Biscotti, Pavarotti, Maserati

Quick Spin: Maserati GranTurismo Sport

Reviews : Behind the Wheel By Photo by BH & N. Napierala

Maserati’s singular focus on high-end beautiful Italian machinery has made them masters. The GranTurismo, GranTurismo Convertible and the Quattroporte are all essentially a variant on one auto. They’re vehicles with gorgeous lines and roaring V8s; each is designed to be (Maserati vernacular) “a good host” (however, as Olivia Munn and Mario Lopez demonstrate, good hosts can look quite different). So what kind of host is the new GranTurismo Sport?

Unveiled earlier this year at the Geneva Auto show, the GranTurismo Sport sits right between the GranTurismo and GranTurismo MC in ride comfort, engine performance and price. There are updates to the grill, front fascia and parking sensors made for American curbs (grazie). Sure, it all looks great on display, but how would one know its ability to hang in the supercar world without taking a little drive through Sonoma’s famous wine country? So, in true Italian style — biscotti in hand, espresso in the cup holder and Pavarotti booming from the speakers — we spent a few hours behind the wheel of the drop top and the coupe.

Get your arias ready and meet us after the break.

When the five Maserati brothers decided to build a race car for themselves rather than for someone else, they had no idea what they were starting. In time, and after changing ownership a number of times, Maserati finally landed themselves in the bosom of Fiat, who (wisely) invested in the marque. Substantially. At one point, even “red rival” Ferrari took the reigns — actually saving the brand. Maserati has since stayed in-house under the Disney-sized brand roof of Fiat S.p.A. (Chrysler, Ferrari, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia). When Maserati broke from Ferrari in 2005 to merge with Alfa Romeo (insert sigh here), they even wooed famed engine builder and, arguably, the father of the V10 Paolo Martinelli to the “blue side”, making Maserati a little more prancing horse than scorpion in the Fiat house.

What Martinelli & Co. have done to the V8 is nothing less than miraculous. Frankly, the man should win an Emmy for sound design alone. The eight cylinders spring to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, but its symphonic baritone roar makes it feel like something closer to 2.7. The numerically equal 4.7-liter naturally aspirated engine sits low and lays behind the front wheels, giving a true mid-engine/rear-wheel drive position. Paddles on either side of the steering wheel or the center-mounted shifter tick through six gears with a perfunctory snick-snick. All that power makes its way through an automatic or electro-actuated gearbox with requisite sport modes, not only tightening the car’s responsiveness, but opening a bypass for the exhaust to further croon its opera. It’s sonic.

As we rolled past vineyards and made our way into the mountains, forest surrounded the roadster and cool air whisked through the cabin. Top down, the street heaters cranked, soundtrack of driving taking over — this is proper driving.

The GranTurismo’s transmission is quick, but the engine remained docile until pushed — at which point it let forth a howl that echoed through the surrounding wooded canopy. The ride was comfortable, and as we rose in elevation, wine country lent its breathtaking views. The engine is large hearted, but doesn’t imbue any sort of guilt for cruising near (or above, or beyond) posted speed limits; the car is refreshingly free of financial-meltdown carbon ceramic brakes.

As we neared the end of our cruise, I was left wondering how to define the ride. Belissimo came to mind.

Then it hit me.

This isn’t a supercar. It’s a super car. At $125K, the Maserati GranTurismo is the ride you strike up a four-wheeled affair with: a fling on the drive home, or a steamy weekend at the track. But its no-nonsense practicality means the (dare we presume) Swedish model passenger sitting shotgun will be just as comfortable riding as she is driving — when you let her. The new GranTurismo Sport shows how small changes can make big differences. Beauty and luxury. Is there anything more Italian than that?