Review: 2010 Maserati Gran Turismo S Automatic

Don Sherman

Pedigreed Italian Engineering
Accommodating the new automatic transmission involved a substantial tear-up of the GT model's driveline. Unlike the sibling GT S, which has its 6-speed automated manual box integrated with the final-drive differential in a rear-mounted transaxle, the new automatic edition has its gearbox mated directly to the 4-cam, 32-valve Ferrari-built V-8. While this layout moves the center of gravity forward slightly, the S Automatic still favors the rear axle with two percent more weight than what's carried by the front wheels.

While 4.7-liters is on the small side in today's world of muscle-bound supercars, the S Automatic musters a good show of speed with sub-5.0-second 0-60 mph sprints, and a top end just over 180 mph according to the factory. More importantly, it whips up 90 percent of its maximum torque by 3000 rpm and the horsepower curve climbs enthusiastically to a 7000-rpm crescendo. Features that distinguish this engine from those used by Ferrari include wet-sump lubrication, a civilized 90-degree crankshaft, and variable valve timing restricted to the intake tracts.

But thanks to well-tuned dual pipes, an X-shaped connector, and active mufflers, the S engine still sings out motor music with a grand tenor's gusto. Every adjustment of the throttle cues an endearing growl or chortle and even at the redline the howl is modulated and mature in tone. Porsches may pass you and Ferraris will shriek by in an auditory fury but no other GT carries on a conversation quite as engaging as this Maserati's.

Dynamically DelightfulPower steering that's loose and lifeless on center cinches up the moment turning or higher speeds are involved. No minding is necessary to maintain an arrow-straight trajectory during 100-mph cruising. That said, a hefty hand is needed to muscle this willing stallion into tight switchbacks. When major portions of the tenacious road grip is exploited and the stability system intervenes, it's the front tires that receive the helping hand. The tail remains obediently in place and is never perturbed by redline upshifts or blip-throttle downshifts while arcing into a bend. What Maserati calls Skyhook, an inertia-based dynamic sensing system, quickly adjusts damping to keep body motion in check without punishing occupants with impact shock, harshness over textured pavement, or jiggly reactions to road ripples.

The chassis tuning and the mellow powertrain blend harmoniously to uphold the classic standard of grand touring with annoyances held at bay. The new transmission also sings from the same score. Paddle-triggered upshifts are quick and decisive. Downshifts are accompanied by automatic rev matching to avoid upsetting the chassis's grip and attitude.

Unlike the automated-manual alternative, this box will automatically upshift approaching redline. Keying the Sport button lifts the rpm for those shifts while also activating firmer damper settings. With the shift lever in the manual gate, there are no automatic kickdowns exiting a bend. Instead, the driver cues that action with a nudge of the shift lever or a click of a paddle. A winter driving mode providing second-gear starts is also included.

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