The styling has not changed much except for new sculpting on the MC and an Alfieri-inspired grille
The styling has not changed much except for new sculpting on the MC and an Alfieri-inspired grille
Image: Maserati

A decade ago, if you’d told me you were buying the Maserati Gran Turismo, I’d have patted you on the back, transfixed in awe of your passion, your appreciation of leather craftsmanship and the unique combination of elegance and menace the thing evoked.

Now, almost everything lining up against the Gran Turismo has two turbochargers and either straight six, V6 or V8 engines and they all muster more torque at idle than the Maserati manages atop the sharpish peak 4,750r/min into its 7,200r/min rev range.

Being not German is undoubtedly an attraction in a market where people still want to stand out without appearing to try hard to stand out. That’s perhaps why the Gran Turismo’s late-life facelift is just a plastic tickle, new headlights in the old shells and an aero adjustment. You’ll look closely to see the Alfieri-inspired grille, the sharper nose and the cleaner rear look.

The MC is a bit more aggressive looking, with an air intake in the middle of the carbon-fibre bonnet and two hot-air outlets backing it up, plus its splitter is deeper and its rear wing is higher and it now goes to 301km/h.

A better place to start looking might be the interior where art and craftsmanship meet. It’s a proper four-seater and you can fit adults in the rear seat for long trips without losing friends.

Maserati has pulled the 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment unit out of the Levante. The new screen alone steps up its usefulness in daily life, as does the addition of Maserati’s two-tier rotary infotainment scroller.

The sound system is now a stock Harman Kardon unit and sumptuous leather surrounds everything, including a new design around the new screen.

Major changes in the interior including a vastly improved infotainment system
Major changes in the interior including a vastly improved infotainment system
Image: Maserati

The flat-bottomed (and topped) steering wheel hides some of the buttons on the left side of the dash, while the gear lever hides more. The ventilation systems are a doddle to use and the car’s new infotainment unit talks cheerfully to Apple and Android systems. But if you’ve come to Maserati for its smartphone compatibility, you are shopping in the wrong place. You come here first for the engines and it’s the powertrain department that’s been the most active in the facelift.

By "most active" we mean "most active with the red pen". It drew lines through many things for the facelift, including using the twin-turbo V6 from the Ghibli, the twin-turbo V8 from the Quattroporte and the 4.2l V8 the Gran Turismo had before. It even ruled a line through the MC using the paddle-shift single-plate clutch six-speed transmission. Today’s full range of Gran Turismos and Gran Cabrios runs to one single engine (a 338kW, 4.7l, naturally aspirated V8) and one single transmission, a six-speed automatic.

When Maserati launched the Gran Turismo in 2007, the rivals from AMG were already running seven speeds. Now they’re at nine, or 50% more than the Gran Turismo. BMW’s M is at eight, as is Audi Sport.

Changes are even less obvious on the Gran Cabrio, but it is still pretty
Changes are even less obvious on the Gran Cabrio, but it is still pretty
Image: Maserati

Back then, the Gran Turismo was short on driver-assistance systems, but in today’s world that list is the lightest part of the steel-bodied coupe. There’s no active cruise control, no lane-departure warning system, no automatic parking, so you’ll just have to stay alert. But you’ll want to, lest you miss a single rev change from the 90° V8.

Maserati learned long ago that it couldn’t run with Germany’s tech leaders, so it instead went on a charm offensive. It’s still on it. It uses an old-school key that enters and twists, it fires up with sheer venom, a sharp blip and a belligerent idle. At a tickle or half throttle or a full stomp the V8 digs deep and saturates the cabin with a sound you could sell tickets to hear.

It’s deep and rich and syrupy, threatening with muscle. It is beautifully organised engineering and plumbing and tuning.

The engine and its note is where the Gran Turismo MC delivers on the promise of the body sculpting, by delivering the experience of speed in a way that puts you in the front row of a theatre — not actual speed, because a 0-100km/h time of 4.7 seconds is about a second off the pace these days.

It gets worse in the mid-range, where the lack of turbochargers and the paucity of gear ratios mean it will get thrashed by the German thugs, because 520Nm isn’t much to sing about these days. Keep spinning that glorious V8 and it’ll whip beyond its power peak at 7,000 like it has another 2,000 revs to give, when it’s actually only another 200.

Old meets new - Maserati is about more than the latest tech
Old meets new - Maserati is about more than the latest tech
Image: Maserati

That’s the key to the engine and to the whole car. It’s smooth and sophisticated, calm and glorious. The default in town is to push the Sport button just ahead of the gear lever, which makes the gearshifts faster, but importantly shortens the exhaust’s path to the outside world and makes public theatre out of every scrap of the engine’s exertion. It’s unendingly compelling.

It’s also unendingly loud, so it’s best to switch off the Sports mode on highways, lest you fancy headache tablets, but it also helps it to deliver astonishing throttle response at all engine speeds, especially adjusting the car’s stance in a corner.

It spins so smoothly that it often catches you (in its manual mode, shifting with the enormous, steering column-mounted carbon fibre paddles) by crashing into the braaap-braaap-braaap limiter. No German soft limiters here.

All of that just brings unwanted attention to the transmission. It is bearable when you are cruising, and it should be, with two overdriven gears. It’s not necessarily the number of gears, but it’s always reactive, like it’s behind the game.

It helps that, with a 2,942mm wheelbase, the 4,920mm coupe rides better than it probably should, even though the MC might suffer on some roads because it dispenses with the Gran Turismo’s active dampers for a firmer fixed-rate setup.

The list of stuff the facelift does better is pretty short, based mostly around the entertainment system and the bragging rights of crossing the 300km/h threshold.

But the best parts are its heart and soul, and they’re unchanged. Nothing wrong with that.


This article was originally published by the Business Day.You can view the original article here.

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