First Drive: 2018 Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio
One last hurrah for last decade’s lovely Italian GT
BRESCIA, Italy — Like Chuck Taylors, the Beatles, or Ray-Bans, some things just don't go out of style. They stick around not because of nostalgia, but because they've stood the test of time. Peeking out over the delicately sculpted hood of the 2018 Maserati GranTurismo (and its drop-top sibling, the GranCabrio), the musical torrent of a Ferrari-built, naturally aspirated V-8 shouting at the top of its aging lungs, we wonder if that's how this quintessential Italian GT will be remembered.
Now more than ten years old, the GranTurismo is—generously put—a seasoned elder in the automotive ranks. While that indeed means its old bones are at this point well outmatched in technology and performance by rivals like the Porsche 911 and Mercedes-AMG GT (the latter of which it narrowly outsold in 2016), the top-tier Maser isn't without some wisdom and delight from back in the day. In fact, despite Maserati's efforts to hype minor styling and infotainment updates for both the standard Sport and track-focused MC versions, the critical elements of this paltry refresh come down to what hasn't changed.
Perennial whiners about modern electric power steering and laggy, aurally deficient turbocharged engines will find a fast friend in the GranTurismo, which holds fast to its hydraulic rack and 4.7-liter naturally aspirated V-8. Crossplane crank and all, the Modena-sourced mill carries over blissfully unmolested with 454 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. The majesty of this engine becomes apparent at a distant 7,000 rpm, where peak power arrives just shy of the tempting 7,200-rpm redline. Charging up narrow, twisting passes through Italian hill country, the engine is hungry to rev, responding instantly to the slightest pressure on the throttle.
Steering is weighted well, alert, and progressive, clearly communicating the nuances of undulating pavement through the broad, almost comically dated-looking steering wheel. Scenic views abound as we traipse along in a drop-top Sport, from stunning vistas over Lake Iseo to quaint countryside villages, all bearing witness to the GranCabrio's timelessly elegant silhouette and resonant soundtrack. Even in its home country, people stare at a Maserati sports car like it's from another planet.
The local police, nice gentlemen they are, manage to close a section of road for us between two small towns. We hop into a smoke-grey MC coupe and proceed to blast down the first straightaway, pleasantly surprised at how the six-piston Brembo front brakes and four-piston rears bring things to a confident halt before we dial in some steering.
As satisfying as the GranTurismo is cruising calmly and occasionally raising hell in some tunnels, it's equally at home being whipped into action. And with no active safety systems bleeping at you and no buzzes from the seat cushion that you're flirting with the lane markers, it's as pure of a driving experience as you could hope. Even at ten years old, this formula still entertains. "It's not the fastest around a track nor is it the most powerful, but [the GranTurismo] represents perfectly the grand tourer," rightly observes product planner Enrico Billi.
The GranTurismo's double-wishbone suspension carries over as well, along with its transmission. Sport models still get Maserati's Skyhook adaptive dampers, while MC models are fitted with a stiffer fixed-rate setup. Even in MC form, the GranTurismo is surprisingly comfortable, compliant, and steady over less-than-perfect pavement, transmitting very little harshness to the driver.
Where the GranTurismo is in more dire need of an update is with its gearbox. The ZF six-speed is a relic at this point, and prone to somewhat lazy downshifts if you leave the reins in the computer's hands. We opted to take control of cog swapping via the large column-mounted shift paddles, which considerably amped up responsiveness and overall enjoyment. Maserati says it thinks the six-speed fits the character of the naturally aspirated engine, but more practically, switching to the new eight-speed would have required too many changes to the body-in-white to justify.
Given that this refresh is only designed to last for another two years or so, the decision to limit the investment makes sense. Vehicle integration specialist Gianluca Antinori told us that the entire refresh was designed and engineered in one year, and that by far the biggest challenge was getting the GranTurismo's dated electronics to play nice with the new 8.4-inch infotainment system cribbed from the Levante and new Quattroporte, which also brings much-needed modern touches like a backup camera and Apple CarPlay. Aside from some conservative updates to the front and rear ends, along with a slightly revised interior center console, it's the same svelte-looking, long-hooded GT car we know well.
The nip-tuck adjustments to the bodywork result in small aerodynamic improvements, helping the MC version lower its drag coefficient from 0.33 to 0.32. The MC's ever-so lighter footprint and better downforce let it accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds versus 4.8 in the Sport, and on to a 187 mph top speed instead of 186 mph. Outside of a racetrack you won't be itching for an MC, as the Sport will do just fine to keep you entertained. There are plenty of MC interior touches to choose from if you prefer racy carbon-fiber detailing to cushy leather or fancy wood.
In truth, the main reason to buy a Maserati GranTurismo or GranCabrio is that very soon, this mainstay of the high-end luxury sport pantheon will be history. It will be remembered honorably as part of a long tradition of Maserati GT cars from the original 1947 A6 1500 to the 3500 GT ten years later, and on to the 1967 Ghibli. The future of this lineage is uncertain, however. While Maserati is hard at work on the next GranTurismo, which is years away, the once hyped and now delayed Alfieri 2+2 is something Antinori admits the brand desperately needs if it wants to catch Porsche's level of prestige and consistency.
"For every big leap we make over many years, they make constant improvements," he says. "Things move very slowly for us, and we need the resources to move faster. The design team is excited and ready to go with the Alfieri, and now we'll have to keep waiting," referring to the Alfieri's (at the earliest) 2020 planned release.
Until Maserati can kick itself into moving forward, it'll have to keep dipping into the past for the GranTurismo. For now, that will suffice. Even at its lofty sticker price, our arms are still open to this well-worn Italian GT. Its sound and personality are unlikely to go out of style any time soon.
2018 Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio Specifications
|PRICE||$132,825/$150,570 (Sport/MC Coupe);
$150,465/$161,070 (Sport/MC Cabrio)
|ENGINE||4.7L DOHC 32-valve V-8/454 hp @ 7,000 rpm,
384 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe/convertible|
|L x W x H||193.3-193.7 x 75.4 x 53.3 in|
|WEIGHT||4,145/4,129 lb (Sport/MC coupe)|
|0-60 MPH||4.8/4.7 sec (Sport/MC coupe)|
|TOP SPEED||186/187 mph (Sport/MC coupe)|