Maserati's GranTurismo - A Misunderstood Lesson in Italian Sex Appeal
After lusting after this gorgeous machine growing up, I finally was able to spend a day with the GranTurismo. And I loved it.
When it finally shuffled off this mortal coil, the Maserati GranTurismo was more than a little long in the tooth, with production spanning from 2007 to 2019 and only minor updates until the facelift and updated technology for the 2018 model year. During its more than a decade as the flagship of the Maserati brand it garnered less and less love from journalists and fans alike as time (or the bosses at Maserati) left it behind. In its time, it saw not only facelifts, but multiple generations of the Quattroporte sedan, as well as the introduction of Maserati’s first down-market car and Maserati’s first SUV. Despite, or perhaps entirely because of, being left behind, there were those that said the GranTurismo was the last proper Maserati. Normally this is the part where I’d say: “to find out I spent the day with one,” but the truth of the matter is I just really wanted to have a proper go. So I did.
One of the most common complaints with the GranTurismo was how ancient and outdated the technology was – a fair enough complaint considering it didn’t have BlueTooth audio streaming nor a backup camera until 2018. Perhaps it’s the benefit of looking back on the 2010 GranTurismo S I spent the day with as a 10-year-old car, but I honestly didn’t find any of the tech to be as awful as I expected. I certainly preferred the system to the COMMAND system in the Mercedes of the period, though in the interest of full disclosure I have a passionate and an irrational hatred of that system. I think perhaps in a later model I may have been more perturbed by it, but as it was, I wasn’t. In a similar vein, as these cars age they also suffer the fate of the sticky buttons as Ferraris of the period do. Sadly, due to the depreciation these cars have experienced, it is difficult to find one that has been in the hands of someone who was willing to spend the money to have the issue corrected, but it is correctable.
Something I have never heard criticized, though, is the way the GranTurismo looks. The rear haunches bulge just enough to give a sense of muscularity, while the body line that carries from the front, over the engine and all the way along to the back has beautiful curvature to it, not unlike the woman the Italians who designed it were no doubt thinking of. Personally, I think the S and Sport models were the best of the bunch for styling – the early cars weren’t quite aggressive enough, and the MC models in later years were a bit too aggressive with the giant hood scoop and center exit exhausts. On the inside, the story is the same. Just don’t look too long at any of the Italian electronics or they’re liable to go wrong. Fiddly electronics aside, though, the interior of the GranTurismo is always a lovely place to be. It’s quite and comfortable when cruising at highway speeds, but when you press the sport button and the exhaust opens up it makes just enough noise to remind you of the gem beneath the hood, but not enough to become irritating on longer trips.
Behind the wheel is where things get interesting. When I got into the car, I was expecting the engine to give the same shove it did in the F430, the ride to be harsh, and the tires to be tricky to keep from spinning. While I can’t speak to the tires as I never took off traction or stability control, I can say that I feel into the same trap that many critics of the GranTurismo S/Sport fall into – I was focusing on the “S” more than I was the “GranTurismo.” While I was discussing my initial impressions of the car after picking it up last night, my friend said it was a shame the GranTurismo was never offered with three pedals, and for the first time I can remember I had to disagree. Yes, the six speed automated manual most GranTurismos were fitted with is a bit… tricky… at times, but when it is functioning properly, it makes more a very relaxing cruise on long highway blasts, and responds quickly (for its age) when the roads get twisty and you put the car into manual mode.
That said, I don’t think the GranTurismo is really meant for the tightest canyons and twisty roads. The steering is just a bit too assisted and the limit is just a bit too easy to reach at normal speeds. In an older sports car that’s light and doesn’t have power steering that’s a great thing, but in a larger car with light steering its less than ideal for milking every corner for the perfect line and every ounce of speed. Frankly, it’s almost a muscle car in that regard – a large two door car with a loud, powerful V8 up front and drive going to the rear wheels. But if it was trying to be an Italian muscle car, why was it so comfortable? Why wasn’t the exhaust more in my face? Why weren’t the tires lighting up despite the traction control?
As I mentioned before, the problem lies in forgetting the name Maserati gave the car – GranTurismo. Translated, it quite literally means grand tour. When you look at it through that lens, everything starts to make a lot more sense. The automatic gearbox, the rev-happy engine that makes an excellent but not intrusive noise, the softer suspension, the lighter steering – it all fits together. In a twist nobody could possibly have seen coming, the Maserati GRANTURISMO is an excellent GRAND TOURER. Of course, that leaves the question of the MC cars that came later in the run – the harder, more powerful versions festooned with scoops and vents and carbon fiber. Simply put, the answer to that question is the market. People buying the GranTurismo often thought they were buying a baby Ferrari – a 599 with a V8 instead of the V12, so under pressure from buyers and journalists that thought they needed a racing car, Maserati built one, for better or for worse.
So, with that in mind, I find myself having to sum up my day with the Maserati. Well one thing I can say about it is that I never once was able to park the car without turning back a few times to look at it. I even found myself peaking out the front door just to see it parked on my driveway. Much like the Turbo R I reviewed a few weeks ago, I can’t in good conscience tell everyone to go out and buy one as the maintenance to keep it up properly won’t be cheap. But if you are willing and able to put out that effort and cash, and are looking for a quick, comfortable car to enjoy, I can guarantee the GranTurismo will charm you the way it did me.