The souped up Maserati GranTurismo has much more to offer than raw acoustic presence.
This review was first published in MOTOR Magazine's August 2008 issue.
Turn the key — there’s no fashionable starter button — and the Maser’s V8 instantly jumps to life and, in Sport mode, will make the most glorious sound Italy has composed since Verdi’s Nabucco.
It also looks more aggressive than the normal version, with grey 20-inch alloys, a blacked-out grille and the headlamp surrounds, extended tail spoiler, flared sills, dual chromed tailpipes and fire-red brake calipers. It’s a solid 10 in street cred.
Despite the gothic make-up, the truly significant changes are under the skin. Engine size is up from 4.2 to 4.7 litres, and with it the power from 302kW to 323kW. Peak torque climbs from 460Nm to 490Nm.
The S version is quantifiably faster than the untreated GranTurismo, reaching 100km/h in 4.9sec and a top speed of 295km/h. That’s the good news. The bad news concerns the price list where the S coupe will command a $25,000-odd premium over the standard GT.
While the run-of-the-mill 2+2-seater is, like the Quattroporte, equipped with a ZF transmission, the S retains the Cambiocorsa ’box which has been renamed MC Shift to neutralise all those negative connotations.
The main benefit is the fact that both the nice-to-have dry-sump lubrication and the better-balanced transaxle layout — with 47:53 percent weight distribution — are retained. Making the most out of the MC Shift requires more than 5500rpm, and 80 percent throttle.
How quick is MC Shift? Maserati claims 100milliseconds for the whole procedure and 40ms for engaging the gear, which is every bit as fast as the Ferrari 599GTB Fiorano. The downside of MC Shift is the auto mode, which takes a long, chin-dropping breather when stepping from one ratio to the next.
However, we must mention the new twin-button layout of the centre console where first and reverse are conveniently close together, making tight manoeuvres a cinch.
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The standard, non-adjustable chassis is firmer overall but more honest and predictable than the optional Skyhook suspension. The fixed set-up is neatly tied down at all times, with stiffer damping, less body roll and recalibrated springs. With the fatter rubber, the S delivers excellent roadholding and super-smooth slides at the limit.
Drawbacks? The ride comfort varies between wooden and brick-hard; those 20-inch gumballs tramline on any surface that’s not mirror-smooth, and the dual-compound brakes feel heavy. It´s all got to do with the car´s kerb weight of 1880kg. It´s still chuckable and a hoot to drive fast, but you relish every extra inch through the tight and narrow corners. We’d love to see a stripped two-seater ‘Corsa’ version with composite brakes, a more compliant suspension setting, a slightly quicker steering. And a 350kW engine.
Wishful thinking? But why shouldn’t Maserati aim for the parking spot the Ferrari F430 will vacate when its successor moves up in early 2010?
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Fast Facts - 2008 Maserati Granturismo S
ENGINE: 4691cc DOHC V8, 32v
POWER: 323kW @ 7000rpm
TORQUE: 490Nm @ 4750rpm
0-100km/h: 4.93sec (claimed)
TOP SPEED: 295km/h (claimed)
PRICE: $315,000 (est)
LIKE: Excellent chassis; great handling; superb sound
DISLIKE: Harsh ride; slow auto shifts; heavy brakes