Usually it’s enough to drag out the old ‘last fling with…’ as the headline reason to get a car in for test that’s about to meet its maker. But where the Maserati GranTurismo is concerned you don’t even need that. It’s enough just to want to drive it again.
Which is easily done. The GranTurismo, here in MC Stradale form, is big, powerful and (in our eyes at least) looks more gorgeous than ever. It’s an elegantly understated brute with 460PS (454bhp) and in this form (carbon-ceramic brakes, aero mods, Race mode) the ability to cope with serious lappery without losing its Italian cool.
Surprising but true, it’s also a rare 2+2 coupe whose +2 contingent can afford to have adult bodies if they want to sit comfortably.
The icing on the cake? Its V8 (from the Ferrari 458 engine family) is (probably) last of the naturally-aspirated Italian V8s and sounds just bloody marvellous. This is a car that doesn’t just make a noise when you start it up. It makes a statement.
But the GranTurismo is also over eight years old now, and bows out soon, with a replacement not slated until 2018. There’s something to fill the gap though – the smaller, lighter, Mercedes-AMG GT-rivalling Alfieri, and that promises to be even more gorgeous than this car (as long that is as they stick to the concept – remember that from its UK debut at FoS in 2014?).
Our mission then is clear. GRR needs to get the MC Stradale down to Goodwood pronto for some overdue old-school Maserati fun before it’s too late. A last fling with it? Oh go on then…
Of course ‘flings’ can backfire. The car might feel its age and we might hate it. Well, the satnav/radio looks like it’s from a Halfords back catalogue and, for road use, the automated manual gearbox is frankly poor, but otherwise GRR is happy to report this 188mph, £110,000 super-coupe is pretty darned fine. We loved it.
It arrives in a crescendo of booming V8 exhaust noise. And if you don’t hear it coming you’ll see it, for this car has delicious curves. The front haunches are almost Birdcage-like. It has vents too: the signature three small oblongs on each side but also nostrils in the carbon-fibre bonnet. And it has a grille: wide, concave, shark-like and framing a giant trident.
First test passed, then: for a combination of noise and looks the way the car gets heads swivelling in a supercar-jammed Bond Street on a Saturday afternoon is impressive. And in a good way. You feel a bit discerning in this car rather than just well off, and people seem to like you more for it. It is so Italian, but so not a Ferrari or Lamborghini.
Where to photograph a car with such understated sculptural beauty? Maybe a sculpture park? Goodwood conveniently has one on the estate in the form of the superb Cass Sculpture Foundation, a charitable body whose constantly evolving display on 26 acres of West Sussex comprises 50 or more large-scale pieces, with 15 new works commissioned every year. All are for sale and, if you like being challenged and surprised in equal measure, a visit is thoroughly recommended (for more, go to http://www.sculpture.org.uk)
The Maser holds its own in these contemporary and surreal surroundings – but you can judge that for yourself from Tom’s wonderful gallery of photographs.
In one regard the MC Stradale doesn’t quite hold its own. All the manoeuvring between the geodesic domes and cycling fish is making it a bit hot. Not the V8, but the robotised manual gearbox. From a world before dual-clutch automatics, there’s no ‘creep’ and the automated clutch doesn’t like stop-start work for long, and a dashboard message will remind you of the fact. No surprise perhaps since it has to cope with over 380lb ft of torque. You soon learn to pull the oversized paddles up simultaneously to put it into neutral at every opportunity.
No such problems on the open road, but this gearbox does require a little forbearance. Progress is hardly seamless when left in auto mode, and to smooth things out we opted to use the paddles manually. Which is fine, as long as you remember to do a little lift on upchanges. This transaxle gearbox would be more at home on a circuit where, says Maserati, in Race mode changes can fire through five times faster than the blink of an eye.
The mighty V8 in contrast is at home everywhere. There’s torque throughout the speed range along with instant response and plenty of top-drawer V8 thunder when you want it – all the way to 7200rpm – and decent refinement when you don’t. Nought to 62mph? 4.5 seconds, pretty good for a four-seater weighing in at 1,800kg and over 4.9m long. Fuel? We got 24mpg on one run but an old-school 17mpg overall.
Just as old-school, and rather more welcome, is the steering feel. And the chassis feel. There’s a 48:52 front-rear weight distribution here and it feels like it. So while cornering limits are high – stiffened and lowered suspension and a set of giant Pirelli PZero Corsa tyres for the 20-inch forged alloys help see to that – all should not be lost if it gets out of shape.
What else did we discover? The brakes are formidable with a decent pedal feel even when cold. The lightweight, part carbon seats are superb (and thankfully not designed just for slender-hipped racing snakes). The driving position is excellent. The leather and Alcantara trim is fab. The dashboard ergonomics aren’t. And the ride quality? Well, you will know it’s set up primarily for the track from its restlessness at speed, even if its secondary ride is not quite as jiggly as expected.
There’s the dichotomy. Is it track car or road car? The GranTurismo started out in 2008 as… well, the clue’s in the name. Then in 2010 the first MC Stradale arrived as a stripped-out two-seater inspired by the Trofeo race cars. That morphed in 2013 into this: supposedly the best bits of both in a four-seat cabin with a lot of the luxury put back.
The perfect compromise or neither one thing nor the other? Well, it’s certainly not perfect, and for road use the almost-as-quick, less expensive GranTurismo with torque converter automatic would be smoother and easier to live with…
Enough! We are Goodwood Road & Racing after all. And a car that can wow ‘em in Bond St one moment, take four people to the South of France the next, and then take a motor circuit apart corner by corner gets a great big tick from us.
But sometimes you do need that last fling with a car just to be sure…
Photography by Tom Shaxson