Maserati made its name on the road with sexy and capable GT cars. The reputation remains intact with the ageing GranTurismo that is staving off retirement with a 2018 update.
Sports cars tend to have relatively long shelf lives, yet the Maserati GranTurismo wasn’t meant to reach its 11th birthday this year.
Its replacement, along with a production version of the two-seat Alfieri concept, was pushed back to allow money from parent company FiatChrysler to prioritise models with greater potential for big sales. Yes, you’ve guessed it: SUVs.
The plan has worked, just as it did for Porsche with its 2002 Cayenne. The Levante SUV introduced in 2016 is by far Maserati’s most popular vehicle – accounting for a massive 70 per cent of the brand’s sales in Australia.
Not surprisingly, it will be joined in 2019 by a smaller SUV based on the same architecture as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio.
Maserati isn’t completely ignoring what even it admits is its true halo model, regardless of a relatively small slice of total sales (five per cent, including its GranCabrio convertible twin).
A 2018 update brings a new hexagonal grille inspired by the Alfieri concept’s front end, subtle changes to the headlights and trademark triple front-fender air vents, plus revisions to the rear bumper.
The styling tweaks are enough to improve aero efficiency slightly, and small enough to ensure Pininfarina’s handsome 2007 design remains unblemished – and timeless.
In a cabin that continues to be layered and upholstered in patented Poltrona Frau leather, the biggest MY18 update is the Maserati Touch Control Plus (MTC+) infotainment system with high-resolution, 8.4-inch touchscreen. It includes smartphone mirroring capability and Harman Kardon audio.
It’s debatable whether Maserati buyers would be bothered that this is essentially the UConnect system used by models from lesser (FiatChrysler) brands, but it’s unquestionably important contemporary technology to be included.
At least the menu system is logical and the screen responsive to the touch, and a smart, twin-layer rotary controller provides an alternative method of using the system.
The heating-ventilation panel’s design, complete with LCD display, just jars slightly with the modernised infotainment, looking more like it should be paired with a 1990s Blaupunkt cassette player.
Storage is still fairly poor, too, and the two-plus-two layout still asks major compromises of those sitting in the back in terms of knee and foot space, if not as much as a DB11 or a BMW M6 Gran Coupe.
For a couple, though, they provide extra space for luggage in addition to the 260-litre boot.
The Italian grand tourer misses out on driver-assistance systems introduced to other Maseratis, such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning. No autonomous emergency braking, either.
Maserati says it helps to keep the GranTurismo “pure”, and to be fair, you won’t find similar systems on the (more expensive) Aston Martin DB11 V8. At least there’s a newly integrated rear-view camera.
This is a car all about forward vision – and momentum.
And if there’s a silver lining to the slightly clouded future of the next GT, it’s that you can still buy brand-new one of the greatest-sounding production car engines of all time.
With the rest of the Maserati range following the industry’s rush towards turbocharged engines, the GranTurismo continues with a 4.7-litre normally aspirated V8 built by sister brand Ferrari.
The GranTurismo was never one of the fastest of its breed during its early years – especially with the smaller 4.2-litre V8 no longer available – and its 0–100km/h time of 4.8 seconds is beaten by some of today’s high-performance all-wheel-drive hot hatches.
And 520Nm of maximum torque (produced at 4750rpm) sounds relatively feeble. (To use the DB11 V8 as an example again, its AMG-sourced twin-turbo V8 offers 675Nm, and from much lower in the rev range.)
But press the GranTurismo’s Sport mode button, then its accelerator pedal, and you’ll not only revel in the engine’s wonderful linearity and crisp throttle response, but also its addiction to ultra-rapid crankshaft revolutions.
With Sport unshackling the exhaust system from 2500rpm, the V8’s sonorous soundtrack implores you to find the nearest tunnel and hold the Maserati in second or third gear.
Ferrari, McLaren or Aston turbo V8s simply don’t match this aural magic. Striving regularly for the 7500rpm redline, however, will mean exceeding the already high official fuel consumption of 14.3 litres per 100km. Owners will be grateful for the 86-litre fuel tank.
The ZF auto with just six speeds points to the car’s age, yet never leaves you feeling you’re lacking an extra ratio or two. It does a fine job changing gears when left in D, or there are paddle levers.
They’re huge, though their size is a necessity as they’re mounted to the steering column so they don’t turn with the steering wheel. The thick-rimmed steering wheel also manages to hide them well when you’re not using them.
If a grand tourer should balance comfort and dynamics more than a sports car, the GranTurismo S achieves a near-perfect blend. The ride is firm in Normal mode, yet there’s plenty of compliance and the two-mode damping becomes stiffer but not overly aggressive when you switch into Sport.
The leather seats look sporty with their carbon-fibre backs and headrest, and provide comfort for hours of driving.
At 4.9 metres and 1.9 tonnes, the GranTurismo is a big, heavy car. So, it’s no surprise that its handling is best enjoyed on fast, flowing country roads. In twistier sections, a shortage of nimbleness isn’t helped by steering that could be more direct (or a 12.3m turning circle).
The hydraulic rack also feels a touch too heavy at low speeds, though is otherwise encouragingly precise and reasonably communicative.
It turns wheels shod in new, grippier fourth-generation Pirelli P Zero 20-inch tyres, with the rubber 40mm wider (285mm) on the rears. The Brembo brakes are strong, though a lack of bite creates a sense of caution when approaching corners at high speed.
Buyers interested in a GT offering more performance and even track-day suitability can opt for the MC (Maserati Corsa) variant that costs an extra $50,000 above the $295,000 Sport.
Replacing the former MC Stradale model, the MC brings a vented bonnet in carbon fibre, stiffer and non-adjustable suspension, 20-inch ‘Trofeo’ forged wheels, titanium brake calipers, MC side skirts, black line window mouldings, and a lighter and differently shaped exhaust system (which Maserati says makes the GT sound even better).
The lighter front end pares a tenth of a second from the 0–100km/h sprint (4.7sec) and lifts top speed above 300km/h (from 299 to 301km/h).
There’s also lots of leather and drilled Alcantara inside for the seats, steering wheel and other cabin areas.
An optional Exterior Carbon Package is available for either spec.
For further personalisation, there’s a choice of 16 exterior colours that include a new, three-layer Blu Assoluto, and a selection of 14 light-alloy wheels with six different rim designs – including one in forged aluminium.
Inside, eight colours and five trims are available. The trims include carbon fibre, piano black and walnut briarwood. A mix of modern and classic… A bit like the MY18 Maserati GranTurismo.
But it’s the GranTurismo’s classic elements that are to be embraced, notably its old-school V8 that is central to this Maserati’s beguiling nature. It stirs the soul like a Maserati should – yet isn’t the case with some of the latest models from the trident badge.