Car reviews - Maserati - GranTurismo - MC Sportline
Chock-full of character from nose to tail, but with a subtlety and style that belies its ability
Room for improvement
Some elements have dated far faster than others
16 Apr 2015
By TIM ROBSON
WHAT’S not to like about an empty racetrack and a V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive coupe? And when that bent-eight rear driver is a bona fide member of the World Supercar Club, it’s made just a little bit sweeter.
Maserati’s GranTurismo has done sterling work for Ferrari’s blood relative for the last seven years. Its steady sales numbers Down Under have helped the local distributor build Australia into the number two market in the world, per capita, for the range, while keeping its end up in the sales race.
“You're right, the vehicle has been around in our market since 2008,” admits Maserati Australia and New Zealand’s general manager Glen Sealey. “If you look at it, though, it's still fresh. If you drive it, there's still nothing on the market like it.”
Selling 75 GranTurismos in 2014 against a record 401 total sales – Maserati had only shifted 439 cars for the four years from 2010 – Mr Sealey would like to add just a few more for 2015, but he’s adamant Maserati is not about numbers.
“We don't want to be the segment leader,” he insisted. “We’re not out selling cars at $80,000. We are at the very high end of that (sportscar) segment.”
To look at the GranTurismo parked quietly in the pit lane at New Zealand’s pretty Hampton Downs racetrack, you’d be hard-pressed to suggest that the car is almost eight years old. Its long, swept bonnet, the elongated cab and that cheeky tweak on the rear deck are as fresh as the day it was launched having your coachwork penned by Pininfarina helps in that regard.
The MC Sportline, in truth, varies little from the Sport it replaces. It scores the alloy vented bonnet from the range-topping MC Stradale, along with a fair facsimile of its 20-inch black forged rims. Its headlights are slightly tinted, and there’s a pair of carbon-fibre-backed, leather-trimmed seats up front. And, err, that’s about it.
The car does cost a considerable amount less than the Sport, though – up to $26,000 if you opt for the robotised manual gearbox version – and without the loss of a single line of specification.
There’s a real sense of occasion when you slide behind the wheel of any $300k supercar, of course, but if you like your experiences festooned with buttons and gadgets, you’ll be disappointed. The GranTurismo is subtle, low key and confident in its presentation, and its execution is top notch, too.
An excellent seating position, a chunky comfortable leather wheel, large shift paddles and alloy race pedals are in exactly the right place, though its age is belied by the need for a large key to start it. The MC Sportline is lined with top-grade leather and soft-touch Alcantara, and it looks great.
It will even take two passengers in the rear seats – but not for very long.
Fire up the 32-valve, dual-cam 4.7-litre V8, and aesthetics go straight out the window. The F136 engine – a co-development unit between Maserati and Ferrari – is a 338kW jewel, with a silken power delivery and an engine note that stays with you for days.
The car’s only nod to the last decade of technological advancement is in its Sport button, which opens flaps in the bi-modal exhaust, sharpens the gearbox’s response times and firms up the hydrostatic SkyRide dampers. With the button turned off, though, the GranTurismo is sufficiently quiet and comfortable to be driven every day. It really is a case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
With the Sport button nudged, the MC Sportline wails, crackles and howls like a Formula 1 racer from decades gone by as that naturally aspirated gem under the long bonnet relentlessly nudges you towards the horizon line.
Its handling is excellent, too, again pointing to good design and execution.
Steel springs, anti-roll bars and unequal-length control arms combine with 20-inch Pirelli P-Zero tyres for a handling package that is subtler and more feelsome than a purely track-bred beast. It's a performance piece that doesn't shout from the rooftops, but there's plenty there to keep you highly entertained.
Some elements betray its age – the almost comically awful infotainment and satellite navigation set-up, in the main – but the GranTurismo is ageing with grace in this new MC Sportline spec proof positive, then that style really doesn't go out of fashion.
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