What is it?
For most car makers, ‘automatic’ is simply a word on an options list. For Maserati however, and in relation to its flagship 4.7-litre Gran Turismo S in particular, it’s the signifier of an all-new model variant. And a very important variant at that.
The Gran Turismo has been on sale for two years now, but with this latest version, the Italian sports car maker is making its coupe range complete. Since 2007, it says, it’s had a rival for the Mercedes CL500 and Jaguar XK in the shape of the 399bhp, 4.2-litre Gran Turismo. Since 2008 it’s been courting buyers of more driver focussed machinery such as Audi’s R8 and BMW’s M6 with its 4.7-litre Gran Turismo S.
And this year, Maserati is going after those customers who have fallen somewhere between the two extremes, who would otherwise go for a performance cruiser like a Jaguar XKR or Aston DB9. It’s taken the 434bhp V8 from its robotised-manual-only ‘S’ model and combined it with the six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. And it has given birth to the (no prizes for guessing) Gran Turismo S Automatic.
What’s it like?
That torquier engine and smooth-shifting auto box transform this car into one that’s as effortless to drive as it is pacey and sweet-sounding.
That 4.7-litre V8 engine, in fact, lies at the very heart of this car’s mystique. It’s a masterpiece of multi-layered sonorousness better sampled from the kerb than the cabin, and although it still lacks torque relative to a forced induction motor, it’s got enough of the stuff to make the Gran Turismo every bit as brisk as is acceptable on public roads. Its design typifies Maserati’s aim to provide the perfect blend of comfort and performance. It has one timing chain, not two, to reduce friction and noise under the bonnet, and it’s wet-sumped so that fewer ancilliary pumps are required, which also reduces unwanted engine noise.
The car’s ZF transmission is also excellent, barely any slower to shift than the semi-auto, and quick to kick down. It’s also much better-mannered when simply left in ‘D’ than Maserati’s robotised manual.
But this car’s relaxing briskness stems from more than just powertrain. It’s got chassis rates that are 8 per cent lower than those of the regular Gran Turismo S, and also has Maserati’s ‘skyhook’ adaptive dampers fitted as standard. What results is a car with good body control as well as a very comfortable touring gait.