Maserati has always been the sultry vixen who stops traffic. But when long-term commitments are made, most buyers in the luxury-performance market opt for a gleaming German hausfrau (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche), a stylish British aristocrat (Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar), or an even hotter Italian trophy wife (Ferrari, Lamborghini).
Ever since North American sales bottomed out in 2009 at fewer than 100 cars a month, Maserati has been retooling its brand to focus on the very un-Maserati-like qualities of reliability and practicality. Sales have doubled over the past three years, and executives have announced plans to broaden their product lineup with Maserati's first sport-utility vehicle and a sedan that will slot in below the Quattroporte. As Rob Allan, director of product planning, puts it, "We're no longer a toy-car company."
The GranTurismo Sport, a revamped version of the curvaceous coupe that debuted in 2007, follows the road that Maserati hopes to take to world domination of the really-expensive-but-not-quite-decadent segment of the market. Inspired by the hot-rod GranTurismo MC, the new car features aggressive styling cues -- a sleeker front fascia, slick headlights and taillights, twenty-inch wheels, and more -- grafted onto what was already a drop-dead-gorgeous shape. Can you say bella macchina?
The GranTurismo Sport also benefits from engine upgrades. Thanks to tweaks made by Maserati's engineers, the Ferrari-built 4.7-liter V-8 now produces 454 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. According to Maserati, this translates to a top speed of 185 mph and allows the car to scamper from 0 to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. And when you hit the Sport button to reroute exhaust gases through the dual chrome tailpipes, you hear the most glorious Italian sounds since Pavarotti crooned "Nessun Dorma."
Numbers notwithstanding, the Maserati doesn't pretend to be a sports car. Although it handled the tight, sun-dappled twisties near Sonoma Raceway with aplomb, there was no disguising the heft of the GT Sport's 4145 admittedly statuesque pounds. But with the car's dimensions come an unexpected benefit: the plush, opulently appointed interior contains rear seats with enough legroom to accommodate two full-size adults in reasonable comfort.
Another surprise, in this day of dual-clutch and racing-style semiautomatic transmissions, is that the GT Sport comes only with a six-speed ZF automatic featuring a conventional torque converter and planetary gearsets. This is no 1960s-era slushbox, and it's tricked out with bells and whistles ranging from carbon-fiber shift paddles to throttle blips on downshifts. Still, it's telling that Maserati doesn't even bother paying lip service to tradition by offering a manual gearbox.
With a base price of nearly $130,000, the GranTurismo Sport isn't going to be commandeered for carpool duty or many grocery-store runs. But despite its supermodel looks and gaudy performance numbers, the car is quiet, comfortable, and practical enough to work as an everyday driver. Sounds like the marrying kind after all.
On Sale: Now
Engine: 4.7L V-8, 454 hp, 384 lb-ft
EPA mileage: 13/21 mpg