Pavarotti would be pleased
The fastest-ever Maserati evokes memories for Paul Owen of Juan Manuel Fangio
If he was alive today Juan Manuel Fangio would be 100 years old. The Argentinian was, until Michael Schumacher the world’s most successful F1 driver and won the last of his five Formula One titles in the elegant Maserati 250F.
I’m about to drive the Trident brand’s fastestever production road car around the Shanghai Formula One circuit in a personal tribute to the 100th anniversary of Fangio’s birth. As if to reinforce the connection, the designers of the new MC Stradale have shaped the front splitter of the body kit they’ve added to the new Granturismo S-based hero car to evoke memories of the 250F. As we wait for the off, its the car’s way of telling me that Ive got some big driving shoes to fill.
As is the glorious sound, the new exhaust fitted to the new Stradale version of the Granturismo S coupe not only liberates a bit more power and torque, it promotes the Ferraridesigned 4.7litre V8 engines claim to the title of the world’s bestsounding bent-eight. The Maserati engine doesn’t have the revpromoting flat-plane crank that makes Ferrari V8 sound like two inline fours instead of a proper V8. The Trident-badged engine does still possess the relatively high redline (8500rpm) however and put the Stradale in the race mode – calming down its stability control, quickening the shift times of its robotised six-speed gearbox and opening the flap in the exhaust system, and you have a car that makes a sound that other famous late Maserati driver Luciano Pavarotti would definitely enjoy.
As we enter Shanghai’s start-finish straight and flash beneath the circuits iconic bridge at 180kmh, my minder in the passenger seat presses the race mode button and the Stradale instantly comes alive. Full-throttle flat-shifts now ram home in 60 milliseconds instead more than 100 and the intake and exhaust systems now fully vent the explosive rage of the high-revving engine. Its tempting to ignore the commands coming from the passenger seat to brake now as Turn One approaches, just to enjoy all the drama and action of a Maserati powertrain at full song. For the Stradale’s huge serving-plate sized carbon-ceramic discs and multi-piston calipers are now up to optimum operating temperature and I’m certain that my passenger’s demands for speed retardation are coming at least 100m too early.
A quick prod of the brake pedal instantly removes all the velocity that’s required to negotiate the tricky decreasing-radius right-hander and we free-wheel the last 100m to the turn to conserve most of the cornering speed that the Stradale is capable of. Thanks to reductions in body ride height by 20mm at the front and 10mm at the rear, the eight per cent stiffer springs and the increased directional and lateral abilities of the fatter Pirelli P Zero Corsa tyres, its a far more incisive and responsive car than the Granturismo S.
Further into the lap comes Turn 7. The Stradale isn’t as blessed by downforce, although the bodywork changes add 25 per cent more than the GTS at the front end of the car at 200kmh and a 50 per cent increase at the rear. Despite this, the rear end of the car breaks gently into oversteer as I try to hold the Stradale on a tight exit line to set the car up for Turn 8. In race mode, the car evidently allows around six-degrees of slippage before the electronics are deployed, enough to excite and involve the driver while still staying safe and secure.
With a brush of the brakes, I then snap the car right into turn eight, the lateral G-force testing the strength of our necks.
The Stradale’s steering feels responsive and light, perhaps a little too light to bear direct comparison with a similarly-focused Porsche 911. A little more heft might not help parking maneouvres in downtown Shanghai but would be appreciated in fast sweepers like this. At a Glance: Engine: 4691cc 32-valve dohc V8 stoked by fuel injection to develop 330kW (449bhp) at 7000rpm and 510Nm of torque at 4750rpm Transmission: Reardrive transaxle featuring a robotized six-speed manual gearbox. Performance: 0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds; top speed: 301kmh; fuel use in simulated city/ highway driving lab test: 14.4litres/km; CO2 output: 337g/km. Price: $350,000 Hot: Fastest ever Maserati road car is still civilised enough to use every day. Not: Porsche’s 911 GT3 is more affordable and offers more involving steering.
MASERATI STRADALE: most powerful version of the company’s celebrated coupe is almost operatic in terms of its soundsignature and demeanour.