First Drive

2018 Maserati GranTurismo First Drive | Better with age?

  • Image Credit: Maserati
  • Engine
    4.7L V8
  • Power
    454 HP / 384 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    6-sp. Auto
  • 0-60 Time
    4.6 Sec. (est.)
  • Top Speed
    187 MPH
  • Drivetrain
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    4,300 LBS (est.)
  • Seating
  • Base Price
There are not many rational reasons for owning a Maserati GranTurismo (or GranCabrio convertible, for that matter). Even Maserati admits this.

The short list occupies a single paragraph. Firstly, the GranTurismo is not German. Don't laugh. For some people, that's enough. Secondly, it has rear-seat space and comfort that remains the class benchmark. Thirdly, its cabin is the place where art and craftsmanship meet.

There are far more rational reasons to not buy one. Let's tick them off, since we're in the mood. Firstly, it's already had its tenth birthday. It's not jeepers-fast by today's standards and neither is it remotely frugal. It drives the back wheels through a six-speed transmission, so it has 50 percent fewer gear ratios than AMG. Also, the only thing light about it is the weight of its driver-assistance systems.

The 4.7-liter GranTurismo and its roofless GranCabrio sibling prospered in the plus-minus ledgers early in their careers, but they now operate outside them, in the sketchbooks of translated emotion.

The Pininfarina-designed body is still stunning, a decade on, from any angle. It's had some tickles on the front and rear bumpers to make the grille more like the one on the Alfieri concept car, there are new headlights in the same space and the aerodynamics have been cleaned up so it can streak beyond 186 mph. When we say "streak" we really mean "creep" because it tops out at 187 mph.

2018 Maserati GranTurismo 2018 Maserati GranTurismo 2018 Maserati GranTurismo 2018 Maserati GranTurismo

It has air vents behind the front wheels now, but they're not functional, and neither are the three signature vents high up on the front fenders. Maserati's aero guys tested German cars with working air vents and found their aero contributions were minimal. The air inlet on the MC's is, though, and so are the twin hot-air outlets that give the carbon-fiber hood its exaggerated contours.

The big news from the Powertrain Department is that it's been busy eliminating stuff, rather than doing new things. It simplified its life by killing off the entry-level 4.2-liter V8, so the only engine in the entire range now is the Ferrari-built 4.7-liter, 90-degree V8. Don't think of bolting in the torque-rich twin-turbo V6 motor from the Ghibli, Quattroporte or Levante – or the twin-turbo V8, either – since neither are available. The V8 also comes in just the 453 horsepower version, regardless of whether you like the standard GranTurismo Sport or shell out another $17,745 for the $150,570 GranTurismo MC.

It cleaned up the production process at the near-medieval Maserati factory even further by ditching the MC's optional single-clutch six-speed in favor of a tauter version of the GranTurismo Sport's six-speed automatic. So to go with the GranTurismo range's single engine, there's now also a single transmission.

Maserati learned long ago that it couldn't run with Germany's tech leaders, so it instead went on a charm offensive. It's still on it, with more commitment to it than ever, and of every carmaker in the world, only Aston Martin goes all-in on the strategy like Maserati.

2018 Maserati GranTurismo

If your in the right mood, what does it matter that the GranTurismo MC doesn't park itself or deactivate half its cylinders when it's cruising or change its own cruise control speed when its fancy camera reads a road sign? And why should you care if the key looks like it is a rebranded 1990s Alfa Romeo job that still has to be physically inserted into a slot and turned before the Maserati will fire up?

Because there's a thing it does from 2,000 rpm to 3,500 rpm, at a tickle of throttle or half throttle or a full stomp, where the V8 digs deep down into its soul and saturates the cabin with a sound that's worth the entry ticket alone. It's deep and rich and syrupy, sticky with sweetness and threatening with muscle. There's a trace of induction roar, but most of it is beautifully organized engineering and plumbing and tuning, with Maserati even bringing in a La Scala composer to help it deliver its signature theatrics.

This, now, is where the GranTurismo MC delivers on the promise of the body sculpting, by delivering the experience of speed in a way that puts you in the front row of a theatre. It matters not that other cars are quicker, because no other car in this bracket has the flair for drama in the perennial feel-good storyline that the Maserati has. And yet it retains a dignity despite its flamboyance, carrying itself with class, progressiveness, and a surprisingly good ride.

2018 Maserati GranTurismo

So far, Maserati has sold 37,000 GranTurismos and GranCabrios around the world, which is less than 4,000 a year, but it's proven a resilient character and its sales are not sliding backwards even now. It won't hurt things that the interior has been upgraded, too, with the 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment unit pulled out of the Levante and shoehorned in to replace one that was dial-up modem slow.

