Grand Touring Icons: Maserati GranTurismo

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It's not as fast as some of its competitors, but the Maserati GranTurismo has all of the proper makings of a proper grand tourer.

A series about grand touring cars just wouldn't be complete without an article about a car which is actually called GranTurismo. The car actually revives a decades-old nameplate (from the A6 GranTurismo, produced just after WWII) and is fittingly the first Maserati in many years to be truly deserving of the name. What's more, despite being Italian and gorgeous, it isn't actually all that expensive, at least, not in the company it keeps.

The GranTurismo is essentially an evolution of the Maserati Coupe, a car which debuted in its earliest form in 1998. The 1998 model was in fact the 3200 GT, a successful model which nonetheless was soon replaced by the 4200 GT and then came to be known simply as the Coupe. Even though Maserati will be 100 years old in just two years, the brand had declined quite a bit by the Eighties. This was partly due to a concerted effort on the part of then-owner Alessandro de Tomaso to make the brand more mainstream, and then also partly due to some just plain bad thinking.

So Fiat had a lot of work to do moving the brand back upmarket when they acquired it in 1993, a job still incomplete when they were acquired by Ferrari in 1997. The 3200 GT was exactly the car that was needed for Maserati at the time, as the 4200 GT it evolved into. The ItalDesign good looks and Ferrari-sourced power plant allowed many to forget all about the tridents they had seen on the Chrysler TC. But that's not to say the car was without flaws. The handling was nervous, especially for a GT, and the sequential gearbox was an early example of the type, still closely related to its F1 roots and not yet entirely tamed for the road.

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In short, it was not a relaxing car to drive, and this simply will not do for those on a grand tour. Build quality was also not entirely where it should be, especially on the 3200 GT. By 2007, Maserati was barely recognizable as the company it had been just a couple decades ago, and the decision was made to replace to Coupe. Enter the GranTurismo, a car which would be considered fantastically good coming from any automaker, but when one considers how far Maserati has come in such a short time, it's scarcely believable what an amazing car it is. The engine is still a Ferrari-derived power plant, displacing 4.2 liters in the standard car and 4.7 liters in the GranTurismo Sport.

The smaller engine makes 405 horsepower and the bigger one 454. The Sport model still uses an automated sequential gearbox, and this is still fairly jerky in traffic. Leaving no middle ground, the only other option is an automatic transmission. It seems slightly odd that there is no option to make a compromise in performance with a regular manual, but the automatic is a very good one. Performance is not what this car is about anyway. I know you've read that in most of the articles in this series, but the GranTurismo is one of the few GTs that can actually seat two adults comfortably in the back seat.

The spacious cabin comes as the result of the GranTurismo being built on a shortened version of the Quattroporte platform, which is a pretty sizable car. Few GT buyers have the comfort of backseat passengers in mind when they buy cars, but this is pointed out because it is indicative of the kind of attention which Maserati has paid to comfort. Time spent in this car is enjoyable, even in traffic, and it has a way of making long trips less taxing. The GranTurismo isn't crammed full of quite as much technology as some other Italian cars, and neither is it as fast. But it doesn't cost as much either.

At about $120,000, it's a difficult car to look at and still understand why someone would spend the extra $50,000 on a Bentley. It is a heavy car (4,100lbs), but the handling is superb. There are a few versions which crank up the power and cornering ability a bit more, such as the Sport and MC Stradale. The latter is the fastest variant of the GranTurismo, but its 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds (the same as the current Mustang GT) demonstrates that cruising is still really this car's strong suit. The GranTurismo is not only a great GT, but it was also a sound business decision. It sits in a price range dominated by sports cars, but with few cars which could be used as an only car.

Ok, it doesn't exactly work for someone with a family, but for a young person of means who wishes to take a road trip, the kind of person for whom the GT is intended, the GranTurismo is an excellent choice.


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