Maserati's trident has been sharpened to a full three-spike alert. In 2002, five years after Ferrari woke the brand from an extended nap, the Maserati Coupe and Spyder landed here with a vivacious 385-hp V-8 and coachwork personally massaged by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Prong two came in the form of this year's Quattroporte sedan. The third tine is a new GranSport upgrade of the Coupe. By resurrecting an evocative name from the past and combining it with several minor tweaks, Maserati signals its intent to sink the fork deeper into the U.S. market.
To herd eleven more ponies into the 4.2-liter V-8's stable, Maserati's R&D head, Roberto Corradi, tightened critical manufacturing tolerances, reshaped intake runners and exhaust-valve seats for better flow, and added a computer-controlled muffler bypass to boost output above 4000 rpm. The Cambiocorsa gearbox is the only transmission offered; its software has been rewritten to shave the gearchange time by 35 percent, and its sixth-gear ratio is four percent taller to exploit the GranSport's newfound power and reduced drag.
Hours of testing scale models in the wind tunnel revealed that a collection of aerodynamic add-ons could reduce drag by six percent. A larger mesh-filled grille rams more air to the hungry engine, while both bumpers carry appendages that foil lift. Sill extensions and a ride height dropped by 0.4 inch help the car snuggle closer to terra firma. According to Corradi, the combination of extra power and the more slippery shape boosts top speed to 180 mph.
To diminish pitch and roll during aggressive driving, Maserati engineers simply recalibrated the GranSport's electronically adjustable dampers. New nineteen-inch aluminum wheels styled with a trident motif wear 30-series Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires.
Inside, there are new patches of real carbon fiber, leaner center-console contours, and cloth inserts with a fishnet-stocking look to accent the leather upholstery. The new three-spoke steering wheel has meaty sections at nine and three plus a scribe line at the top of the rim marking the center position.
Test drives of the GranSport at the Varano de' Melegari circuit near Parma and on surrounding mountain roads revealed a Maserati 2+2 with a heightened sense of purpose. The quicker-witted gearbox does a commendable job of keeping the engine crooning like Pavarotti in the shower. There's a lusty yowl with the pedal down and hearty burbles when you lift off the throttle and paddle the transmission to spiral into a switchback. The steering whispers sweet nothings through your fingertips. Understeer warnings come early, but winding in additional lock delivers an unexpected reserve of front-tire adhesion. Bumps never trip the wheels, and the suspension has the suppleness of ripe fruit.
Hammered through mountain passes and hustled through central Italian villages, the GranSport behaves like the progeny of a chance Ferrari and Jaguar union. It's fiery when whipped, then cool and serene when eased into the indulgent lane, proving that with proper breeding, luxury and sport can coexist.