BMW has responded to powerful new rivals with updates for the M5 and M6 - including a racy new 575hp Competition Package option
Maserati GranSport review (2005-2007)
I’ve yet to drive a Maserati that isn’t bettered by its contemporaries but I always walk away fully understanding why people feel the yearning to buy one. That’s quite a trick as ask me usually what I’d spend the £66,600 this GranSport costs on and
I’ll respond with a car badged with a three number combination hailing from Stuttgart with its engine in the wrong place. A few days in a Maserati always results in a momentary lapse, the charismatic Italian messing with my pre-programmed response. But would you really spend the money on the Maserati over a 911?
Where I’m currently standing the answer is emphatically yes. Sure, the GranSport might not be that new having been around since early 2005. And it’s based on the familiar coupe but there’s no denying it’s got real presence. It’s rare too. I’ve only ever seen the GranSport before on stand at the Geneva Motor Show. Staring at the Geneva showcar’s twin outside Maserati’s HQ on a Slough trading estate the effect is no less dramatic than under the lights in Switzerland. The optional (and horrendously expensive at £3,482) Bianco Fuji pearlescent white paintwork undoubtedly helps - gleaming even in the half-light of an early winter evening. It looks absolutely sensational.
The interior is no less dramatic, but perhaps this time for the wrong reasons. A ‘technical’ nautical derived fabric is used extensively in the GranSport’s cabin. In this car it’s been specified in a rather lairy blue colour that utterly dominates the cabin. That’s a shame as there are details inside the GranSport that impress. The carbon fibre on the steering wheel and central console is stunning, and the clear, nicely lit instruments add to the bespoke feel. It’s spacious in there too, with proper rear seats and a comfortable driving position – even if the driver’s seat is still a touch high on its lowest setting.
Engine & gears
The engine might only have been boosted in power by 10bhp to 400bhp, but Maserati has achieved this by clever tweaking and by reducing internal friction. The result is dramatic, the engine revving with increased vigour and sounding even more glorious than it does in the standard Coupe. At high revs there’s a lovely high pitched blare - a bassy rich tone taking over when the engine’s not working quite so hard. All this is accompanied by a rasping exhaust note, too. It’s frustrating then that I’m denied complete control over it as Maserati insists on only offering the GranSport with its Cambiocorsa paddle shift transmission.
Impressive as such systems can be the Cambiocorsa has been around for a while, and it shows. Despite some improvements it’s undoubtedly compromised. In normal mode the shifts are ponderous, resulting in lengthy pauses and lurching as it selects the next ratio. Speed things up with the Sport button and it shifts with real conviction but pressing that button also results in stiffer damper settings and a higher threshold from the Maserati Stability Programme. It’s not difficult to confuse the transmission either; lifting the throttle in an attempt to smooth shifts it can all get a bit clunky. My chief criticism though is that it removes the enjoyable, involving, physical and mechanical interaction of actually driving a car with a proper manual transmission and clutch.
On the road
Riding 10mm lower than the standard Coupe the GranSport also comes with Maserati’s Skyhook adaptive damping as standard. It’s very firm, the 19-inch Trofeo alloy wheels and impossibly low-profile tyres amplifying the particularly stiff ride. Fairly harsh in normal mode and crashy and jarring in maximum attack Sport setting - to the point of discomfort. It’s okay on smooth roads, but in either mode you’ll find yourself bracing for any nasty looking potholes or manhole covers. There’s no doubting that even with its trick damping the Maserati lacks the finesse of its competitors. The rear is keen to step out under power too, and although it’s easily collected by the quick, precise steering it’s nearly impossible to make smooth progress in the GranSport.
What’s not difficult is gaining pace, the Maserati’s 4.2-litre V8 enabling a 4.8 second 0-62mph sprint and a 180mph top speed. It’s quick anywhere in the rev-range but up above 5,000rpm is where it really impresses. You need to be patient to get there though, particularly if the roads are anything but bone dry. If it’s not you’re rewarded with that wagging tail and a wildly flashing MSP traction control light - even more so with the Sport button pressed.
There’s no denying it’s a tricky car to drive quickly, rewarding sometimes but ultimately a car that proves frustrating. Any of its newer rivals would quickly lose it on a challenging road. However, there’s a real sense of occasion with the Maserati that’s absent in all its competitors. That might be enough to ensure it sells well to a small and dedicated audience, but for all that drama you pay with a lot of compromises. Beautiful and characterful it may be, but the GranSport really needs to be a more rounded, capable performer to convince me for longer than a few moments that it’s worthy of consideration against a 911. Or for that matter an Aston V8 Vantage or BMW M6.
See also in this class:
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
A significant horsepower boost and some restyling brings the Aston Rapide on leaps and bounds
Date 21/05/13, Duration 2:30, Views 665