There are two ways to look at the Maserati Gran Turismo: the best car Maserati has ever made and an extreme bit of bad timing. Both are perhaps correct.
Of course, with the Gran Turismo, you are buying more than a car itself; you’re buying a legacy. Its heritage stretches back 60 years ago, when the Modena manufacturer launched 58 models of the A6 Gran Turismo styled by Pininfarina. Ten years later, it was the turn of the first standard GranTurismo, the 3500 GT, a car which marked a turning point for the company as it shifted its attention from racing cars to road going production, turning out 1983 models of the 3500 GT in seven years.
Then, the Maserati Biturbo of the Eighties, which had a propensity for self-immolation, sullied the Maserati legacy. Additionally, its styling was reminiscent of a highly evolved Honda. Happily, those days are a distant memory.
The engine compartment houses the same 4.2-liter V8 engine (405 horsepower at 7100 rpm), capable of a top speed of over 175 mph, you’d find in the middle of a Ferrari F430. The cylinder head features chain-driven, double-overhead camshafts. And with acceleration of 0-62 in 5.2 seconds, an exciting drive and thrilling performance are guaranteed.
It is mated up to a ZF six-speed automatic that seems positively telepathic about the driver’s intentions, most especially using the paddle shifts, available for shifting on the steering wheel column. There is also the option of shifting via a center console; or if you simply want to worry about where you’re pointing this car, you can of course simply put it is “Drive” and go.
That wonderful engine is why the second way of looking at this car is perhaps accurate: mileage is just 13 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the open road. Of course, if you can afford to pay $118,525 for a car, maybe mileage doesn’t matter. Admittedly, this car would likely be a third, fourth or even fifth car in the right household.
The dash and the instrument panel are well laid out and user friendly. Like the salesman who gave a brief walk-around when we picked up this car from the service department of Ferrari/Maserati of Seattle said, “Italian cars tend to be pretty straight-forward on controls.”
The interior is not only slathered with all manner of well-tanned and colored leather, it is big: 51 cubic feet up front and 32 cubic feet in the rear. The back seat reminded one rear-seat passenger of mid-Sixties Thunderbirds, the ones that had a rear seat that looked like a sofa. That’s not a bad thing.
On the road, the only drawback seemed to be the steering, which is heavy on center. Perhaps much of that comes from the fact that this car weighs in at 4,374 pounds, which equates to 10.8 pounds per horsepower generated. However, there’s enough boost in the variable power assist that goes along with the rack-and-pinion, so it’s not much of a problem, even at the higher reaches of speed.
Which brings us to speed. Considering that we were responsible for providing $1 million of liability insurance for two-and-a-half days with this car, the fastest we got it was 80 mph. (Take note of someone else’s post here about how Porsche drivers can avoid prison to understand why.) Not only did it show that the sound of the engine at speed, with windows down, provides a better tune than anything on the radio, it also showed the grip on this car, and its ability to track, indicates that its nickname should be “Tenacious-M.”
For the record, the suspension, which allows such performance, consists of unequal control arms up front, coupled with coil springs and an anti-roll bar. In the rear, you’d also find coil springs and an anti-roll bar; however, the unequal length control arms are this time coupled with a toe-in control link. That latter item gives the Maserati an unnerving ability to recover from a power-on oversteer situation.
The exterior of this car looks good in side view and from the rear. The front end, with the large chrome trident that is the long-time symbol of Maserati – found also on the sides of the roof – rest inside a front air intake that seems better suited to a vintage vacuum cleaner. But given the air needs of the engine, form probably follows function here.
What of the future for this car? Well, consider this. The success of the Maserati GranTurismo is now well established. The high-performance sports car from the House of Trident continues to amaze and captivate the international market. Its world début in Geneva nine months ago has been followed by launches in each of the 59 countries in the Maserati network. The launch program was completed at the end of the year with the introduction of right-hand drive. The end of 2007 found the GranTurismo parked in the garages of no fewer than 1326 customers, with orders totaling 2333.
“The sign of a first rate intelligence,” F Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Is the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts, at the same time.”
Maybe the same things apply to cars, and if so, consider the Maserati GT the ultimate paradox, as well as one grand performer. – Terry Parkhurst