Maserati Gran­Tur­ismo

Ital­ian old-stager’s re­fresh doesn’t iron out all wrin­kles

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

THIS WASN’T sup­posed to hap­pen. Four years ago, Har­ald Wester, Maserati’s then boss, told us the age­ing Gran­Tur­ismo and its GranCabrio sis­ter were set for the grave. But he’s since left and the pair have been given a facelift to eke out their ex­is­tence for a cou­ple of years.

This is a range ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion as much as a re­fresh. Maserati has dropped the en­try-level 4.2-litre en­gine, which snared only 20 per cent of sales, and the op­tional sin­gle-clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sion of­fered on the pre­vi­ous MC Stradale.

All ver­sions will now use the

338kW 4.7-litre V8 and the six-speed ZF torque con­verter auto; choice is limited to Sport and MC trim lev­els. Yes, there are styling tweaks, with re­designed bumpers front and rear, new wheels and new colours.

The Le­vante’s new touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is a wel­come ad­di­tion, but ev­ery­thing else is very fa­mil­iar.

When a rear-view cam­era is cel­e­brated as a new fea­ture, you know the bar­rel’s bot­tom is be­ing scraped. Yet there is still plenty to like about this age­ing stager, and not just its still-hand­some looks. The nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8 re­mains the star­ring fea­ture; it can’t match the low-rev wal­lop of tur­bocharged ri­vals, but loves to rev and makes some im­pres­sively snarly noises as it closes in on its 7100rpm limiter.

Throt­tle re­sponse is won­der­fully crisp, steer­ing is sim­i­larly ana­logue, with the hy­draulic sys­tem com­mu­ni­cat­ing the sort of low in­ten­sity feed­back elec­tric sys­tems fil­ter out. Grip lev­els are re­spectable, but the Gran­Tur­ismo tran­si­tions to gen­tle un­der­steer as the limit ap­proaches, the en­gine lack­ing enough grunt to calmly swing things to over­steer.

The brake pedal is slightly wooden too – although ca­pa­ble of se­ri­ous speed, this is a car hap­pier be­ing driven at seven or eight tenths. The au­to­matic copes well, but shifts feel leisurely un­der harder use or man­ual con­trol, and the torque con­verter re­ac­tions are slushy at low speed.

The new in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem works well and the in­tu­itive touch­screen

ef­fec­tively negates the need for the ro­tary con­troller that still sits next to the gear selec­tor. It sounds good, too, thanks to a stan­dard Har­mon Kar­don speaker set-up. But the Gran­Tur­ismo’s cabin is where it feels old­est, with a slightly off­set driv­ing po­si­tion and hard-to-see switchgear. Our test car also suf­fered from what sounded like leather-on-leather squeak­ing.

Maserati def­i­nitely killed the right trans­mis­sion – the old sin­gle-clutch auto lurched like an at­tack dog – but don’t ex­pect the pre­ci­sion of a twin­clutcher, or even of the more mod­ern ZF eight-speeder that we’re told the next-gen­er­a­tion coupe will use.

Dy­nam­i­cally, the big dif­fer­ence is the fact the cheaper Sport keeps adap­tive ‘Sky­hook’ dampers, while the con­sid­er­ably more ex­pen­sive MC uses firmer fixed rate shocks. All other sus­pen­sion set­tings are iden­ti­cal, but the Sport rides over rougher sur­faces with a com­pli­ance that’s no­tably lack­ing in the far stiffer MC; we sus­pect it will feel down­right harsh when it reaches Aussie tar­mac.

The MC’s louder sports ex­haust also pro­duces some dron­ing har­mon­ics in the cabin at con­stant-speed cruis­ing. Although the MC adds more kit, some carbon-fi­bre jew­ellery and a weight­sav­ing com­pos­ite bon­net, the cheaper Sport feels like the bet­ter car, cer­tainly given the Gran­Tur­ismo’s epony­mous con­ti­nent-cross­ing mis­sion.

With the ex­cep­tion of lad­der-frame SUVs, lux­ury sports cars tend to live longer than any other type of car.

The Gran­tur­ismo has passed its 10th an­niver­sary, and although it will re­main a mi­nor­ity choice next to more mod­ern and – it must be said – more tal­ented ri­vals, like the soon-to-re­tire Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT and As­ton Martin Van­tage, the Maserati re­mains a hugely like­able car.

Some will still see suf­fi­cient ap­peal in a Pin­in­fa­rina-de­signed four-seater with a Fer­rari-built en­gine to jus­tify the price when they ar­rive here early next year. While there’s cer­tainly no shame in lust­ing af­ter one, it is re­ally start­ing to feel its age and the seg­ment con­tains many more ra­tio­nal of­fer­ings, if not nec­es­sar­ily more emo­tion­ally com­pelling ones.

Re­freshed styling and in­te­rior hide an age­ing chas­sis and driv­e­train. How­ever, the up­side to that is a glo­ri­ous sound­ing 4.7litre V8 that shuns forced in­duc­tion

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