The good burghers of Metz, France, haven't heard a racket like this since Prussian Prince Frederick Charles besieged the place back in 1870. Trundling along the narrow cobblestone streets, our Maserati GranTurismo S - the brand-new, hooligans-rejoice version of Maserati's sexy coupe - clatters raucously on overrun and shakes the picturesque rafters of the medieval buildings with barely muffled blasts of V-8 pandemonium. We pull into a parking lot beneath the soaring spires of a Gothic cathedral and squeeze into a ridiculously cramped space after much gratuitous revving of the engine. By the time we kill the ignition, the parking attendant is hopping up and down with what we hope is enthusiasm. "Bruit magnifique!" he shouts over and over. Magnificent noise!
We hear you, dude. There are faster cars than the GranTurismo S, but none of them make more intoxicating sounds when you select the Sport mode, thereby opening a bypass in the exhaust and liberating countless decibels of race-car-style mayhem. Luca Dal Monte, Maserati's affable chief of public relations, had advised us to avoid the Sport mode in confined spaces because, as he put it: "Even when you're going 30 miles per hour, it sounds like you're speeding." But photographer Mark Bramley and I have agreed that Sport mode is a must in small towns, when leaving tollbooths, and, especially, when blasting through long tunnels, where the GranTurismo S sounds like a prototype wailing down the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. Along the way, we get respectful salutes from French gendarmes, see thumbs-up from motorcycle racers, and nearly blow unsuspecting commuters off their motor scooters.
Although the GranTurismo S isn't quite loud enough to wake the dead, we're betting that its howl is spine-tingling enough to conjure up the ghosts of racetracks past. Fifty years ago this summer, Maserati stood at center stage during a historic changing of the guard. First came the Race of Two Worlds on the banking at Monza, which pitted Indy roadsters against grand prix-style monopostos. One week later was the 1958 edition of the French Grand Prix at Reims, where three Americans - Phil Hill, Carroll Shelby, and Troy Ruttman - made their world championship debuts and Juan Manuel Fangio, driving a fourth Maserati 250F, ran his final race.