Am I a stupid man for buying a brand new Maserati?
Living with an Italian Grand Tourer on the streets of Mumbai.
Okay bear with me on this one. I went out to buy a new car for about ₹2 crores or $275,000 (with taxes in India... sigh). If I were a smart man, I would have bought a Porsche 911 and be done with it. I mean those things run forever! But I bought a Maserati GranTurismo Sport; A niche Italian brand, with an archaic car (first introduced way back in 2007 actually) and almost no customer support whatsoever... Welcome to a world of misery.
I mean there are cheaper ways of shooting yourself in the foot, right?
Does it still look relevant?
When you approach the car, the exterior is quite unassuming. Apart from the beautiful Pininfarina shape, you really don't see much intent. There is no wing, no active aero, no carbon fiber or any of the gimmicks that these new kids on the block have been sporting these days. It sticks out like a pair of Oxfords at a frat party. But that’s my complaint with newer cars. Every manufacturer now needs to show how smart they are. Packing all kinds of kit to allegedly go faster but also making them uglier. The new turbo cars get grilles the size of a humpback whale’s mouth and every piece of bodywork is mutilated by vanes, canards and “cooling” ducts.
The Maserati is not finicky. It has smooth powerful lines that run unobstructed along the entire length of the car. And it is a long car indeed. The fenders and hood are flared in just the right proportions but there is an overall sense of delicacy in the whole design. If I dare do say so myself: the shape has aged like fine wine.
And now we come to the interiors...
It gets even more Italian here. The entire innards of the car are swathed in exquisite Rosso Corsa monogrammed leather. The sports seats are well contoured, the steering adequately chunky and an analog tachometer that revs all the way up to 9000 RPM (redline at 7500)! Oh this is special. And the rear legroom, I could almost host an international club friendly scrap of football back there! My brother is a generously proportioned man (height and width) and he fits rather comfortably. Of course the ingress and egress is a bit undignified but once you’re in there, you’re cocooned in comfort and luxury.
I’m afraid the gizmos are not all that lavish. You have electric and heated front seats, air conditioning, a radio, and that’s pretty much it. The modest little screen in the middle looks like it was powered by a 64 bit Nintendo. It doesn’t do clever things like show you your yaw rate, your lap performances or do your laundry. It does however show you the time. Lesser distractions. I like it. It connects your phone via Bluetooth but hilariously, you can’t play music. The Italians decided to provide the old 30 pin Apple dock as the only means of playing music. For a car sold in 2018! They did eventually come up with a newer system but the car was killed off within a year of that. Tragic. But you’ll never need the music. We’ll get to that later.
Is it a good Grand Tourer?
When you do get into the car everything seems familiar. The wiper and headlamp stalks come from a time when carmakers didn’t over-engineer stuff onto the steering wheel. The gear shifter has P, N, D, R and S like it should. There’s a peculiar opening on the side of the steering column where you insert the metallic end of your key and turn it to apparently start it. How mechanical! And there are no options to set the adaptive dampers or gearbox. Even the steering is hydraulic and comes in only one setting. Maserati reckon they know how to set up a car properly and they did it for you. All you got to do is drive it.
In the city, it is a gentle car to drive (apart from the fairly long proportions). It doesn’t feel urgent. Ground clearance is decent. The ride is pliant but responsive thanks to the Maserati Skyhook active suspension. In short, there are a host of computers and sensors that are monitoring individual wheels and constantly adjusting the dampers to give you the best compromise of smoothness and feedback. The modest not-so-oversized-Rap God 19 inch wheels also help. On a side note: each Maserati wheel design is themed around the trident... a nice touch.
But is it Italian enough?
Coming to the pièce de résistance, the glorious F136Y 4.7 litre 90° naturally aspirated V8. This engine is from an era when Ferrari made engines for Maserati. It’s done its duty all the way from 2001 in various petrolhead masterpieces like the 430 Scuderia, the 8C Competizione, the gangster Quattroporte and it eventually crescendoed with the legendary 458 Italia. Unlike the Ferrari’s flat plane crankshaft, the Maserati has a less edgier cross plane crank that lives up to its GranTurismo name. Before you open the taps, there is a Sport button you want to engage. It asks the adaptive Skyhook system to become a bit firmer and the butterfly valves on the valvetronic exhaust open to mean business. And what an exhaust sytem this is! There is a Traction Control button as well but judging by how the car slides anyway, I don’t think the Italians really connected it to anything. When you put your foot down on the thick slabs of milled aluminium in the footwell and cross about 4000 revs, the variable valve timing system kicks into attack mode to create an orchestra of sounds. The low rumble turns to a deep roar and then an angelic wail as the revs build up. Speed is just a by-product. The naturally aspirated engine feels millimetric responsive to the throttle input. And the 520 Nm of torque does well to lug the 1900 kg of mass to sprightly speeds.
The GTS is extremely usable with peak power of 454 bhp delivered at a very high 7000 revs, almost urging you to thrash it. A proper Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde act this. Flip the paddles, stay near the redline and the car transforms into a compact sportscar; the naturally aspirated screaming always egging you along. And the 6 speed ZF unit does well to keep up. It’s not immediate like the newer generation of lightning speed gearboxes, but the few milliseconds after the pull of the paddle almost prepares you for the next journey to 7500. And there’s a soft kick in the back of your head when it engages; feels analog. Humane. I must note the satin red Brembos feel secure while looking pretty. Progressive but not jarring.
So did I spend my money well then?
The Porsche would have offered me more. But what the Maserati doesn’t offer, it more than makes up for in character and panache. The Porsche is faultless, but I like a car with quirks. Driving the Maserati feels like an occasion. Every time. I like that it doesn’t give me a million options to set it up. I like that I can comfortably take it to the countryside with four full grown adults without being apologetic about the space or the ride. I like the sound of that engine with that exhaust. God I love that sound. So what I did was I bought the last naturally aspirated analog car of the modern age. And I will happily drive it for the rest of time... until it inevitably breaks down.
Picture credits: Mahir Javeri