Seven years ago, boss man Loh called in a favor at Maserati and got me a just-released GranCabrio for three days in Italy's Emilia-Romagna province at the tail end of my honeymoon. My wife and I still talk about that blue-on-blue drop-top. It's fair to say the car holds a special place in my heart.
Why shouldn't it? The GranTurismo is the most beautiful production car to come out of the ‘00s and one of the best-looking cars of the last 10 years (not to mention the best-sounding). Maserati has mostly been clever enough not to mess with a good thing, though I haven't cared for their tinkering with the front fascia over the years, adding big jowls to the front.
I'm far more pleased with the new nose on the 2018 Maserati GranTurismo. It replaces the oversized crescent-shaped scoops with triangular ones, which draw less attention. I'd be thrilled, even, if they were functional, but it's a good step in the right direction. The grille itself is also reshaped, a rounded hexagon replacing an oval, its points complementing the triangular lower grilles.
As long as we're on the subject of what's new, we might as well finish it off. There's a new infotainment system based on parent company Fiat Chrysler's Uconnect technology. A new 8.4-inch touchscreen occupies most of the center stack with graphics suitably differentiated from other FCA products. It's also home to a new rearview camera and can alternatively be controlled by a rotary knob next to the shifter. To accommodate the larger screen, the center stack and dash top have been altered slightly, and the analog clock has been updated. A Harmon-Kardon stereo is now standard.
Fully subscribed to the philosophy of not fixing what isn't broken, Maserati has otherwise left the GranTurismo and its convertible variant, the GranCabrio (or GranTurismo Convertible as it's called in the U.S.), alone. The model lineup has been simplified with each car coming in either Sport or MC (Maserati Corsa) trim levels, but the car remains as customizable as ever with 16 paint options, 13 interior colors, five interior trim options, 14 wheel options, and nine brake caliper colors.
Under the hood, the Ferrari-built 4.7-liter V-8 continues to produce 454 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. The base 4.2-liter V-8 is gone, as is the optional six-speed automated-manual transmission. The only choice now is the six-speed automatic with paddle shifters the size of boomerangs. It drives a mechanical limited-slip differential, which drives the rear wheels only. At the corners, control arms with two-mode active dampers remain standard equipment, as do Brembo brakes supplemented by new Pirelli PZero tires. Maserati claims the new nose reduces drag and makes the underbody more aerodynamically efficient, though fuel economy remains unchanged at 13/21/16 mpg city/highway/ combined for the coupe and 13/20/15 for the convertible.
Does it drive like I remember, though? For the most part, yes. For a car with less than 500 horsepower and 400 lb-ft and a curb weight nearing 4,300 pounds, the GranTurismo is deceptively quick. Thank a short 3.73:1 rear axle ratio for that. It won't hurl you off the line like a 911, but rather it pulls with the elasticity only a powerful naturally aspirated engine can. Maserati's added a launch control feature, but it's tricky. Traction and stability control have to be off, then you stand on the brake and lay into the gas. Rather than brake torque or do some fancy clutch-drop, it does a brake stand. Make sure you're on level ground, or the rear end will start to walk. Maserati recommends you release the brakes at just 2,500 rpm, at which point you'll do a light rolling burnout as you take off. It seems like something a competent driver could do without the computer, and frankly, I'm not sure what the computer is even doing to assist you. I'm pretty sure Maserati just figured out how best to launch the car and slapped a name on the procedure (MC Start Strategy, in case you're wondering).
Off and running, the GranTurismo makes truly glorious music. Unencumbered by turbochargers, it unleashes an animalistic growl at idle my wife swears sounds like a pack of baby leopards. Building toward its 7,500-rpm redline, the growl becomes a howl that burrows into your soul where it'll never be forgotten. Forget the high-pitched scream of a flat-plane crank Ferrari, the Maserati uses a cross-plane crankshaft, which adds a bass tone to the exhaust. On overrun, it pops and burbles like a race car if you've got it in Sport mode. You should because in addition to turning up the throttle pedal gain, it shortens upshift times by 40 percent and opens the bypass valves in the mufflers.
If you really want to enjoy the symphony, though, you'll want to put it in Manual mode. The bypass valves open and close based on how aggressively you're accelerating, and manual allows you to keep the revs up and the valves open longer. It's worth whatever you're losing in fuel economy, which wasn't exactly stellar to begin with. For maximum aural pleasure, get the convertible.
