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Maserati GT-S 2008 Review

The car that helped power the back-to-black turnaround at Maserati is now even quicker.

The Gran Tourismo has grown an S badge and more muscle to become a boulevard cruiser with a sinister character just waiting for a winding road to explore.

The GT was originally developed in only 18 months but has been so successful, alongside the luxury Quattroporte, that it is a crucial part of a plan to lift sales from 8500 to 15,000 cars within five or six years.

Maserati cannot keep up with world-wide orders – 1700 customers are still waiting for their cars to be built – but that has not stopped the GT-S from going ahead.

The order books are already open in Australia, even though deliveries will not start until early next year.

Local importer European Automotive Imports expects to sell 60 next year, along with 120 each of the standard GT and the Quattroporte, even though the price – about $330,000 – will be $30,000 more than the existing model's.

The stunningly beautiful four-seater GT-S shares the same DNA as the Alfa 8C Competizione, which we don't get in Australia because it is built in left-hand drive only and shares mechanical components with Ferrari.

The standard Gran Turismo is a knockout grand tourer, but the S adds fiery spice to the equation.

And what does the S stand for? Maserati says Sport, but it could also stand for spectacular, sensational or sexy. Take your pick, all three apply.

But it will take a Maserati train-spotter to pick the changes to the S over the standard GT from a distance.

The only clues are the bolder grille, darkened headlights, side skirts, twin oval exhaust pipes and dark 20-inch alloy wheels.

Inside are new, body-hugging sports seats.

And, the car being at the high end of Italian design, buyers can choose from a range of interior colours.

The big change is under the muscular bonnet. The standard GT's 4.2-litre V8, which is supplied by Ferrari, has been massaged in the GT-S to 4.5-litres, with a gain in power from 298 to 323kW at a lofty 7000 revs. Torque is up from 460 to 490Nm at 4750 revs.

On the road, the power gain has lowered the 0-100km/h sprint from 5.2 seconds to 4.9 — and a claimed top of 295km/h (up 10km/h) makes it the fastest Maserati in production.

That's an impressive set of figures for a car that weighs more than two tonnes when fuelled and carrying two people.

To take full advantage of the lift in performance, Maserati swapped the Turismo's six-speed ZF auto gearbox for its in-house designed, electro-actuated semi-automatic box. Shifting is done by large paddles either side of the steering wheel.

This smart six-speed transmission is essentially three gearboxes in one, and all three subtly change the character of the car on the road.

The new robotised MC (Maserati Corsa) gearbox has been moved from the front to between the rear wheels for better weight distribution of 53 per cent to the rear and 47 per cent to the front.

Providing certain criteria are met, the MC system pre-engages the next gear so gear engagement is made in 40 milliseconds and the entire gear change is completed in 100 milliseconds — substantially faster than a driver can move a traditional gear stick.

 

On the road

I reckon Maserati has missed a golden chance to promote the

GT-S. It should have recorded the deep-set V8 engine growl and sold it to mobile-phone users as a ring tone.

The sound from the twin exhausts is reasonably restrained and neighbourhood friendly in normal mode, but select manual sports mode and most of the exhaust gas is rerouted to bypass the muffler.

The GT-S comes alive, aggressive and loud. The wonderful exhaust note, complete with a howling bark and cackle on down-changing and over-run, is magic, especially when amplified in the narrow streets of Modena.

The new semi-auto gearbox is so diverse it gives the car three distinct driving characteristics.

You can leave it as a conventional full automatic, or a semi auto with the driver doing the changes via the steering wheel paddles (and changing the engine exhaust note). And you can go the full monty and have the added MC performance of super-quick changes in sports mode.

Despite the gorgeous styling, there is no hiding the size of the GT-S, but getting two tonnes to 100km/h in less than five seconds is impressive. It reflects how well the torque is delivered, especially above 3200 revs.

The bad news: fuel consumption is not impressive, even though Maserati has made an effort to make the engine more efficient. The Euro fuel figures are 21.6 litres/100km urban cycle, 10.0 litres/100km on the highway and 14 litres/100km for combined cycle.

Nor is it a clean, green engine. It produces 330g/km of CO2.

To put that in perspective, at least three cities in Germany are banning cars from city centres if they produce more than 160g/km of CO2.

The conundrum for the GT-S engineers was to design a car that offers supercar performance with luxury car comfort.

It's a marriage that works. Road-holding is exceptional and balanced. It sits wonderfully flat on the road and mid-corner acceleration produces little in the way of weight transfer, though the steering can be a little slow in the twisty stuff.

As expected, the ride is firm — even on smooth European roads — but I will reserve judgment on the ride quality until it is tested on more familiar Aussie roads.

Maserati says the main rivals for the GT-S will be the Porsche 911 Carrera S and the Aston Martin DB9.

Is it good enough to beat them? Definitely.

 


Snapshot

Maserati GT-S

Price: $330,000

Engine: 4.7-litre V8

Power: 323kW at 7000 revs

Torque: 490Nm at 4750 revs

Transmission: MC-Shift electro-actuated six-speed gearbox

Performance: 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, top speed 295km/h

Economy: 25.2l/100km city, 11.3l/100km highway; 16.4l/100km combined (European figures)

Emissions: 385g/km CO2

 

Pricing guides

$65,000
Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$64,970
Highest Price
$66,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 4.2L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ $64,970 – 66,999 2008 Maserati Granturismo 2008 (base) Pricing and Specs
S 4.7L, PULP, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $62,600 – 79,090 2008 Maserati Granturismo 2008 S Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$64,970

Lowest price, based on 7 car listings in the last 6 months

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