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It's rare to find anything that improves with age, and even wine is unlikely to get better once you exceed the 10-year mark. So the odds are stacked high against the Maserati GranTurismo, which is about to mark its 12th anniversary since it first appeared at the Geneva motor show.
The fact that the rest of the legendary trident-badged range has been refreshed and expanded within half that period, and the oh-so-now Levante SUV is yet to turn three only highlights the greying scalps of the GranTurismo coupe and GranCabrio convertible. This is also forgetting that Mazda at the cheaper end of the price scale is now updating most its line-up annually.
The big grand touring coupe and convertible scored a bit of a birthday last year though, with the range rejigged into Sport and MC (Maserati Corse) variants. You'll pick the MC by its vented carbon fibre bonnet, vertical gills for the front guards, and bespoke rear bumper with central exhaust outlets. All of these details differ from the versions they replaced, aside from the side gills which were lifted from the previous MC Stradale.
They weren't facelifted just for style either, with the new bits now compliant with the latest pedestrian safety regulations as well as reducing the aerodynamic drag coefficient from 0.33 to 0.32.
The nose and overall proportions haven't aged a day, and it's bound to go down as one of the great coupe designs of all time, but the tail-lights still look a bit too third-gen Impreza to me.
Both spec levels now feature the same Ferrari-built 338kW/520Nm 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 and six-speed ZF torque converter auto, the latter which we also saw a version of in the late Ford Falcon.
Other detail changes included tweaked headlight internals, a new and better integrated reversing camera, but the big news on the inside was their alignment with fresher Maserati models with the upgrade to an 8.4-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
They also scored a new version of the traditional Maserati analogue clock and Harmon Kardon audio. The dash was reshaped and the centre console reduced its button count while adding a double rotary controller for the multimedia system.
So quite a few details to bring the aging beauties up to speed, but they still lack the active safety features we've come to expect from new cars and like all Maseratis aside from the Ghibli, it doesn't carry a safety rating from ANCAP or even EuroNCAP.
It's also more than three years since we sampled the GranTurismo and over seven between GranCabrio drinks, so we jumped at the chance to revisit one of the best designs since the chrome bumper era at last week's Maserati Ultimate Drive Day Experience in Sydney.
This might sound like a chance to rub panels with Fangio himself, and the reality isn't too far removed, particularly given it doesn't cost participants a penny. There is one catch though, it's invite-only, but any new Maserati owner is on the list and they happen semi-regularly.
This event was held at the fast and flowing Sydney Motorsport Park, and offered the chance to drive the entire Maserati line-up across skidpan and track, and off-road to widen the eyes of Levante owners. Because we hadn't experienced the GranTurismo and GranCabrio for so long, we chose to focus on the $345,000 MC and $335,000 Sport versions of each respectively.
There is nothing more pleasurable than sliding a rear wheel drive car on a skidpan. Full stop. As far as driving is concerned at least.
Throw a near-$400k Italian exotic into the mix, and it's a rare scenario you'll probably tell your grandkids about.
Maserati lined up a GranTurismo MC alongside a Quattroporte GTS GranLusso, giving us the chance to feel the difference between old and new, two vastly different wheelbase lengths, but most importantly naturally aspirated vs twin-turbo.
Lapping a simple circle of cones with all traction aids on and the throttle floored, the Quattroporte simply walked around while holding its line. This stuff is simply idiot proof.
Turn it all off and hold the transmission in second and you'd expect the long 3171mm wheelbase to help you glide around like a big, slow pendulum, but the turbo engine's relative always-on power delivery makes it surprisingly difficult to set it up for a continual drift. No doubt a 'walking on eggshells' approach to throttle inputs would help here, but hard to muster when the red mist has descended.
Swapping into the GranTurismo MC, we once again turned off all traction systems and held the auto in second. A shorter wheelbase is generally twitchier for this sort of thing, but the GranTurismo's 2942mm is still right up there.
The biggest difference was how little mid-range grunt you have at your disposal in second gear, which makes it even more difficult to set up for a continual drift than the Quattroporte.
Drop it back to first though, and all 7500rpm worth of the 4.7's old-school naturally aspirated linear power delivery makes it a joy to continually drift on the wet concrete, and I had it hanging out within one lap of the circle.
Given we'd also selected Sport mode, the active exhaust was liberating the sound of all 460 Italian horses, so as I said, my grandchildren will likely know about this skidpan experience.
The track element used the original 3.93km Gardner GP circuit layout, giving us access to the fastest parts of Sydney Motorsport Park.
I cycled through two Ghiblis, a Quattroporte and a Levante before effectively stepping back in time to the GranCabrio Sport and GranTurismo MC.
The newer models deliver their performance smoothly, predictably and quietly (particularly with a helmet on), but they're all clearly road focused, which is likely how they'll spend the other 99.9 per cent of their lives.
The GranCabrio Sport feels a bit sharper, even if it's naturally aspirated engine eliminates the slingshot feel of the turbocharged newer models.
It's the GranTurismo MC that feels the most Maserati of all in these conditions though, with its even sharper suspension tune making the GranCabrio feel squidgy by comparison.
The MC is the one that feels alive, and delivers genuine thrills at the limit. The liberated exhaust note in Sport mode is also far more 'thoroughbred' than the newer models.
We weren't chasing lap times, but it's the one to buy if you're interested in the occasional track experience to let it of the leash.
For outright thrills, the naturally aspirated V8 is a cut above the turbo units, and the only real compromise is the limited ratio count and smarts of the six-speed auto. It's hard to imagine an upgrade to the universally loved eight-speed ZF unit being too much of an engineering challenge.
Driving each of Maserati's current models back to back, it's both refreshing and concerning to find that the oldest models in the range are the ones that feel like a proper exotic - imperfect in some charming ways, and exciting in all the right ones.
The newer models are clearly much better for everyday duties, and represent a unique option among a sea of similar German premium products.
But as Maserati's evolution continues at a rapid pace and adapts to include electric drivetrains, it's hard to imagine how the brand will protect this core experience, but it has to.
|MC||4.7L, PULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED MAN||$280,100 – 354,090||2019 Maserati Grancabrio 2019 MC Pricing and Specs|
|Sport||4.7L, PULP, 6 SP AUTOMATED MAN||$264,200 – 334,070||2019 Maserati Grancabrio 2019 Sport Pricing and Specs|
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