The last Maserati GranTurismo lived a long life and left a spectacularly good-looking corpse, but there’s no denying it felt pretty far off the pace by the time of its eventual retirement. Maserati’s recent run of form – specifically the excellence of the MC20 – means that hopes for the all-new car are much higher.
Like its predecessor, this GranTurismo is a seriously handsome car. Dimensions are pretty much unchanged – it is 49mm longer and 42mm wider – but the new car has gained some more muscular curvature and so it actually looks a little more compact. It sits on a new platform that will also underpin the forthcoming Quattroporte, and features a structure that combines aluminium with high-strength steel. At 1,795kg it is no svelte lightweight but is actually lighter than its pudgy predecessor, and that’s despite the standard fitment of all-wheel drive and air suspension.
The engine is the biggest change from the retired model. The sonorous V8 has gone, replaced by Maserati’s ‘Nettuno’ twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6. This is the same motor that powers both the MC20 and the punchiest Trofeo version of the Grecale and features a very clever pre-combustion chamber. Two outputs will be offered, the Modena getting 490hp and the range-topping Trofeo, which I spent most time driving in Italy, having 550hp. The Trofeo also gets various other tweaks including an electronically controlled rear differential capable of torque biasing and a harder-edged Corsa dynamic mode. An eight-speed ZF autobox is standard on the combustion versions. There is also a fully electric Folgore version, which I experienced in prototype form, but I’ll tell you about that elsewhere.
The cabin is where the new GranTurismo has been most obviously transformed. While there was an olde-world charm about the ability to combine wood and light leather in the outgoing car, its ergonomics always felt closer to the nineties than the noughties, with heating and ventilation controls relegated to a button-laden panel with LCD temperature displays.
Conventional switchgear has been practically eliminated with the exception of the various controls on the steering wheel, these including a rotary dial for the various driving modes on the right and an engine start/stop button on the left. But the GranTurismo keeps with Maserati’s tradition of push-button gear selectors, with P/R/N/D controls above the lower display screen. Although usability was generally good there were a couple of foibles, including having to use the touchscreen to release the gearbox. It also has electric door release buttons, which seem completely pointless given the GranTurismo still has internal mechanical handles as well to give redundancy in the event of a power failure. Why has this become such a common thing?
Overall though the quality of materials and construction felt impressively high. I particularly liked the reconfigurable circular mini-screen that has replaced the traditional Maserati dash-top clock. This can indeed display a crisply rendered clockface, but also a compass or a G-meter. The GranTurismo also remains very practical by the standards of something so sleek and handsome. Space in the back isn’t generous, but it is adult-viable certainly for short journeys – something that couldn’t be said of many other two-door GTs. It’s still comfy after a couple of hours behind the wheel, too.
You won’t be spitting tea to learn the Nettuno has a very different character to the old naturally aspirated V8. That’s obvious as soon as it fires into life, with a slight but noticeable amount of vibration coming through the seat base as it idles. Low down it sounds thrummy and a bit gravelly – as in its other applications it feels more redolent of rallying than racing. Left in the softest Comfort dynamic mode with the transmission shifting up early and often in drive there is even something a bit dieselly about the Nettuno. But dieselly in a good way, if that makes sense - it reminded me slightly of Audi’s mighty twin-turbo BiTDI engine.
Put down the pitchforks and extinguish the torches – this is only the edge of the experience, an occasional impression rather than an oil-burning tribute act. Push harder, allow the Nettuno to build boost pressures, and it finds a much more compelling voice and an enthusiasm to rev. It is less savage than in the MC20 – as you’d expect given the GranTurismo Trofeo makes 80hp less than the mid-engined car and produces this peak 1,000rpm lower down the rev range. But there is much of the same spirit in the way urge builds to the lowlier 7,200rpm redline, also the way in which the coupe devours the closely stacked ratios of its eight-speed ‘box.
No, the ZF auto can’t get close to the whizz-bang upshifts of the MC20’s twin-clutcher, but in Sport and Corsa modes the Trofeo felt properly snappy for a torque converter. The metal shift paddles behind the steering wheel have a nice weight and precise action; I suspect plenty of GranTurismo buyers will choose to use them most of the time.
While the old GranTurismo’s frequent and sometimes lurid battles for traction were always part of its appeal the new model’s smart all-wheel-drive system finds plenty of grip for its increased urge. Even when, as with the cars I drove in Italy, riding on Pirelli P-Zero Winter tyres. The extra-sensible rubber was frustrating as, with PH’s first turn in the similarly-shod Grecale last year, temperatures were well above freezing on the day of my drive. Although good for winters, the tyres were definitely taking the edge off the GranTurismo’s reactions when pushed.
Grip was decent, but pushing harder in slower stuff had the Trofeo’s front end nibbling into inelegant understeer, and there was a definite numbness to the sensations passing from the tyres to the steering wheel as the limits got near. Both things I suspect grippier tyres would improve on. Reducing entry speeds gave the Trofeo’s smart rear differential the chance to show off its torque-biasing talents, accelerating the outside wheel to get the car turned. The effect felt keen in the punchier dynamic modes - as if a big oversteer moment is imminent. I actually preferred the more subtle intervention in the gentler GT setting.
The dynamic mode also alters suspension settings as well as a multitude of other variables. The standard air springs offer impressive compliance; Comfort mode is getting close to Bentley levels of pillow over bigger bumps, while GT and Sport increase discipline without turning the GranTurismo in any way harsh, and as in the MC20 there is a separate damper control to allow softer chassis settings to be selected in the more aggressive dynamic modes. The air springs bring many benefits – including the ability to lift the front end over bumps and kerbs – but they also mean there is still a very slight sensation of floatiness in the full fang Corsa mode. This Trofeo never feels as rigidly lashed down as the old MC Stradale did, but it is much more civilized at lower speeds. It would be unfair to criticise a car called the GranTurismo for behaving mostly like a GT. The chassis exhibits many of the qualities that make the MC20 so good.
A briefer turn in the Modena, also wearing winter tyres, confirmed that it doesn’t lack much compared to the Trofeo - presuming the absence of the Corsa dynamic mode isn’t a deal breaker. Maserati claims significantly different performance figures for both variants – the Modena’s 3.9-sec 0-62mph time being 0.4-sec slower and its 13.0-sec 0-124mph time 1.6-sec behind the Trofeo’s searing pace; the Modena’s 187mph top speed is also 11mph shy. Yet subjectively the difference is far closer; on twisty Italian roads I was struggling to feel a significant change even driving the two cars back-to-back. The Modena’s lack of the clever rear differential also gives it more natural feeling responses when pushed in corners, but also a slightly greater tendency to understeer.
While we don’t have prices yet, we should brace for an increase over the old GranTurismo. The steer from inside the company is that the Modena will be about £140,000, with the Trofeo being around £20,000 more – a figure that would put it neck-and-neck with the more powerful (if slightly less practical) Porsche 911 Turbo S. Experiential niggles aside, the new GranTurismo is a huge improvement on the old car – we look forward to discovering if it really is good enough to go toe to toe with the Porsche.
SPECIFICATION | Maserati GranTurismo Trofeo
Engine: 2992cc, V6 twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 550 @ 6500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 479 @ 3000rpm
Top speed: 198mph
Price: £160,000 (est) (On sale June 2023)
SPECIFICATION | Maserati GranTurismo Modena
Engine: 2992cc, V6 twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 483 @ 6500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 442 @ 3000rpm
Top speed: 187mph
Price: £140,000 (est) (On sale June 2023)
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