Maserati GranTurismo

maserati granturismo trofeo road test 2023 01 tracking front
Rejuvenated luxury coupé has impressed in EV form, but is it even better with the MC20’s 542bhp petrol V6?

There’s a fair weight of responsibility resting on the shapely shoulders of the new Maserati Granturismo.The latest addition to the Italian maker’s increasingly fresh line-up won’t be the biggest money-maker (that will be the Grecale, which is pitched at the heart of the premium SUV sector) or the most exciting (take a bow, the MC20 supercar), but it’s the machine that in many respects embodies the trident brand’s rich heritage yet is also entrusted with setting out its store for the future.With a history stretching back 75 years and 12 generations (albeit bearing many different names), the Granturismo has been a near-permanent fixture in Maserati’s century-long life and remains something of a talisman. Like that other sporting icon, the Porsche 911, it has evolved greatly over the years but has aimed to retain its unique character – in this case, one that has always aimed to blend exotic looks and surprising usability with effortless performance and a dollop of driver delight.So it’s perhaps no shock that this latest version was chosen as the basis for Maserati’s first steps into an electric future in the form of the 751bhp Granturismo Folgore, which our Matt Prior has already driven in pre-production form and rather liked. However, while this technological tour de force sets the tone for the years ahead, there’s still healthy demand for an ICE version of this Italian icon.Unsurprisingly, the V6 petrol version looks very like its battery brother, and both in turn draw heavily on the visual template set by the previous Maserati Granturismo (2007-2019). With more than 40,000 examples of that car finding homes over its lengthy 12-year life (small beer by rivals’ standards but big for this boutique brand), it makes sense that the design team decided not to mess with the formula. It’s not an eyes-out-on-stalks head-turner, but there’s an undeniable elegance to the neatly proportioned new coupé.Under the skin, however, this is a totally bespoke and all-new offering, designed from the outset to house both high-voltage and high-octane propulsion. All versions feature a structure that’s about 65% aluminium, but the ICE models feature different sills that reinstate some of the stiffness lost to the EV, which uses its centrally mounted battery as a stressed chassis component.From this architecture hangs double-wishbone suspension at the front, a five-link axle at the rear and height-adjustable air springs. Those prove a useful addition when it comes to calibrating a set-up that’s required to cope with a chunky 465kg spread in kerb weight between EV and ICE (it’s a hefty 2260kg for the Folgore compared with 1795kg for the Trofeo).Under the long bonnet of our test car is the now familiar twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre Nettuno V6 from the Maserati MC20 supercar, complete with Formula 1-inspired combustion-chamber technology and fuel-saving cylinder deactivation. In the Trofeo, it produces a deep-chested 542bhp and a rippling 479lb ft of torque at a usefully low 3000rpm.This is linked to a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox and a four-wheel drive system that can shuffle 100% of the available torque to the rear wheels, divide it equally between the axles or anything in between. In normal running, though, it usually runs a 30:70 split, front to rear.There’s a trick torque-vectoring limited-slip differential at the rear, while the front diff is mounted just ahead of the engine, helping to keep the V6 low and between the axles, thus aiding the centre of gravity, the polar moment of inertia and the weight distribution, which is a commendable 52:48, front to rear.So the raw ingredients appear compelling, but what’s the Trofeo like to drive? Well, before we get to that, there’s a caveat. Once again we’ve been given a new Maserati on winter tyres in temperatures quite a few degrees above their ideal operating conditions. So while we can get a fairly reliable steer on its dynamic demeanour, we must hold our definitive verdict for when we can try it on representative rubber.One thing is for certain, however, and that’s the fact that the Nettuno lacks the aural authority of the old Granturismo’s operatic V8. There’s no lack of lag-free muscle and its outright urge is almost supercar-silly (Maserati claims 3.5sec for the 0-62mph sprint), but at low to medium revs, the directly injected engine has the sort of gruff but reasonably refined voice you would expect from a diesel V6, which is a little out of keeping with the car’s supposedly sophisticated shtick.Engaging Sport or Corsa driving mode (gratifyingly easy, thanks to the handy steering wheel-mounted rotary selector) sharpens responses and uncorks the exhaust system for some enhanced snap, crackle and pop, but there’s still none of the spine-tingling theatrics that made the atmo V8 such a sonic treat. It’s not a deal-breaker as such, but the lack of mechanical musicality seems particularly disappointing, given Maserati’s back catalogue.On the plus side, the gearbox slices quickly and cleanly through its ratios whether you’re leaving it to its own devices or taking manual control by pulling the slender alloy paddles behind the steering wheel. The brakes are strong and progressive too, once you’ve got past the slightly sharp initial response. And as you would expect from four-wheel drive, traction is limpet-like off the line.The steering is quick and precise, if lacking any real feedback, while there’s decent turn-in bite even despite the squidge of the cold-weather rubber. The Granturismo rotates nicely around your hips, the near-perfect weight distribution allowing you to spread the cornering loads equally between the front and rear axles.Of course, with all that turbo muscle and the rear-biased four-wheel drive system, it’s also possible to subtly alter your exit trajectory using a bootful of throttle.In Sport or Corsa mode, the dampers are on high alert and body movements are tautly controlled, but even in Comfort mode the Granturismo can raise a grin, the extra suppleness allowing it to tackle give-and-take secondaries with a pleasing poise and fluidity.This lends it an easy-going character that means it’s likely to be less draining to drive quickly for long periods, which is what grand tourers are all about. It’s helped in this regard by excellent visibility, this breeding confidence in you by making the car easy to place on the road, which in turn creates a sense of compactness at odds with dimensions that record nearly five metres nose to tail and two metres across the hips.Ultimately, it isn’t as invigorating as the Porsche 911 Turbo, but it feels lighter on its feet than the Bentley Continental GT and more faithful than the Aston Martin DB11.When it comes to continent-crushing capability, it also makes a fair fist of leaving you relaxed and refreshed when you arrive at your long-haul destination. Noise levels are impressively low and there’s just enough luxurious waft to the ride on undulating but smoothly surfaced roads. Unfortunately, sharper imperfections are less adeptly dealt with, the suspension often reacting with a noisy stiff-legged gait that’s heard as much as it’s felt. Bentley custodians won’t be impressed.Still, at least the interior of the Modenese machine has come on leaps and bounds. High-grade materials are used throughout and the quality of the finish is pretty much on par with its upper-crust rivals, even if some smaller bits of plastic trim look and feel a little more Fiat Tipo than Granturismo.Put proudly on the centre console is Maserati’s latest touchscreen infotainment system, which is visually slick but home to too many functions. I challenge you to turn on the headlights in a hurry.The driving position is nicely low slung, while neat packaging also means it’s just about possible to fit four average-size adults for short trips, provided everyone is willing to compromise a little on their comfort, while the 310-litre boot should easily handle a long weekend’s worth of luggage.The Trofeo is expected to ring the till at a hefty £160,000 in the UK, which is bang on the money for the Continental GT V8 and about £10,000 more than the 911 Turbo.It can’t match the aristocratic image and five-star comfort of the former, nor the sharper edged dynamics and adrenaline-pumping pace of the latter, but it’s not hard to see the appeal of the Granturismo, which is a vastly more polished performer than its predecessor, even if its engine lacks the old stager’s charisma and siren call.Crucially, it still packs enough magnetic Latin style, charm and personality to make it a tempting left-field choice in this rarefied corner of the market.
Source: Autocar

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