Maserati Granturismo S Automatic (2009) review

Published:09 May 2009

Masearti Granturismo S Automatic (2009) CAR review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

Click here to watch the Maserati video

Maserati’s Granturismo has always tugged at our heartstrings, but it’s been hamstrung by an incomplete line-up of engines and transmissions. Not any more. We’ve just driven the final model to complete the Granturismo range – the new S Automatic. That means the marriage of the enlarged 4.7-litre V8 to the full torque converter auto gearbox.

What it does at a stroke is produce the most persuasive Granturismo yet. Those epic looks (is there a finer-looking GT on sale today?) are now joined by a drivetrain worthy of the car’s eponymous title. It’s a continent crosser par excellence, cruising when you want to gobble up the motorway miles, proving a dab hand at criss-crossing mountain switchbacks when you head off the beaten track.

Maserati Granturismo S Automatic: the lowdown

Take one enlarged 4.7-litre V8 from the existing GT S and the beautiful Alfa Romeo 8C. Add in the latest six-speed slusher from ZF and you create Maser’s newest – and last – addition to the Granturismo coupe range. There will be a coupé-cab version later in the year, but the Auto S is the last of the plain coupés. The car’s always been a slightly softer sports GT rather than a maximum-attack sports car, so it should work well... in principle.

Consider the technical changes deployed by Maserati. Ditching the robotised manual from the Granturismo means losing the transaxle. The ZF ’box is attached to the mid-front mounted engine, changing the front:rear weight distribution slightly, from 47:53 to an even more balanced 49:51. That's a remarkable achievement for a car with a 4.7-litre V8 slung up front, the long, long snout enabling the engine to be mounted well behind the front axle line.

We’re already familiar with the 4.7. It produces 434bhp and 361lb ft of torque – a useful 35bhp and 22lb ft boost over the regular GT’s 4.2. End result? Maserati is pitching the Granturismo S Automatic at the Merc CL600, Jaguar XKR, Aston Martin DB9 and Bentley Continental GT. Read the rest of our review to see if they’ve pulled it off.

>> Click ‘Next’ to read the rest of CAR’s review of the Maserati Granturismo S Automatic

So what’s the Maser like on the road?

It’ll take you ages actually to turn the key – I guarantee you’ll spend ages poring over the droolworthy exterior design. Pininfarina’s silhouette is achingly beautiful and I can think of no other GT on sale today to match the Granturismo’s elegance. The only quibble I’d have is the slightly angular LED-powered rear lights; the rest is close to automotive genius.

But eventually you clamber on board and twist the (slightly disappointing Fiat-based) key. The lump fires up to a surprisingly distant thrum. So you soak up the cabin – it’s roomy, with way more space than an XK or 6-series or DB9 in the back. Even adults will be comfy back there, making this a genuine four-seater, although tall front-seat occupants will hinder rear legroom for adults. Only the Merc CL bests the Granturismo’s rear pews.

It feels special up front too, especially in our car’s deep red leather trim. The seat and wheel shuffle electrically into position and it’s easy to find a decent position. Slip the auto lever into D and – whoosh-waap-waap, what the hell? – the engine’s suddenly screaming with a harmonic symphony of Modenese anger straining at the leash. My size 11 feet have fouled both pedals at once, rather embarrassingly. But my copilot later does the same thing, and several other journos on the launch report similar pedal problems. Blame a narrow footwell and a bizarrely oversized brake pedal.

Maserati Granturismo S Automatic: the road test bit

Pedal problems over, I take more care for the rest of the journey. We move off and it’s immediately apparent the GT is a civilised beast. Visibility is good, the steering light and wieldy as we pull out into the Modena morning traffic.

The transmission immediately feels well sorted. We’re zipping up and down the box in Drive with a smoothness you’d expect of ZF’s slusher (it’s the same unit used by BMW and Jaguar) and city progress is perfectly judged in stop-start traffic. Even the best dual-clutch 'boxes struggle to match the treacle-smooth changes of a proper auto.

