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First Drive: 2008 Maserati GranTurismo

Previews

With the GranTurismo coupe, Maserati invites comparisons to the Mercedes-Benz CL550, BMW 6-series, and Jaguar XKR. But mention that the XKR costs some 26 grand less than the GranTurismo’s base price of $114,650, or that the Jaguar is almost 300 pounds lighter than the GranTurismo’s claimed 4150-pound curb weight, and the Maserati folks shrug it off with lots of hand gestures. The same thing happens if you mention that the similarly priced BMW M6 has 95 more horsepower and 44 more pound-feet of torque than the 405 horses and 339 pound-feet of torque that come from the GranTurismo’s 4.2-liter V-8. “Power is not our race,” they say.

On the other hand, the GranTurismo has something the BMW and the Jaguar don’t—two back seats with space for standard-sized humans. As does the Mercedes CL550, but the GranTurismo’s claimed 0-to-60-mph time of 5.1 seconds is 0.2 second quicker than what Mercedes estimates for the Benz.

The Maserati lacks the electronic gadgets available on the Benz, BMW, and Jaguar, but some people consider that a bonus. There are no massaging, adaptive, or cooled seats; no adaptive cruise control; no night vision; and no overly complicated infotainment system.

What the Maserati can brag about is a dizzying number of color combinations for every surface of the car. The rich leather that covers the seats, dashboard, steering wheel, and gearshift boot can be had in 10 different hues, plus the carpet, trunk carpet, headliner—even the stitching—can match or clash at your desire. There are 19 options for exterior paint, six colors for the brake calipers, and two wheel finishes.


Beauty, Inside and Out

he GranTurismo is based on a shortened version of the Quattroporte, and it shares all of its mechanicals with the sedan. In the coupe, the engine control has been tweaked for more horsepower, and the six-speed automatic transmission and the electronic throttle are programmed for faster shifts and quicker responses in standard and sport modes. Due to its larger size than the GranSport (still available in Europe), Maserati claims the GranTurismo is not a direct competitor to the Porsche 911 or Aston Martin V-8 Vantage.

So the GranTurismo is larger, more expensive, slower, and feature-challenged compared with any number of coupes that dwell in the $80,000-plus stratosphere, but that’s hardly the point with this Maserati. Thoughts of comparisons float out the window when one sees the way the Pininfarina-designed sheetmetal floats and bends around the car’s body with more visceral realism than a Rodin sculpture. The other cars don’t look like the GranTurismo, and the interior’s sumptuous hand-stitched surfaces make the others’ seem more commonplace. There’s even a tiny strip of leather on the edge of the steering-wheel shift paddles that constantly reminds the driver that this is a special car.

Driving the GranTurismo is equally enchanting. On tight roads, the bite from the front tires and the excellent steering feel disguise the car’s ample size. The transmission shifts so quickly and smoothly that the term “slushbox” does not apply. There’s never enough available torque to overwhelm the rear tires, and the handling is neutral at the limit.

The GranTurismo has to be one of the smoothest cars on the road, in more ways than one. It is not the fastest, smartest, or best value on the market, but the GranTurismo has panache in abundance. In this car, that’s far more important than cold figures.


Specs

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

BASE PRICE: $114,650

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 259 cu in, 4244cc
Power (SAE net): 405 bhp @ 7100 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 339 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manumatic shifting

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 115.8 in Length: 192.2 in Width: 72.7 in Height: 53.3 in
Curb weight: 4150 lb

PERFORMANCE (MFR’S EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 5.1 sec
Top speed (drag limited): 177 mph

PROJECTED FUEL ECONOMY (MFR’S EST):
EPA city driving: 11 mpg
EPA highway driving: 16 mpg

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