparent inside in the huge-for-a-coupe rear seats.  My son, wife and daughter all took turns in the back on a long trip, and reported lots of legroom.

As you get comfortable in the driver's seat a minor niggle occurs.  It might be a sportscar but you sit as in a saloon.  The seat is low and the wheel quite high.  I was expecting a steering wheel in the lap experience as in the Mercedes SL or Jaguar XK.  It took a while to fidget with the electric seat which adjusts every which way, to get properly attuned to the car - which I eventually did.

On the road and the GranTurismo Sport takes on a new dimension.  The engine is ferocious and the gear-changes are sharp and fast (they take 200ms).  The GranTurismo has a Sport button which heightens the engine note, sharpens the suspension and strings out gear changes.  I left it in Sport for 95% of the time.

The engine isn't quite as powerful or torquey as the twin-turbo 5.5 litre Mercedes SL 63 AMG or the supercharged 5 litre Jaguar XKR-S but the GranTurismo Sport doesn't feel any slower, partially by virtue of the 7500rpm redline.

Journalists often adopt superlatives when describing a loud, powerful V8 but the 4.7 litre V8 needs none.  It simply screams and sounds exactly like you would imagine a high-revving Ferrari-constructed engine should sound.  Listen to it here:

The steering is weighted quite heavily, but not too much to bring on arm-ache.  The gear-changes are slick and the throttle response fast.  The GranTurismo Sport wills you to drive fast, to overtake in an instant, to change down a gear just for the pleasure of hearing the blip on down-change, to press the throttle as you drive past a brick-wall so you can listen to the noise reverberate.  The engine is massively willing, and quite thirsty - it returns about 19mpg.

Through sweeping, fast corners the car is planted, the Skyhook suspension doing its stuff without you realising.  That's not to say it absorbs every imperfection.  Corrugated surfaces and potholes jar through the chassis.

Through tight, short radius corners the GranTurismo holds its line well but will never be as nimble as a more focussed Porsche 911.  Oversteer is curtailed by the traction control but you can feel a little wiggle of the rear before this happens.  The system isn't as nannying as Jaguar's which is so overprotective you want to turn it off - and without traction control the XFR and XKR-S turn into oversteering, hedgerow destroying monsters.

Instead the electronic nannies on the Maserati do their job quietly and unobtrusively, and give you no reason to disable them.

On a motorway run the car is refinement itself.  Road noise is heard but never intrusive.  In sport mode the engine noise is ever present.  You can while away hours by subtly playing with the throttle to make it produce the most brilliant array of sounds.  Even when crawling in traffic in 2nd gear you can amuse yourself playing with variations on the engine note by just the smallest amounts of throttle adjustment.  At one point I achieved a Chewbacca noise.

The brakes were slightly strange, although after a while I inspected the discs and found they were pretty badly worn and in need of changing.  The first inch of travel was quite spongy, but then when you felt the bite it provided good feel and huge stopping power.  The test car had previously been hooned around a certain triangle of roads in North Wales which almost certainly accounted for the worn discs.  I'm sure with new discs the brakes' bite would be felt much sooner.

And now on to more ethereal matters.

What you would never understand if you only tested this car on the track is what the Maserati GranTurismo Sport makes you feel like.  What it does to you as a person.  It enlivens you.  Lifts your spirit and does something rather good to your soul.

I covered 600 miles in the GranTurismo, with my wife in the passenger seat for 500 of those miles.  We were both taken aback by the response from everyone who came into contact with the car.  Van drivers waved, lorry drivers gawped, company car drivers craned their necks to see it, pedestrians stopped and stared goggle-eyed, children chattered to each other about it, mums loved it, teenagers loved it, garage attendants asked me what it was like.  One woman nearly sideswiped us at a roundabout because she was staring at the car rather than concentrating on her driving.

It attracted no envy, no jealous or snide remarks.  Just positive affection.  Whilst Porsches, Jags, Mercedes, BMWs pass by the Maserati attracts a crowd.  Ferraris divide opinion - Maseratis, seemingly, unite it.

The Maserati GranTurismo Sport has only one major flaw.  It's size.  And the fact it is a genuine four seater with only 2 doors.  The car is wide and the doors are thick and very long.  This presents a problem when parking in public areas.  It doesn't fit into normal sized parking spaces.  Ideally it needs two spaces.

At motorway service stations and supermarkets one has to park right at the back of the car park where two spaces might be found - and then you hope no-one parks next to you.  Because you will not be able to open the door to get back in.

It's also very low to the ground.  Speed-bumps need to be taken with absolute care, and at 1mph.  The boot is also quite small.

If you can cope with the lack of practicality when it comes to parking then the GranTurismo is the most sensible and best £90,000 GT/Sportscar you can buy.


Car: Maserati GranTurismo Sport
Price: £93,720 with the 6-speed electro-manual
0-60mph: 4.6sec
Top speed: 186mph
Engine: 4691cc V8 petrol
Gearbox: 6-speed electro-actuated manual
Power: 453bhp at 7000rpm
Torque: 383lb ft at 4750rpm
Kerbweight: 1880kg
Economy: 19.8mpg
CO2: 331g/km

Review by Matt Hubbard