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Maserati GranTurismo Sport review (2012 onwards)
What: Maserati GranTurismo Sport
Where: Modena, Italy
Date: May 2012
Price: £90,390 (Automatic), £93,720 (MC Shift)
Available: July 2012
Key rivals:Aston Martin DB9, BMW M6, Mercedes CL500, Nissan GT-R, Porsche 911
Summary: new 460hp Maserati GranTurismo Sport dials up the aggression and leaves us enthralled - but choose your gearbox carefully
We like: huge style, greater comfort, better control and awesome noise make this the best GranTurismo yet
We don't like: lurching gear changes from the MC Shift, heavier handling of the Automatic, some of the switchgear
Gorgeous thing, the Maserati GranTurismo. A little too large for the UK, perhaps, and definitely rather cramped given such generous dimensions, but with a silhouette like burlesque draped silk and an exhaust note that could tempt a saint it's easy to overlook such petty details.
For 2012 Maserati is introducing a new Sport variant. This replaces the previous GranTursimo S to sit in the range above the entry-level 4.2 and below the MC Stradale - the stripped and caged two-seater special with reduced weight, and looks influenced by the GranTurismo Trofeo racing car.
However, it's still a grand tourer at heart
The new Sport neatly splits the two. Its 4.7-litre V8 is cranked to 460hp - matching the Stradale, and 20hp more than the S it succeeds - while the revised styling subtly increases the menace. Retaining a full compliment of seats and available with an automatic gearbox, however, it's still a grand tourer at heart.
The six-speed auto is standard, but for another £3,330 you can have the Maserati MC Shift transmission, a robotised manual gearbox that also offers automatic and paddleshift modes. Choose your transmission carefully, it defines the character of the car. Both have been upgraded with quicker shift times here.
Other changes for the new model include the introduction of new Brembo brakes, stiffer "Skyhook Sport" adaptive suspension, improved aerodynamics and better ergonomics. More power means it's faster, too. But has Maserati managed to turn an impulsive, emotional car into a really good one?
Specify the faster MC Shift gearbox and the 460hp GranTurismo Sport goes 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds; in the S that same sprint takes 4.9. Flat out it will hit 186mph, and the automatic is barely any slower (a scant tenth of a second behind to 62mph, with a 185mph top end).
But at 1,780kg this is a heavy car, and it never quite feels absolutely devastating. There's still more than enough performance here to make your passengers squeal, though, and once you've heard the noise it makes you probably won't care that a Nissan GT-R is almost two whole seconds quicker to 62mph.
Keep your finger away from the "Sport" button and there won't be any trouble. Give this innocent looking little fellow a prod, however, and it's as if you've accidentally triggered the onset of Armageddon. Its primary function is apparently to the take an axe to the silencers.
Presumably the method is a little more technical than that - there are probably valves and flaps involved - but the end result is a car so loud the devil himself will be complaining. A cultured assault, the range is such it's like someone has reanimated Pavarotti, amped him up, and then grabbed him by the goolies.
On narrow and poorly sighted roads it's practically a safety feature. Cyclists and those concerned with small fluffy animal welfare may disagree. But hove into view with that low, low nose skittering millimetres from the tarmac, and the new LED running lights a-twinkle, and slower traffic tends to move out of the way.
That said, we're testing the GranTurismo in Italy, and they tend to love a bit of automotive drama over here. The reaction you get in the Cotswolds or on the M25 might be somewhat dissimilar. Still, you could always switch that Sport mode back off, right? Right...
Ride and handling
Beyond the abuse of eardrums, Sport mode also stiffens the suspension, speeds up the gearshifts and changes the steering assistance. But before you even begin to worry about that you need to choose a transmission - which means it's time to think about how you're going to use your GranTurismo.
If you just want a big, stylish GT that'll give the crumpet (male or female, we're not specific) goose bumps as you tour around Europe, frequenting its most glamorous and picturesque petrol stations, we suggest you stick with the Automatic.
This is a little softer in the suspension and a lot smoother with the gears, making it a much more pleasant place to be a passenger. But if you actually want to drive hard then you'd better stump up another three grand, and get used to saying "It's a Maserati, it does that" every time it lurches through a gear change.
You can really throw this monster around
The MC Shift robotised manual is a transaxle design, meaning the gearbox is located on the back axle. This tilts the GranTurismo's weight balance further towards the rear, which has the apparent effect of increasing drive traction and making the front of the car much keener to cut through the corners.
The upshifts are anything but seamless - though they get better the faster you go and you soon learn to ease the transition by lifting the throttle - but suddenly you can really throw this big ol' monster around. Where the Auto wants to run away with itself, the MC Shift car is incisive, and remarkably agile for its size.
It also stops better, the new Brembos - borrowed from the GranCabrio - giving you real confidence. Regardless of transmission, the ride certainly remains abrupt on occasions, always a handicap for the GranTurismo in the UK. However, the adaptive Skyhook suspension gives you better than ever control.
Is it as outright good to drive as an equivalently priced Porsche 911? No. But with the MC Shift - idiosyncrasies and all - it feels amazingly alive. This is a car you buy with passion, and then hold your breath to see how long it is before you get bored. For some the fascination will last forever.
Biggest changes - in fact the only major changes - inside are the new front seats. These are more sculpted, more comfortable and allow an extra 2cm of legroom in the back. The rear is still best left to those slim of hip and short on stature, but nothing in this class is especially generous in this regard.
Can sound like it's speaking in tongues
Trimming options include Alcantara and plenty of genuine carbonfibre tinsel; you can now have the paddleshifters finished in weave, for example, but we prefer the original metal items. These are now slightly larger, echoing changes made to the racier MC Stradale model.
The quality of the leatherwork sets a suitably high-class tone, but some of the switchgear fails to impress given this is a £90,000+ car. The sat-nav, for example, is the same as you get in some Peugeots, and occasionally gets its words so muddled it sounds like it's speaking in tongues.
Economy and safety
Euro NCAP doesn't crash test cars of this nature, so you'll just have to assume Maserati's engineers have done their homework. There are, however, the usual airbags and an ESP system that copes pretty well, given there's 460hp interacting with the road via the GranTurismo's rear tyres.
The fuel economy is, well, dreadful. But seriously, worrying about that in this instance is not how you should be living your life.
The MSN Cars verdict
The Maserati GranTurismo Sport is one of those cars that should have us doffing our collective hats whenever we see one - it's big, impractical and occasionally obstinate, but goodness it makes the automotive world a more interesting place. It's also the best GranTurismo so far.
It majors on indulgence, rather than ultimate excellence, and certainly it won't be for everyone. But when a 911 is too obvious, a GT-R too Nissan and an M6 too efficient, then you might just find the Maserati's hyperbolic histrionics make this the ideal choice for you.
After all, everyone will know you could have bought any one of those rivals - and more. But you will have bought the Maserati. And you know what, we really like what that says about you.
Need to know
Engines, petrol: 4.7 V8
Engines, diesel: n/a
Power, hp: 460 @ 7,000rpm
Torque, lb ft: 383 @ 4,750rpm
0-62mph, secs: 4.7 (MC Shift), 4.8 (Automatic)
Top speed, mph: 185 (Automatic), 186 (MC Shift)
Mpg combined: 18.2 (MC Shift), 19.7 (Automatic)
CO2, tax: 331g/km, 35% (MC Shift), 360g/km, 35% (Automatic)
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