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Maserati Granturismo S (2008) review

Published:15 May 2008

Maserati Granturismo S (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

With 433bhp, the Maserati Granturismo S is the most powerful production Maserati ever built, limited-edition MC12 not included. Shown at the Geneva show a year on from the original Granturismo unveil and launched at Maser’s Modena HQ yesterday, it promises to set right the base car’s biggest flaw: that it doesn’t have enough power. The S is expected to account for 20 percent of Granturismo sales.

So how fast is the Maserati Granturismo S?

The Granturismo’s 4.2-litre engine makes way for the 4.7-litre engine found in the Alfa 8C, although engineers tell us the lump’s been tweaked for more low-down torque in this application. All in, the extra 500cc equates to 433bhp (up 28bhp) and 362lb ft (up 23lb ft). The top speed rises to 183mph, while the 0-62mph tumbles to 4.9sec (versus 177mph and 5.2sec).

But it’s much more than just an engine transplant. The Granturismo S also gets a new exhaust system; upgraded Brembo brakes; the choice of stiffer fixed-rate dampers or the existing optional two-mode Skyhook adjustable suspension that’s been revised to suit the S. The seats are also offered with various leather and Alcantara trim options.

Outside it’s subtly different with new sideskirts, unique 20-inch wheels unavailable on the standard car, a small boot lip spoiler and black-backed headlight clusters in place of the original silver.

Key to the package is the electro-actuated six-speed transmission.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Maserati Granturismo S first drive

Could Maranello have possibly been involved?

The clutchless manual system is based on the same transmission we sampled in the excellent Ferrari 430 Scuderia. There’s no gearstick on the transmission tunnel, just buttons marked ‘1’ and an ‘R’ for parking manoeuvres, the rest being controlled entirely through the wheel-mounted paddleshifts and a couple of buttons on the dash. It can work as a full auto, or punch home gears in just 100ms as a manual – the rapid-fire shifts achieved by overlapping the processes of opening clutch, gear disengagement/selection/engagement and closing of clutch.

There’s even an ‘MC-Shift’ mode which, rather cleverly, knows exactly when you want it – select ‘manual sport’ mode, let the revs climb beyond 5500rpm and give it at least 80 percent throttle and the gear change goes into maximum attack mode. In fact, it’s only in ‘MC-Shift’ mode that those 100ms changes are achieved.

How does this new Granturismo S drive?

All test cars were equipped with standard fixed-rate suspension and the deterioration in ride quality over the standard Granturismo was immediately noticeable – the roads within Modena are poorly surfaced and the S felt pretty unyielding, although the body control remained excellent at all times.

While the engineers believed the fixed-rate dampers were the best option, we’d be interested in trying the two-mode Skyhook suspension. Perhaps it would provide a low-speed ride more in-keeping with the Maserati’s four-seat GT credentials.

On smoother, faster roads the S did a good impression of mimicking the standard car’s fluid, nimble flow with some added compusure and more convincing front-end grip. But you still feel slightly distanced from the action, both literally (you sit quite low and far to one side in a car with a long, low snout and chunky, swooping A-pillars) and physically, the Maser gripping hard but not transmitting the same level of detailed feedback as the best in the business.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Maserati Granturismo S first drive

Tell me about the engine.

Plot a graph of bhp and torque for both the Granturismo and S and you’ll see the two identically matched until 2000rpm. Above that the S steps ahead and the Granturismo plays catch up to the redline. And so it feels on the road. Wind the S out on a straight road and it now feels like a genuinely quick car, something amplified by that visceral gear change. But it still likes to rev more than it likes to pull. Floor the throttle from a standstill in first on a dry road and the rear wheels barely chirrup. Accelerate out of a hairpin and you’ll struggle to get the rear end working. The traction control is completely unnecessary in the dry.

This engine’s a screamer with its 7000rpm power peak and 4750rpm torque peak and screamers work better in nimble sports cars than 1.9-tonne GTs.

And the gearbox?

Trundle around town and auto mode works well, although it’s not as smooth as a torque converter auto. The transmission-mounted ‘1’ and ‘R’ buttons make three-point turns more of a hassle than a slusher too while, out on the twisty stuff, the jump from third to second can be fired home a bit too abruptly. It’s a good system, no doubt, but one that’s better suited to supercars than a sporty GT.

As in the Ferrari Scuderia, however, manual mode is brilliant. Changes are as instantaneous as you really need them, and there’s a much more satisfying sense of mechanical engagement than you get with the soaring revs and slipping clutches of dual-clutch semi-autos.

The gear-shift paddles are huge and fixed in place so you never get confused as to where they are mid-corner as you can on cars with paddles fixed to the steering wheel.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Maserati Granturismo S first drive

What’s the ‘sport’ button for?

It transforms the S from gentile, subdued cruiser into a parping, farting, explosively loud supercar. In fact, it sounds exactly (and we mean exactly) like the Alfa 8C with its crackly overrun and crowd-pleasing theatrics. Good fun, but a little conspicuous in town and it can become tiresome after a while.

Not only does it open a valve in the Maser’s exhaust (Aston-style), 'sport' is also the only way to access faster shift times and that uber-quick MC-Shift mode. It’d be nice to be able to choose fast shift times without the fireworks, but chances are you’ll want both at the same time.

The 'sport' button – like the auto button – is also tucked away on the centre console. Look for it on the move and all you’ll see is steering wheel, paddles and your hand. These buttons should have been on the steering wheel.

Verdict

There are a few black marks here but, ultimately, I really like the Granturismo. For me, the ideal compromise would be the standard car with this engine, an upgrade that will surely be offered in due course.

The S does retain a lot of the standard car’s greatness and civility (the throttle response is instant without the tip-in being too sharp; the brakes are stronger without the pedal being hyperactively responsive) but ultimately the Granturismo is just that – a lovely grand tourer. Equipping it with an F1-derived gearbox, stiffer suspension and supercar sound effects only confuses things. As an all-round package, the standard Grantusimso still does the concept more justice.

Specs

Price when new: £89,900
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 4691cc V8, 433bhp @ 7000rpm, 362lb ft @ 4750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed semi-auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.9sec 0-62mph, 183mph, 17.2mpg, 387g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1880kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4881/1915/1353

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Photo Gallery

  • Maserati Granturismo S first drive car review: rear three-quarter picture
  • Maserati Granturismo S first drive car review: engine picture
  • Maserati Granturismo S first drive car review: interior picture
  • Maserati Granturismo S first drive car review: front three-quarter picture
  • Maserati Granturismo S first drive car review: front three-quarter picture

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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