FIAT Chrysler Automotive boss Sergio Marchionne wants Maserati to take Ferrari’s place as the sports luxury revenue driver in FCA’s portfolio.
What was already a niche line-up has been broadened courtesy of the Ghibli and updated Quattroporte sedans, with the crucial Levante SUV arriving soon and a production version of the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 Alfieri coupe concept looming.
Which puts the writing on the wall for the enduringly stunning Gran Turismo. To keep this now eight-year-old 2+2 GT’s mojo bubbling, the Sportline has been introduced to fill the gap between the standard car and the more focused Stradale.
Style-wise, the new car’s grille shares the higher-performance Stradale’s larger brake cooling apertures and carbonfibre splitter, while the alloy bonnet is perforated with a pair of relatively modest vents. Darkened headlights and fat 20-inch alloys shod with Pirelli P Zero rubber (245/35 and 285/35) add menace.
The interior is carbon-rich; the spectacular fibre is used to stiffen and lighten the front seats.
A single-clutch robotised manual and a six-speed auto are available. Of interest is the fact the sequential manual is a transaxle, while the auto is bolted to the engine, altering the weight distribution and requiring different suspension tunes.
Our auto test car arrived in a stunning shade of Blu Sofisticato, matched with hand-finished, full-leather Bianco Pregiato interior. First impressions are dominated by the GT’s signature (atmo) engine growl, which morphs to an even harder-edged bark with a press of the sport button to adjust the exhaust’s bypass flaps (and transmission shift calibration).
The Ferrari-derived 4.7-litre V8 howls all the way to 7500rpm, with torque peaking at 4750rpm and max power arriving at 7000rpm. Not only is it fast and loud, the Sportline deftly walks the line between dynamic response and GT-style comfort. The steering feel is excellent, turn-in is sharp and linear and body control is well sorted.
Niggles? Maserati claims the auto “uses one of the most aggressive shift patterns of any automatic gearbox”, but we beg to differ. It’s no slug, but in manual mode especially it lacks the snap of others. A reversing camera would be nice, too.
At just under $300K, the Sportline’s closest competitor is BMW’s ’bahn-storming M6 (see opposite). The Bavarian beast is faster and only three years young, however it can’t match this Italian’s design flair and more intimate driver connection. An oldie but a goodie.
4 OUT OF 5 STARS
Engine: 4691cc V8, DOHC, 32v
Power: 338kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 520Nm @ 4750rpm
0-100km/h: 4.8sec (claimed)
Pros: Most of the sizzle of the hi-po Stradale, but with $50K change
Cons: Auto ’box not quite as crisp as expected