We join the autostrada and it’s our first chance to see what this V8 can do on the open road. Slip road, check mirrors, acquaint exquisite metal throttle with (yet more) red carpet: the refined multi-cylinder thrum gains a deeper timbre and we’re soon deep into three figures as the 4.7 displays how rapid the Granturismo is. It feels urgent and plenty fast enough – despite that 1.9-tonne kerbweight – settling to a refined cruise at motorway speed. Engine noise dies away, sixth gear providing calm progress and the Maser surprising with its smooth ride and relaxed ambience. Who needs a Merc CL?

And on country roads?

Turn off the autostrada and the GT S proves an equally accomplished performer. The V8 is much more refined than I was expecting (this is the first Granturismo I’ve driven and I had heard how raucous the Alfa 8C was) and it rarely bellows with the genes of a V8 supercar. On occasion it’s too quiet, but then family politics dictate that a sportier character is best left to Maserati's colleagues in Maranello...

There’s no disputing the acceleration on tap. Every straight is demolished, slower cars passed with a prod of the throttle and a flick of the wheel. Press the Sport button and you release a few more ponies, as valves in the exhaust switch to a faster exit bypassing the silencers. That’s more like it: a harder-edged blare accompanies higher crank speeds. The Maser now feels more related to Ferrarikind. But I'm reminded how cheap performance is nowadays; the Vauxhall VXR8 Bathurst S I drove last week offers more punch at nearly half the price – but few cars  offer the performance matched with the GT's sophistication.

I’m less keen on the sportier setting on the Skyhook adaptive dampers triggered by the Sport button. The ride firms up, bumps that were previously soaked up now crash into the cabin. As usual, I prefer the standard setting – but if you do leave it in Sport, you will in fact adapt and after 10 minutes I forget the busier ride.

>> Click ‘Next’ for our final verdict on the Maser Granturismo GT S AutomaticDoes the Maser Granturismo attack corners?

The GT surprised me with its pampering gran turismo character. It is a brilliant, refined cruiser and gobbles up motorway miles without complaint from car or driver. But this car has a rare broadness of character: you’ll enjoy hustling the Granturismo S Automatic across mountain roads just as much.

Steering feel was lighter than I anticipated. There’s no artificial weight, no electro nonsense to confuse responses from the front wheels. The Maser responds quickly and proves nimble on its feet for one so big. And those fixed – really big – paddles are in just the right place, encouraging you to knock the ’box up and down the ratios, the auto blipping and meshing cogs with pleasing speed and precision. In Sport mode, it won’t kickdown or change up for you, giving you the best of both worlds.

I can't stress enough how much the torque converter auto suits this car's character. I've not driven the robotised manual version, but colleagues confirm the occasionally jolty drivetrain ain't a patch on the proper auto. This car demands a self-shifter.

I sense you're a fan... What don’t you like about the Maserati?

Not much. It is a pleasingly well rounded package. The build quality is another surprise – the GT feels really solid, the materials high of quality and long of durability. The centre console is let down by a fiddly sat-nav and some cheap secondary switchgear. But the days of obviously short-cut parts sharing are long gone chez Maserati: the Granturismo exudes quality.

Verdict

It’s an incremental car, the Granturismo. We know we like the standard models, so the addition of the automatic to the bigger engine is merely playing brochure dot-to-dot. Yet it serves up an excellent package that’s 100% in tune with this car’s GT pretensions.

That it costs less than the range-topping S comes as a pleasing surprise. At £84,395, it’s four grand less than the Granturismo S and six more than the 4.2. No wonder it’ll make up half of worldwide GT sales. What a great car.

>> Fan or foe? Click 'Add your comment' and report back on the new Maser

Specs

Price when new: £84,395
On sale in the UK: July 2009
Engine: 4691cc V8, 434bhp @ 7000rpm, 361lb ft @ 4750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 5.0sec 0-62mph, 183mph, 18.6mpg, 354g/km
Weight / material: 1880kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4881/2056/1353

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  • Masearti Granturismo S Automatic (2009) CAR review
  • Masearti Granturismo S Automatic (2009) CAR review
  • Masearti Granturismo S Automatic (2009) CAR review
  • Masearti Granturismo S Automatic (2009) CAR review
  • Masearti Granturismo S Automatic (2009) CAR review

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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