As the salesman retrieved the key for the demo GranTurismo, I approached the trunk of the sleek silver siren sitting on the showroom floor. Even though I was opening the Maserati’s boot rather than its bonnet, I felt like a pre-teen rifling through a copy a Playboy while the drug store owner helped Mrs. Myers with her prescription. The fact that the Maserati’s electric rear lid opened at all was heartening. And then I saw it: a blue box. Genuine Maserati parts. Fumble, fumble. Uh-oh. A trickle charger. A classy, digital battery booster, but a direct link to the most troublesome car I’d ever owned (a British two-seater named after a man called Trevor). It seems that Maserati’s latest product for the American market is still a bit . . . problematic. But not for the reasons you might think.
Those damn Italians. Why can’t the GranTurismo be a Porsche? Or a Caddy? Or a Lexus? Then I could just phone it in. Test drive? Do you test drive Adriana Lima? Don’t answer that. Let’s talk price. Actually, not yet. Lest we forget, the GranTurismo is a Maserati, a marque that fled the United States with its tailpipe dragging on the runway, showering onlookers with red hot sparks. In other words, certain precauzione must be taken. Buona fortuna. I’m supposed to be checking the GranTurismo’s door seals, peering down the side of the bodywork, eyeballing panel gaps, desperately seeking seams. But I can’t think. Hell, I can hardly breathe. OK, wait. I’m good.
The GranTurismo is a perfectly proportioned, exquisitely detailed piece of automotive artistry. Like most classic examples of sheet metal magic, the GranTurismo is slightly derivative; there’s more than a hint of Aston/Jaguar XK in the Maser’s shape and stance. While the GranTurismo is more Italian than the Bentley Continental GT is British, both cars seem curiously . . . international. Then again, who cares? The Maser’s voracious snout and crouching tiger hidden dragon rear haunches give it a bold, unique presence. In a world where a $130K BMW looks like a $30K entry-level sedan, the GranTurismo stands apart.
Inside, not so much. The GranTurismo’s cabin lacks the sense of occasion or (dare I say it) the delicacy of a hand-crafted Italian automobile. The HVAC controls are Delphinian, the ICE Blaupunktian. Everything works (which is, after all, the point), everything’s where it should be and the fit and finish are beyond reproach. But my Nikon D70 is more sensually satisfying. While I’ll gladly trade character for reliability in the Maser’s major control units (as Bosch is my witness), there’s no excuse for the GranTurismo’s non-supportive seats, nasty plastic steering wheel airbag cover and anodyne gauges. The similarly priced Quattroporte is a far more convivial place in which to cross continents.
The 5000lb GranTurismo sits on a slightly stretched Ferrari 612 platform, motivated by a detuned 4.2-liter Ferrari V8. Maserati’s Maranello mill develops 405 hp @ 7100 rpm and stumps up 339 lb·ft of torque @ 4750 rpm. Translation: the Maserati GranTurismo is not a relaxed, high speed cruiser. (For comparison sake, the Mercedes CL550 serves up 391 lb·ft of twist from 2800 to 4800 rpm.) To ensure class-compliant forward thrust, you have to slip the GranTurismo’s box into paddle or tiptronic mode and drop it like its hot. Nice work it you can get it, but it is work.
If you want a screaming Ferrari V8 at a bargain price, well, here it is. At the risk of sounding slightly crude, kick this bitch and she howls like you squeezed her nipples with an adjustable wrench. How great is that? However, Enzo’s famous comment “I sell them an engine and throw the car in for free” doesn’t really work anymore. Especially not in this application. For one thing, even on optional 20″ wheels, the GranTurismo’s handing is more about setting an appropriate course than adjusting it. For another, the seats. And then there are the brakes.
The Maserati GranTurismo’s stoppers lack initial feel. When they eventually figure out that you’re looking for retardation, they grab like a four-year-old coveting her sister’s Princess Barbie stickers. If a car’s only as good as its brakes, the GranTurismo is a swing and a miss. Equally annoying, the GranTurismo’s go and stop pedals are millimeters apart. Heel and toe my ass; the positioning forces a long distance driver to place their foot in a chiropractor-enriching position. Been there, F355′ed that; it can be enough to make you want out.
The irony here is delizioso. In a largely successful attempt to make a modern Maserati, Fiat has created an old school supercar: a drop-dead gorgeous, dynamically challenging automobile that’s an unbeatable experience on the right road in the right conditions. For any patron of the genre, the [now heavily discounted] Maserati GranTurismo is a fabulous bargain. Meanwhile, those who seek genuine driving pleasure from a Maserati are advised to step up to the GranTurismo S (review to follow). For the rest, next?