For 12 long years, between, 2008 until 2019, Maserati had set the standards for what a Grand Tourer should look like and how it performs. The GranTurismo has raised the bar and put itself front and center as a shining example of what luxury driving and Italian panache can offer. This would become the launching pad for the Modena outfit as it reasserted itself as one of the most respected and sought after luxury sporting brands in the world.
Its mission was to replace Maserati’s existing coupe, that was fast becoming outdated, and taking its new birth from one of their latest and successful models. The 2008 Maserati GranTurismo, after having been unveiled at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show, would be fully unleashed on to the world market and, in particular, entering the lucrative American market. Over 40,000 units later and history will show that Maserati had exceeded what they set out to achieve with this motor car.
So how did this all start? Let’s go back and see where this success story began.
A Spyder is Born
2002 saw Maserati beginning to return to its former glory. They had just replaced their last de Tomaso era model, 3200 GT, with their latest Maserati Coupe & Spyder (also referred to as 4200 GT). More importantly, this signaled their return to the American market after an 11 year absence. This 4.2 liter engine would be a great success in America and voted as the Best GT in 2001 by Forbes Magazine.
Though very similar to the previous 3200 GT, the new design of the Spyder and Coupe would establish some of the basic design elements of what was to become the 2008 Maserati GranTurismo. For the next five years the models would sell well as the 13,000 units would attest to. However, by 2007, the competition was beginning to push ahead and they needed to upgrade themselves.
In record breaking time – just nine months from design to production – they would have the GranTurismo ready to go.
The secret to this rapid turnaround was due to Ferrari. In 2005, when Ferrari sold Maserati to the Fiat Chrysler Group, they held onto the designs for the Maserati Coupe replacement and, after making some modifications, released this in America as the Ferrari California. On an initial look, the California is exactly like the GranTurismo but on closer inspection you can begin to see the subtle differences in body shape. While the Ferrari is sleek and robust, the Maserati is elegant and sophisticated.
The design of the 2008 Maserati GranTurismo fell to the design house of Pininfarina who used the Maserati Quattroporte as its foundation. This luxury four door sedan, which was also designed by the same designers, used the same 4.2 liter engine and would morph into the GranTurismo. By removing two doors and shortening the length by almost five inches they then set about remodeling the bodyline to give it a more sportier look. Especially the new concave vertical slit grille, which originally appeared on the 1953 A6GCS, that has become synonymous to the brand ever since.
Performance Under the Hood
Taking the engine performance of the Quattroporte and modifying it so it produces 10 bhp more while the six-speed automatic transmission produces faster shift changes and the electronic throttle give better responses in both of the different driving modes. With a new top speed of 177 mph and hitting 0-60 in just 5.1 seconds. This puts it as one of the best top performing cars of its time though several were quicker. With the GranTurismo weight at 4147 lbs, it would be much heavier than its competitors and so it would never compete as an out and out sports car. But this is the definition of what a Grand Tourer truly is – high performance coupled with high end excellence. Hence why the asking price in 2008 was very much higher than its rivals (US$114,000).
Putting the Maserati GranTurismo into “Sport” mode and it takes the original Quattroporte specifications into a more aggressive sports car mode. The ‘Skyhook’ adaptive suspension firms up the dampers to reduce body roll, throttle responses are increased by 20 pc while the ZF transmission becomes more attentive as it shifts 40 pc faster and at a higher rev count.
Despite its automatic transmission being the only version available, this doesn’t detract from getting a highly intuitive response to your driving needs. Whether holding onto the high revs for quick acceleration or sustaining gears when braking. If you wish to feel a more dynamic transmission response then tap the gear shift into “Manumatic” track and push up or pull down for corresponding gear changes. If your driving needs require both hands on the wheel then utilize the paddle shifters on either side – right for going up the gears and left for going back down.
But, left in fully automatic mode the GranTurismo will escort you with ease around the suburban streets while letting out the occasional growl as you leave the lights.
For safety features, it has both anti-lock brakes as well as the stability control system. Cornering at speed can be achieved with a certain confidence as if the car runs on rails and no chance of tail drift. The brakes with the Brembo calipers work exceedingly well as they can reduce the car from 70 mph to standing still in just 157 feet. Safety is also augmented by its near perfect balance as the weight ratio is set at 49/51 front to back.
“It is not a Car, it is Art.”
So said an Italian authority on the motor industry about what a Maserati espouses and he wasn’t far wrong. The 2008 Maserati GranTurismo was available in 19 different exterior body paints. The interior leather came in a variety of ten different colors, the hand stitching could be sewn in 13 colors while the headliners had four (either in cloth or Alcantara leather). Carpets came in five different tones while the dash trim came in different colors and textures – 3 types of wood, five types of piano lacquer or just in metal. The wood fixtures are installed in one single shaped piece and not individual parts glued together. Even the brake calipers came in six different colors. It is stated that there were over four million different color varieties of GranTurismo on offer. This is what sets Italian cars apart from any other.
Keeping the seating arrangements of the Quattroporte, the 2008 Maserati GranTurismo could proudly boast a car that held four relatively comfortably. Even with six foot adults in the back, the passengers would be able to sit with relative ease over long distances. Almost none of its competitors could say the same.
The trunk was of a reasonable size too as it held 9.2 cubic feet and could hold up to two sets of golf clubs, if required.
Bose would be the manufacturer of the sound system. The 11 speaker surround sound system would also have a 30-gig hard drive which would allow you to rip your own CD’s into the system. This seemed like an interesting idea at the time but, as drivers found out, the process was slow going (taking up to 30 minutes to download one disk) and the hard drive did not automatically name all the tracks as this would have to be completed manually. The seven inch touchscreen sat nav was sufficient for the European markets but not so compatible with the United States. A lot of the additional information for American streets was not available. Added to this, the satellite radio could not access American stations either. This would be the biggest owners’ criticism of the car and it would take Maserati another decade to fix. A case of the Maserati engineers having a deeper understanding of the complexities of their engines and driving performance and not so much attuned to what the “modern” driver felt was just as important.
Trident Rules the Roads
The release of this Italian work of art and design would prove to be a game changer. Setting new heights in both sumptuous luxury, elegant design both inside and out and providing a thrilling driving experience. Its looks and quality set it apart from all of its rivals with a more fluid and organic body shape as compared to its Germanic, English or Italian cousins. The Maserati owners saw the potential in what they had created, as well, with the fact they had scheduled 1,400 units to be rolling off productions lines within the first year.
Their appearance on roads across the world would enliven the streets, though their numbers would still be relatively few and finely scattered, amongst the far corners of the globe, their presence would be more keenly felt in the more affluent areas of the world. For instance, in the streets of the new casino metropolis of Macau, their appearance would become as common as a Toyota Prius. Their familiar Maserati growl ripping through Oriental streets.
The Trident had become legend.