The MC is the hotter of the two GranTurismos, but that doesn't make it a straight-line sprint contender in the era of twin-turbo V8s and even V6s. Where the Germans are regularly sub-four-second fighters across to 62 mph, the MC gets there in 4.7 seconds. No, it's not slow, but it's not outstanding, either, and the pace levels frankly don't back up the story being told by the aggressively slinky bodywork.

It gets worse in the mid-range, where the lack of turbochargers and the paucity of gear ratios mean it will get caught out and thrashed by the M, AMG, and Audi Sport thugs. Most of Germany's performance coupes reach their torque peaks at sub-2,000 rpm, but you have to crank the Maserati up to 4,750 rpm to get to its peak, and 384 lb-ft of torque isn't anything to crow about these days. Stick with it and you'll hit the power peak at 7,000 rpm, though it always feels like it has another 2,000 rpm to give.

That's the key to the engine and to the whole car. It's smooth and sophisticated, calm and glorious. You can make it more glorious by pushing the Sport button, just ahead of the gear lever, which shortens the exhaust's path to the outside world and makes an open-air public theatre out of every scrap of the engine's exertion. It's unendingly compelling.

2018 Maserati GranTurismo

It's also unendingly loud, so it's best to switch off the Sports mode on highways, lest you fancy popping Advil like jellybeans, but the bonus is astonishing throttle response at all engine speeds, especially adjusting the car's stance in a corner. Oddly, though, the richest part of the V8's sound profile is all over by 4,000 rpm, when it switches up to its sweeter-spinning role on its way to a 7,200 rpm rev limiter it will cheerfully smash into.

It spins so smoothly that it often catches you by surprise (in its manual mode, shifting with the enormous, steering column-mounted carbon-fiber paddles) as it crashes, braaap-braaap-braaap, into the limiter. None of the German soft limiters here. Instead, Maserati sees it as yet another chance to pull the drivers into the experience and it makes the GranTurismo wrap its arms around them again.

The brilliance of the engine just brings the transmission's shortfalls into sharper focus. Never mind that the quick BMWs and Audis now have eight speeds or that AMG has nine, because it just isn't proactive enough, it clearly wastes performance by slushing through shifts to smooth them out and it can be jerky going either way through the cogs. It is nice enough when you are just cruising, and it should be, with two overdriven gears. But with an engine this enriching to the soul, the transmission should just stay the hell out of the way and not be seen. People didn't go to Pavarotti concerts to watch the drummer, especially if the drummer didn't belong in the orchestra pit.

2018 Maserati GranTurismo 2018 Maserati GranTurismo 2018 Maserati GranTurismo 2018 Maserati GranTurismo

Both versions use an old-school hydraulic power-steering system that feels a bit too slow in its gearing, leading to too much arm-crossing action at low speeds, yet still manages to deliver the sort of nuance and road input that electric systems ignore.

It still uses Skyhook active damping systems on the base GranTurismo, but a fixed-rate system on the MC. In the real world, the base car's more compliant system works best. It's not that the grip is high, even though the new generation Pirelli PZeros add another 30 percent to the tire's lifespan (so say Maserati and Pirelli). The important part of the GranTurismo handling package is the progressiveness and predictability.

Its preferred stance is one of a gentle push, especially at higher speeds. At lower speeds, that stance changes to reflect whatever the driver does with the throttle. The brakes are firm but strong, though they offer little feedback and the ABS takes its time recovering after awkward bumps. It all feels a fraction removed from the driver, which is odd. It intentionally throws the drivers into the thick of the engine's orchestra, then pulls them back from the handling's boldest crescendos.

2018 Maserati GranTurismo

One of the giant steps forward is the interior and its usefulness in daily life, including the addition of Maserati's two-tier rotary scroller, which is made a bit redundant by having a touchscreen to duplicate most of its functions. All GranTurismos score a stock Harmon Kardon sound system, too, and it's all surrounded with gorgeously, richly crafted leather that just looks and feels sumptuous.

Unfortunately, all of that leather is surrounding some switchgear that really does feel and look old these days, and some of it is hard to find, hidden behind the steering wheel or in front of the gear lever. The ventilation system buttons are easy to use, though, and the entertainment system now talks to both Apple and Android phones.

There was never any shame in lusting after a GranTurismo, and there still isn't. The list of stuff the facelift does better is pretty short, based mostly around the entertainment system and the bragging rights of crossing the 186 mph threshold. But the best parts are unchanged, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Related Video:

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.

Share This Photo X