Maserati Gran Turismo

By Design Front

1. A car-wide scoop beneath the nose serves as an air dam to reduce lift and also ingests air for the radiator, the air-conditioning condenser, the engine, and for brake cooling.

2. I usually dislike small round lamps in the bumpers of economy cars, but this one, with its contoured scoop into the surface, seems appropriate for a serious high-speed car.

3. The headlamp assembly opening is fairly convoluted but does the job nicely. It looks much better in three dimensions, but one can see how its perimeter follows the surfaces on which it lies.

4. The sharp peak of the front fenders derives from the inner forward corner of the headlamp and then fades away just before the A-pillar base. It's traditional, elegant, and crisp.

5. There is simply too much blockage inthe driver's field of view. Thick A-pillars are favored by some young stylists for compositional reasons, unfortunately. They do not need to be this big for adequate strength.

6. The wheels are too big, but the design is excellent. This is a large car, but it looks stumpy because the size of the wheels distorts the proportions. Compare a 1947 Pininfarina Maserati to see a better relationship of circles to mass.

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7. The rear quarter window doesn't go far enough back to allow rear passengers a really good view out. It looked better in Pininfarina's original sketches, which of course made no allowance for headroom.

8. The dramatic taillights recapitulate the five-sided headlamp opening but emphasize width rather than length. The crease above flows across the deck as a spoiler.

9. The workout of the lower rear bumper is excellent, with a large aperture for the exhaust pipes and a kink upward at the center to suggest a downforce diffuser.

By Design Interior

10. Rear seating is actually welcoming, although it appears to offer insufficient legroom. Presumably, the front seats will need to slide forward for taller back seat passengers.

11. Rear passengers' heads are well behind the small rear quarter glass, cutting visibility. Note the extreme thickness of the A-pillar as seen from within the cabin. It's still a very nice place to be, however.

12. Cupholders in a Maserati - unthinkable not too long ago - are now incorporated into the console both front and rear. They won't hold a Big Gulp, but a water bottle will fit.

13. The whole instrument panel/console/steering column composition looks more luxury sedan than true GT. There is nothing wrong with it, but it does lack drama.

Horizontal Red Line

I have always like Maseratis, whether road or racing cars. The racers were usually graced by generic Italian styling of their period, although they always seemed more elegant than rives Ferraris. To this day, I don't think anyone has made a front-engine racing car as beautiful as the mid-1950s 250F that gave Juan Manuel Fangio one of his championships. There were exceptions, like the iconoclastic, minimalist "Birdcage" Tipos 60 and 61, but those still looked very good indeed.

The best Italian designers turned their hands to Maserati road cars after World War II. Guigiaro did on e of the best, the Ghibli, when he was briefly at Ghia, and the exciting mid-engine Bora was one of this first ItalDesign projects. But his recent Coupe pretty much looks like a reject from one of the Maestro's Korean clients, which may explain why Maserati has reverted to Pininfarina for all its current production.

The new Gran Turismo two-plus-two is the real deal: a refined, elegant, yet tough-looking machine intended to gobble p miles without tiring its occupants. It is clearly a road car with no racing pretensions, unlike several Ferraris that look like racers even if they will never see competition.

The protruding grille evokes the noses of Formula 1 cars past, the three-trident wheels are a subtle joke that provide ample brake cooling and look both stylish and serious, and the three portholes on the flanks recall ventilation ports from '50s Pininfarina Maseratis. The history of portholes is a bit controversial, in that mid-'30s La Salles had them, but they appeared on several postwar Italian GTs, notably the 1947 Cisitalia, before they became associated with Buick from 1949 onward. Here they unobtrusively and quietly punctuate the bland sides of the GT.

The biggest design flaw is the ridiculously thick A-pillar. The painted portion is reasonable, but there is an additional massively wide blackout area all around the windshield that makes the driver's occluded area truly excessive. One of the nicest features is the combination of the front-end spoiler and main air intake set well back from the leading edge of the car. It looks to be a little bit vulnerable, but it allows the grille section to be quite high, so the angle of attack for steep driveways should be all right.

This car is meant for traveling, and its spacious (for a two-plus-two) cabin underlines that vocation. You could use this Maserati as an in-town daily driver - painlessly with the smooth new automatic gearbox - but its ideal use is for quick trips of a couple hundred miles or so, well within the comfort zone of rear passengers, although they might feel stifled by the poor visibility. Practically, the rear side windows are just too small, however sporty they look. That aside, this is an almost perfect contemporary example of a wonderful half-century-old Italian concept, the two-plus-two GT. Let us hope it sells as well as it deserves to.

By Design Detail

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