This wasn’t supposed to happen. Four years ago, Harald Wester, Maserati’s then boss, told us that the ageing GranTurismo and its GranCabrio sister were set for an imminent appointment with the vet’s needle. But Wester has now gone from Maserati’s helm and plans for Maserati’s next-generation sports cars have slipped, hence the pair have been given another facelift to eke out their existence for a couple of years.
This is a range rationalisation as much as a refresh. Maserati has dropped the entry-level 4.2-litre engine, which only made up 20% of sales, as well as the option of a singleclutch automated transmission gearbox that was offered on the previous MC Stradale and which a tiny proportion of buyers was picking. All versions will now use the 454bhp 4.7-litre V8 and the six-speed ZF torque converter auto; choice is limited to that between Sport and MC trim levels.
Yes, there are styling tweaks, with redesigned bumpers front and rear, new wheels and the option of some fresh colours. Everything else is very familiar. The most significant change, certainly for anyone who battled with the previous stone-age satnav, is a new touchscreen infotainment system from the Levante. But when the arrival of a rear-view camera gets a big mention on the list of new features, you know the barrel is being scraped. Yetthere is still plenty to like about this ageing stager, and not just its still-handsome looks. The naturally aspirated V8 remains the starring feature; it can’t match the low-rev wallop of turbocharged rivals but lives to rev and makes some impressively snarly noises as it closes in on its 7100rpm limiter. Throttle response is crisp enough to justify comparison to an actual crisp.
Steering is similarly analogue, with the hydraulic power assistance communicating the sort of low-intensity feedback that electric systems filter out as unwanted noise. Grip levels are respectable, but the GranTurismo transitions to gentle understeer as the limit approaches, the engine lacking the grunt to do much to alter the car’s inclination without a level of whip that feels like abuse. The brake pedal is slightly wooden too – although capable of serious speed, this is a car that’s happier when it is being driven at seven or eight tenths. The automatic’ box copes with schlepping well, but changes feel leisurely under harder use or manual control, and the torque converter also puts some unwanted slush into reactions at low speed. Maserati definitely killed the right transmission – the old single-clutch auto lunched like an attack dog – but don’t expect the precision of a twin-clutcher, or even of the more modern ZF eight-speeder that we’re told the next-generation coupe will use.
Dynamically, the big difference is the fact the cheaper Sport keeps adaptive ‘Skyhook’ dampers, while the considerably more expensive MC uses firmer fixed rate shockers. All other suspension settings are identical, but the Sport rides over rougher surfaces with a compliance that’s notably lacking in the far stiffer MC; we suspect it will feel downright harsh when it reaches the UK. The MC’s louder sports exhaust also produces some droning harmonics in the cabin at constant-speed cruising. Although the MC adds more kit, some carbonfibre jewellery and a weight-saving composite bonnet, the cheaper Sport feels like the better car, certainly given the GranTurismo’s eponymous continent-crossing mission. Priced at £93,145, the GranTurismo Sport is usefully cheaper than the £108,780 MC too, although both will remain minority choices next to more modern and – it must be said – more talented rivals.