As we enter 2019, The Maserati GranTurismo enters its twilight. This year, the Modena carmaker have made a couple of important announcements. This will be the final year of the GT as Maserati will look ahead for innovation. Back in 2014, they had already unveiled what they would base its replacement on. The concept 2+2 coupe, Alfieri, named after the Maserati Brother who raced their very first car, in 1926, will be the template on how they will move forward with a revamped Grand Tourer. So time will tell what will be produced in the years to come.
Maserati also announced that, to prepare for the new build, they will shut down their Modena GranTurismo factory and give it a complete overhaul. But before all this happens, Maserati would give us one more special edition of the GranTurismo to mark this grand occasion.
A car that had first entered our motoring landscape in 2007 has remained largely untouched during the intervening years. This is a testament as to the high quality and near perfection of its construction. While some improvements were sought from under the hood and inside the cabin, with engine performance enhanced and a sound system replaced, the exterior shape and seductive contours of the bodywork have stayed the same.
Maybe, not surprisingly, the shape of this Maserati, regarded as one of the best shaped Grand Tourers ever made, has stayed the test of time. In its original design stage, Maserati went to one of their most experienced designers for inspiration. The legendary coachmaker, Pininfarina, from Turin would be tasked for the great job. Andrea Pininfarina would be the one to make the flowing designs of the GranTurismo and it was his grandfather, Battista, who had designed the iconic 3500 GT 50 years before. Andrea has stated before that, when designing the GranTurismo, he took styling cues from the ’60’s & ’70’s and felt the car design reinvented what Maserati was and could be.
So when we were given the keys and given the chance to test drive the 2019 Maserati GranTurismo, how could we refuse?
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Power of the Prancing Horse
For the last six years, the GranTurismo models have all been powered by the same engine. The 4.7 liter V8 Ferrari engine puts out 454 bhp and 384 lb-ft of torque which provides 4.7 to 5.0 seconds of acceleration from 0-60 mph and top speeds of 177 to 187 mph, depending on the model you drive.
But these cold numbers do not tell the whole story. The fact that the 2019 Maserati GranTurismo is such a thrill to drive. When you first turn the key in the ignition (yes, this car does not bother with starter buttons but requires the driver to ignite the engine the “old school” way) and the Prancing Horse erupts under the hood, with that familiar growl and pop, you know you are about to experience something special. Push the revs higher and the growl becomes a ferocious roar that fills the air. Once you apply pressure to the drilled aluminum pedal at your foot the power unleashed thrusts the car forward with great acceleration. It might not be as swift as other “road rocket” rivals, but it feels more organic in the way it gains speed as the engine’s growl fills your ears.
It took great expertise and deep understanding of the Ferrari engine to produce these results. Maserati turned to Snr Paolo Martinelli for guidance. This was an engineer who used to look after the V10 engines that powered the Scuderia Ferrari Fi racing cars that were driven by Michael Schumacher, as he won multiple Championships. By redesigning the pistons, revising the ignition-spark timing and re-tuning the mapping and management of the engine he would squeeze every last ounce of output out of the V8.
Fly Through the Gears
Apart from the 2019 Maserati GranTurismo MC, all models are fitted with the ZF six-speed automatic transmission which has an additional two driving modes – Sport & Race. For the ease of inner city driving, the automatic gearbox serves its purpose well. But, when hitting the open road, the driving modes are mandatory.
Once the ‘Sport’ mode has been engaged, shift changes occur at a much faster 200 milliseconds while the rev counts are dialed up as they near the redline on every gear change. The ‘Race’ mode brought you closer to what a Maserati racing car feels like as the suspension tightens up by 10% and shift changes occur even quicker, at just 60 milliseconds. To enhance the experience, the exhaust baffles are bypassed as soon as the revs climb above 3,000 rpm. This allows the all too familiar Maserati growl to explode even more.
Driving the car in these modes was exhilarating, as you have much more control of the car’s performance on the road. Engaging Race mode, I was able to have more manual control of the gears and was able to use either the gear stick, flicking up and down for the shift changes, or using the wheel mounted shift paddles. With their elongated shape, they were always in easy reach of my fingers no matter where the wheel was pointed.
Gear changes were considerably smooth despite the high rev counts and, even when changing down, the automatic gearbox was able to carefully match the declining revs to the desired gear. The transmission is nowhere near as sophisticated as other dual clutch automatic transmissions but its “analog” feel gives you a more enjoyable ride, if you prefer to do more of the work yourself and not rely on the car’s automation.
Cornering is Attacked
Despite the weight of the car, at over 4400 lbs, it is surprisingly well balanced and handles the twist and turns of the road with great precision. Driving at speed, I had no real qualms about attacking the corners or tight bends. I encountered no lack of driving control from over or under steer while the backend did not drift either. This is, by far, not the quickest exotic car on the market but it is definitely the most fun to drive. It has a very responsive feel on the road and, even when you have pushed the car too far in a tight corner, the driving aids will swiftly kick in to ensure the excitement does not go too far.
