2009 Maserati GranTurismo S

Mark Bramley

By 1969, both the banking at Monza and the grandstands overlooking the circuit at Reims had been rendered obsolete by modern safety regulations. But they still stand today as monuments to a bygone era. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the events of 1958, we thought it would be appropriate to make a pilgrimage to these historic sites and genuflect at the silent sentinels that stand guard over them. And what better vehicle for our journey than the GranTurismo S, a car that looks to Maserati's past even as it points to the future?

Maserati has been through more ups and downs than a crystal meth fiend since the Maserati brothers founded their eponymous marque in 1914. There have been transcendent highs (Fangio winning the championship in 1957), and there have been unspeakable lows (waiting for a Biturbo to commence its inevitable self-destruction sequence). With Fiat's purchase of the company in 1993 came the promise of financial security - especially welcome after disastrous associations with Citroën, Chrysler, and De Tomaso. But Maserati remained a poor sister to Ferrari until 2004, which brought the new four-door Quattroporte. The company's renaissance continued with last year's debut of the GranTurismo coupe.

Based on a shortened version of the Quattroporte's architecture and featuring a Pininfarina body that was at once brawny and voluptuous, the GranTurismo was a stylish four-seat grand tourer that harked back to the Maserati 5000 of the '60s. The new GT S is a GranTurismo, but mo' better. The most noteworthy improvement is found under the hood, where the 4.2-liter V-8 has been bored and stroked to displace 4.7 liters. Tarted up with red valve covers, the engine in the GT S makes 433 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque while spinning to 7600 rpm. The GT S also gets a sequential manual transmission with six gears (and six modes) that can serve as an automatic, a clutch-pedal-less semiautomatic, or a faux-F1 gearbox, dubbed MC-Shift, that swaps gears in a mere 100 milliseconds if you're turning more than 5500 rpm and you have the throttle cracked open 80-plus percent.

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