Review: 2008 Maserati GranTurismo [w/VIDEO]

2008 Maserati GranTurismo – Click above for high-res image gallery

When we review a car, at some point we take it out to find a secluded location for a photo shoot. Anyone who does drive by usually keeps on going without asking any questions. Not so with a gleaming Nero black Maserati GranTurismo and a "Where are my sunglasses?" yellow Corvette Z06 sitting side by side. This was the scenario that transpired when fellow Autoblogger Chris Shunk swung by the Ann Arbor office for a joint photo shoot of our respective review vehicles. Corvettes, even screaming yellow Z06s, are pretty commonplace in Michigan. Maseratis, however, are anything but. The GranTurismo sashayed onto the world's automotive stage in March 2007 at the Geneva Motor Show looking right at home in the company of the models who always adorn the displays of Italian marques at such events. Read on to find out what Maserati's latest coupe is like to live with.

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Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

If ever there were a car with a perfectly appropriate name, it is the Maserati GranTurismo. This coupe truly defines grand touring motoring of the Italian kind. The latest entry from the trident brand has one of the most voluptuous shapes on the road today, bar none. This is the second generation coupe from Maserati since the brand begun its product renaissance earlier this decade, the first being the less sexy and unimaginatively named Maserati Coupé.

The GT had a rather inauspicious start in the attention grabbing department as I picked it up from a suburban Detroit Ferrari-Maserati dealer and set out for a meeting in nearby Birmingham. For those unfamiliar with Detroit's northern suburbs, Birmingham is one of the wealthiest communities in Michigan and the downtown area typically bristles with Bentleys, Mercedes and Ferraris. In this environment, even a car as visually enticing as this has a tough time standing out. Such was not the case when we rolled back into Ann Arbor's less lofty tax bracket.

If one had to describe a GranTurismo in human terms, perhaps the best comparison would be the magnificent Sophia Loren. Like Ms. Loren, the GranTurismo has been endowed with curves in all the right places and the kind of classic nose that no Beverly hills plastic surgeon would let go untouched. From the driver's seat, the arches over the front wheels are clearly visible on both sides just as in a Corvette, but unlike the brawny American, the hood dips down completely out of sight.

Although they don't sway like Sophia's, the Maserati's lovely hips are visible in the mirrors with a slight tip of the head. That nose, prominently marked by the brand's chrome trident, dips low to the ground giving the GT an almost sinister stance when viewed in the rear view mirror.

On the inside, the GranTurismo is swathed in black and tan leather with a pleasantly thick steering wheel. The front seat backs are surprisingly hard, however, almost feeling as though they have no cushioning, but after driving for a while we were still quite comfortable. Unlike the big dollar Germans, these Italian seats offer a relatively modest number of adjustments and the bolsters aren't very aggressive. This is a grand tourer, though, not a super-car. Lateral support is more than sufficient and ingress/egress is a lot easier.

Ergonomics are not considered a high point of expensive Italian cars, but this one only has a few modest foibles. The team in Modena should really just toss the navigation system. The user interface is clunky (although still better than a BMW iDrive) and the nav database doesn't even have points of interest. The Maserati's 115.8-inch wheelbase means it has plenty of room for a rear seat even with the engine mounted well back in the chassis. By no means is it cavernous, but a pair of adults (as long as they aren't more than about 6 ft) can easily fit in the back to head out for dinner.

The GranTurismo is propelled by a 4.2L V8 that cranks out 405 horsepower at 7,100 rpm. Unfortunately, this engine is comparatively weak when it comes to twisting force with only 339 lb-ft available at 4,750 rpm. Combined with the 6-speed ZF automatic used in the Quattroporte, it leaves the GT feeling somewhat sluggish off the line. Even with the stability and traction control turned off, the rear tires proved difficult to light up. But again, this is a grand tourer, not a Z06. It's not that the Maserati is slow with a 0-60 time of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 177 mph, it just doesn't feel as fast as its shape suggests. If it were 1992, these times would be considered exotic car territory. Today they're just mainstream. But in a Maserati GranTurismo, it's not necessarily important how fast you get there, but the style in which you do.

Once off the line with the sport button pressed or the shifter moved to the left for manual control, the Maser's V8 spins happily to its 7,500 rpm red line. A pair of extra long paddles behind the wheel trigger quick but seamless changes of gear ratio. At highway speeds, a quick stab of the pedal yields a down-shift and rapid clockwise motion of the speedometer needle. Going from legal to lock 'em up speeds is wonderfully effortless. In Sport mode, the gearbox happily stays in gear right up to red-line, although it will automatically up-shift rather than bouncing off the rev-limiter.

Sitting idle at a stop sign, the heartbeat of V8 is just a slight wobble. It's not rough or shaky, but makes just enough motion that it feels alive. The exhaust note also has a pleasant bark that is ever-present but never overpowering. Compared to the thunderous Z06, the GranTurismo goes by with more of a whoosh and a subtle undertone of Ferrari-esque V8.

The video meant to be presented here is no longer available. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Without the optional Sky-hook adaptive damping system, the suspension is firm but doesn't pound your spine, all while keeping the car parallel to the road. The steering effort is a bit heavy at lower speeds and lightens up in the mid-range, but has reasonable feedback when running along twisty pavement. The 49/51 front to rear weight distribution means the GranTurismo is always beautifully balanced and rotates around the driver.

For those looking for a more hard-core driving experience within this sultry skin, the GranTurismo S is probably a better option. This car is for those in search of classic Italian beauty with high speed capabilities who have no interest in drag racing Corvettes. At $110,00 the Maserati coupe will certainly remain a relatively rare sight on the street, even in Birmingham. If you do see one, let your eyes soak up the view. If you ever get a chance to drive one, even better.

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Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

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