The level of driving precision has been achieved by a number of factors. Firstly, due to its perfect balance of weight distribution. The 2019 Maserati GranTurismo boasts a weight ratio of 49/51 front to rear which allows the car to maintain its racing line without too much deviation. The car’s grip is also enhanced by the customized tires from Pirelli. The P-Zero radials have a staggered width of 245 mm in the front and 285 mm in the rear.
To ensure a reliable amount of safety during the driving, there are a few automated assistance aids installed. These include both stability and traction control as well as anti-lock brakes.
Lastly, to make sure the ride is as smooth, as can be attained under such hardcore driving, the adaptive ‘Skyhook’ suspension system has been fitted. As the automobile flies over uneven road surfaces or attacks cornering at speed, the suspension will adjust accordingly and minimize body roll. Despite the fact I was pushing the car hard, the amount of motion I or the other front passenger felt was minimal.
Corse Means Racing
When owners pushed Maserati into being able to buy a road legal version of their Maserati Corse racing cars, the GranTurismo MC was what was offered. In Italian, ‘corse’ means racing and this is exactly what the GT MC was built for. Maserati went to their racing drivers to find out what was required to ensure this car had the right feel for racing. They insisted upon a much firmer suspension and a lower driving profile, to be able to sit closer to the road – and, preferably a manual gearbox.
For most of the world market, this is what was produced – GranTurismo MC Stradale. Bodywork was adjusted to ensure better aerodynamics and downforce. These included spoilers on the front, back and sides with air splitters and air vents for the brakes and engine. This increased the downforce by 50% at the rear and 25% in the front while making this the fastest GranTurismo (and the fastest Maserati road car) yet. It would achieve 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 188 mph (303 kmh).
The 2019 Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale was fitted with the latest Modena gearbox as it had the MC Race Shift robotized six-speed manual transmission. This gave the blistering shift changes as well as utilizing the shift paddles to fly through the gears.
As requested by the racing advisors, the suspension was installed with fixed rate dampers and springs set 8% stiffer. A racing attitude required a no nonsense suspension which meant for a much harder drive though more responsive on the track.
The racing setup continued inside, as the interior seats were ditched, all four of them, and the front were replaced with lightweight carbon fiber bucket seats. Traditional seatbelts were discarded in favor of a proper racing harness that strapped the driver in tight and passed through the back of the seat and affixed to a roll bar in the rear.
This was not a car to be driven to the mall or pick up groceries with. This was a racing car with a license plate and should be driven as such whenever the engine was started. However, for the American market, the rough edged racing feel was smoothed out by reverting to the automatic transmission and keeping with the 2+2 seating configuration.
Sitting inside the 2019 Maserati GranTurismo is a glorious experience. The new integrated seats are not just comfortable and very supportive of your back, while the driving position is near perfect Everywhere you look, you will see the finest leather covering most surfaces. Poltrona Frau leather supplies the hides, as they do for many car manufacturers. But only two car makers are given the privilege of receiving their finest leather. One is Ferrari while the other is Maserati. Even at the back, which is surprisingly spacious considering it is a GT, is awash with leather.
This fine texture covers all the seats and headrests, side panels, steering wheel, dash, central panel and gear stick. There are eight different tones to choose from and these are complemented by a variety of 13 different hand stitching and piping. The dash surface has a choice of chrome, French lacquer or three types of wood. Even the carpets have multiple colors to contrast with the aluminum pedals.
The exteriors are just as fetching with the bodywork available in 21 different paints. The three layered canvas top (which can be reclined in 24 seconds even with the car moving at under 20 mph) come in six different tones.
The 20 inch alloy wheels have four different designs to pick from and can be painted bright silver or black. While the Brembo brake calipers have a choice of eight shades.
To commemorate the end of this production line, Maserati unveiled the GranTurismo Zeda. This was given a stunning tri-color bodywork that incorporated gloss, matte and satin paint finishes and went from blue, in the front, to black then a white/pearl at the rear.
Wired for Sound
Last year’s upgrade of the Infotainment system was long overdue and fixes an issue that many owners had complained about. Maserati installed their own inhouse entertainment software system, Uconnect. This had an added benefit of pairing with both Apple Carplay and Android Auto which allowed smartphone connectivity to be much smoother. This was also fitted with a new 8.4 inch touchscreen and also improved its usefulness. Harman Kardon now installed the Surround Sound System and placed 10 speakers in the coupe and 11 in the soft top.
End of an Era
So after over 40,000 models produced, this was set to be the end of the line for the iconic GT. What will come after the 2019 Maserati GranTurismo has not been confirmed but it will surely be a technological improvement on its predecessor. But while it strives to compete with all the other sophisticated exotic competitors it will lose some of its original appeal. The alluring flair of the GranTurismo flowing bodywork, coupled with its sumptuous interiors are an equal match to its enthralling enjoyment of being driven. This is not the best performing high performance car out there but, certainly, the most thrilling to drive. It will surely be missed.