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