After Ferrari took over Maserati a decade ago, enthusiasts celebrated the move, confident that the result would be products that were finally on par with the trident nameplate. But the first couple of sports car offerings were timid, as if Ferrari was afraid to make them too competitive with its own, more costly prancing horse brand. And the Quattroporte sedan was stunning but hobbled with a quirky sequential manual transmission.
Maserati’s newest offerings, the GranTurismo Coupe and revised Quattroporte are both based on the same, rigid platform and are finally able to compete on substance as well as stunning looks. In fact, the GranTurismo is such a solid GT sportscar, some observers might compare it to Ferrari’s fabulously expensive 612 Scaglietti model, especially if eight cylinders and 405 horsepower seem like enough oomph.
The GranTurismo replaces the two-passenger sports coupe with a larger, more luxurious 2+2 that looks and drives like a much lighter car. A detuned Ferrari V8 resides under the hood and it’s connected to a very competent ZF automatic transmission that you can shift to your heart’s content when the need for control arises. Otherwise, leave it in drive and enjoy one of the nicest interiors in luxury motoring.
All the visceral elements of an Italian GT car are alive and well in the GranTurismo. When you light off the powerful V8, there’s a great growl from the four exhaust pipes that’s sure to get your neighbor’s attention. Under way, you can amuse the rest of the neighborhood with the wonderful howl out the back at higher engine speeds.
On the road, this Maserati is a treat, flying down the left lane or heading to the hills through the switchbacks. The big paddle-shifters command quick up-shifts and the transmission is programmed to blip the throttle on downshifts for rev-matching. For the handful of buyers who engage in competitive racing, a sequential-manual gearbox might have an edge, but most will only know that this new automatic setup is simply far better.
Inside the beautifully upholstered cockpit, Maserati has added all the expected convenience and luxury amenities, from navigation to symphonic stereo. But they retained that Italian tradition of making the user interface incomprehensible. Booting your favorite radio station or locating an address is a task that involves training and frequent practice. It’s a good thing these cars aren’t put in rental service, as they might never get out of the lot.
A few archrivals, including Aston Martin’s Vantage and Audi’s R8 offer plenty of style and image for the same price, but they both lack even a small back seat. And Jaguar’s XKR is pretty sexy and competent, but it’s not as exotic. So if you really want a 2+2 in this category, you have to move to a more lofty price category and want 12 cylinders.
That leaves Maserati in a pretty desirable position, with a solid performing GT offered at just north of $100,000. They’ve even increased the warranty coverage to a reasonable 4 years/50,000 miles to give buyers a sense of security. And that’s another real break from the past. BRIAN DOUGLAS
Type: Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: 4.2-liter, DOHC V8
Horsepower: 405 @ 7,100 rpm
Torque: 350 foot-pounds @ 4,300 rpm
Base Price: $113,450
As Tested: $123,700
Fuel Economy: 13 city, 9 hwy