For an older six-speed, the transmission holds its own fine. The shifts are just stiff enough to feel sporty, not violent, and the upshifts are indeed quick enough you won't care it's not a dual-clutch. Downshifts are slower, but the computer does a nice job of matching revs so they're not rough. The transmission reacts quickly to the paddles, and there's a permanent upshift indicator in the center of the instrument cluster. Altogether, it befits the character of a grand tourer.
Not everything drives quite like I recall, though. Seven years of advancements in automotive technology and personal experience have changed my perceptions of the steering and brakes. The former is as precise as I recall, but I'd prefer a quicker steering ratio so I don't have to turn the wheel as much in corners. The brakes are strong, but the heavy car doesn't stop on a dime.
These both became clear on a closed section of mountain road. Although the steering speed was a minor annoyance, I really wanted more stopping power. The initial bite is good, but as you get deeper into the brake pedal, it doesn't stop as quickly as it accelerates. I also found the suspension, which is generally comfortable but sporty, to have a bit of trouble keeping the body flat over bumps at high speed.
That high-speed run was attempted with an MC coupe, the sportiest of the line, but it's still a grand tourer and not a super car. The dampers are fixed, but only about as stiff as the standard dampers in Sport mode. The revised exhaust system flows a little freer, the wheels are lighter, and the aerodynamics improve slightly with a vented rear bumper, hood and fender vents, and specific front splitter and decklid spoiler. Personally, I find all the extra scoops and vents gaudy and unbecoming of the car's graceful lines (though I might give the hood scoop a pass), and the performance between the cars is so similar they aren't worth it. Maserati claims the MC coupe is a tenth of a second quicker to 60 mph than the other models, but so what? They all do it in the mid-high fours, and that's quick enough.
In fact, with so little changed, I can confidently predict the measurable performance hasn't changed, either. Based on our test of a 2013 model, then, you can expect the GranTurismo to hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and post a 13.1-second quarter-mile time at 109.2 mph or thereabouts. It'll also likely put 0.97 g on the skidpad and post a figure-eight lap around 24.9 seconds at 0.80 average lateral g.
If the car is quick enough, the convertible roof could be a little quicker. By today's standards, it takes a while and it doesn't work when the car is moving. As always, it monstrously impedes trunk space, to the point you might have trouble getting larger carry-on bags to fit. A single golf bag ought to wedge in there, which must've been a design criteria because it's the exact right shape. On the upshot, the GranCabrio is one of the few convertibles on the market that looks as good with the roof up as it does down. On the other hand, no one over five-foot-eight-inches is sitting in the back with the roof up. Even down, the back seat is snug.
The interior is otherwise a very comfortable and plush place to be. The leather is sumptuous and the wood is rich; leave the Alcantara and carbon fiber for the Ferraris. The gauges shimmer a deep, brilliant blue, and the speaker covers feature a pleasing pattern of laser-drilled holes. The only signs of the car's age are the 2007-vintage steering wheel, climate controls, and switchgear, and they stick out like sore thumbs, unfortunately. There's also a detectable amount of cowl shake you don't get in the latest convertibles. The slick new infotainment system, though, works a million times better than the old unit and responds instantly to your inputs.
This car isn't about infotainment systems, though. Not 0-60-mph times or carbon fiber, either. With the change coming to Aston Martin, the Maserati GranTurismo is the last of the traditional grand tourers. No doubt the next GranTurismo will be a big, rear-drive, 2+2 coupe, but it'll likely be made of space age materials and boosted with turbochargers. It won't look, feel, or sound the same. It'll likely have the Quattroporte's twin-turbo V-8 and maybe a twin-turbo V-6. It might be electric. It won't be a naturally aspirated V-8 making respectable, not look-at-me, horsepower. It'll probably post better numbers on a test track. The Italians might be better than anyone at imbuing a machine with a soul, but the next GranTurismo won't have the same soul as this car.
Yes, the GranTurismo is 10 years old and largely unchanged, but it's endearing because of it. This car is about driving as an experience, not a metric. Sure, it could accelerate quicker and go around a corner faster, but there are already plenty of cars that do that. In a time when everything is developed on the Nurburgring and judged by cold, hard numbers, there's a place for a car that says enough is enough. None of us live at a racetrack, nor do we drive like angry teenagers every time we get behind the wheel. Besides, if you can afford this car, you can afford a toy for the days you need an adrenaline fix. It's refreshing, in a way, to see a car say: I don't care about being the quickest—I just want to be the most memorable. The GranTurismo encourages you to take joy in everyday driving, all the moments when a supercar would be wasted. No matter what car you buy, someone will always be faster, so why not look good, sound good, and live in the moment?