Maserati, like all automakers, wants to sell more cars, but one of the advantages of being a boutique carmaker is that you can maintain close relations with your customers because there simply aren't that many of them. Since Maserati sold only 2035 cars in the U.S. last year, top-level employees actually were able to call each buyer to welcome them to the brand and solicit feedback. It's not surprising that Maserati buyers -- highly successful folks with the ability to lay down six-figure money for an Italian car-- are pretty candid on the telephone. They've tended to tell Maserati USA execs exactly what they like, what they don't like, and what they'd like to see. Clearly, these wishes make it directly back to Maserati HQ in Modena, Italy, because the product portfolio has evolved to reflect some specific American tastes, most deliberately in the new, 2012 Maserati GranTurismo MC.
GranTurismo buyers asked for more responsiveness, so the base 4.2-liter coupe has been dropped to make room for the sharper MC. Motivation comes from the same 4.7-liter V-8 as the rest of the GranTurismo line, but the engine has been massaged to produce an additional 11 hp and 15 lb-ft of torque, for a total of 444 hp and 376 lb-ft. For a $3515 premium over a comparably equipped GranTurismo S Automatic, the MC adds a unique hood, fascias, side skirts, and fenders; a lighter sport exhaust and twenty-inch wheels; and exclusive interior treatments. The changes are best described as subtly aggressive and functional -- rear downforce increases 50 percent at 125 mph and front downforce increases 25 percent.
Fans of Joe Walsh and his hit song "Life's Been Good" will be happy to know that this Maserati will do 185 mph. It is, in fact, the only current production Maserati that can hit that speed. However, it would be a mistake to judge the Maserati GranTurismo MC solely on its performance in the typical metrics. Sure, a lot of cheaper cars will get you to 60 mph just as fast as the MC's estimated 4.8-second sprint, but, then again, you can buy a suit off the rack more cheaply than having one custom-tailored, and you'll still be dressed. But the cost doesn't matter when you want something different, something that fits your individual taste and needs. To that end, you can choose your own combination of paint color and interior trim through Maserati's customization program.
One of the GranTurismo's main advantages over other grand touring cars is the front-mid mounting of its engine. With the engine behind the front axle's centerline, there's not much weight hanging off the front end of the car, so the MC is very eager to turn in. Some other luxury GTs, like the Bentley Continental, have engines that are mounted forward of the front axle. All that mass at the front end of the car makes for poor weight distribution and dulls turn-in responses. Maserati doesn't improve handling or performance at the expense of occupant comfort, either. There are still four seats, each comfortable for a real adult; even the rear seats accommodate six-footers.
Hearing Maserati's V-8 engine scream on the way to its 7200-rpm redline is an experience gearheads will cherish. Selecting manual shift mode for the transmission and sport mode for the various electronic systems permanently opens the baffles in the sport exhaust system. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is best experienced outside of the car because the cabin is so well insulated from noise. When the car isn't in sport mode and the baffles are closed, the exhaust is effectively muted. The inner teenager in all of us wishes for a louder exhaust, but most GT buyers, Maserati has concluded, desire a quiet cruising speed and the baffles offer a reasonable compromise.
The American-spec MC can't be had with a roll bar, racing seats, or the F1-style single-clutch gearbox available in Europe's MC Stradale. Maserati's research has revealed that U.S. owners want to be able to enjoy their four-seat grand touring coupes on a daily basis, whereas Europeans are happy to add the racing bits because they don't commute in their GranTurismos. After 100 miles in the MC, we agree with the American customers' thinking. The GranTurismo is too big and heavy to be a track star, but its design oozes sex appeal, the exhaust note is surreal, and the car is comfortable enough to drive on a long trip, even with the nonadaptive suspension. This time, American buyers have it right -- this car needs to be enjoyed every day.
ON SALE: Now
ENGINE: 4.7L V-8, 444 hp, 376 lb-ft
EPA MILEAGE: 13/21 mpg