By KL Tay
As part of the strategy that car manufacturers use to counter the pressures of market competition, Maserati has introduced the GranTurismo Sport (GT Sport) to replace the GranTurismo S (GTS). It straddles the gap between the entry model 4.2-litre, 405 hp GranTurismo and the lighter (by 110 kg) track-oriented 4.7-litre GranTurismo MC Stradale.
The exterior of the car has been facelifted with a new front bumper, LED front headlights and restyled smoked rear light cluster lenses.
The GT Sport front bumper design, which improves airflow, is similar to that of the GranTourismo MC Stradale but does not have the latter's side vented front fender. The difference is a useful way to tell the model variants apart.
The cabin remains a positive rendition of what Italian design flair and fine leather craftsmanship can achieve with rich soft hides skilfully stitched together and high quality textured plastics throughout. There is an updated steering wheel as well as newly-designed front seats, longer steering wheel gearshift paddles and aluminium foot pedals.
A new steering wheel may seem like an insignificant detail, but there has been many an example where just a small change in steering wheel profile, cross section size or overall diameter has resulted in a different feel to the car's responsiveness and feel.
With the new seats, Maserati declares that it has given more consideration to back support and ergonomics. The new seats have improved lower back support, good side bolsters and seat support to keep occupants well planted for winding roads while still maintaining easy ingress and egress. The front seats also feature a thinner rear shell that yields an additional 20mm of leg room for the rear passengers.
But the user interface for cabin technology (navigation and Bluetooth phone integration), by today's standards, seems fiddly and perhaps less than intuitive compared to other continental marques.
The GT Sport now comes standard with a Sport Skyhook suspension system and both rear springs and rear anti-roll bar have each been stiffened by 10 per cent. The Sport Skyhook suspension system enables the driver to decide if a harder or softer suspension setting is more suitable to the prevailing road conditions.
Unfortunately, the same button also controls exhaust noise and throttle responsiveness. Because of this, the combination of a compliant (softer) suspension setting for use on an uneven road with the full exhaust sounds of a vigorous Maserati V8 engine at full tilt would not be available to the driver.
The GT Sport is available in two different types of transmissions: a conventional torque converter ZF six-speed automatic transmission and a six-speed electro-actuated gearbox.
Compared with the previous GTS, the automatic version has gained an extra 20 hp and 30 Nm of torque while the electro-actuated version engine puts out an extra 10 hp and 20 Nm of torque. However, on a car that weighs 1,880kg, power and torque increases of this scale remain moot in the context of real world driving performance.
The new GT Sport is unique in that each type of transmission is located at different locations on the same body. The auto version has its transmission located just under the front dashboard centre console whereas the electro-actuated gearbox is located in between the two rear seats, resulting in a rearward move of 5 per cent in front/rear weight distribution of 43:57 compared to the automatic's 48:52.
The rear-mounted electro-actuated six-speed gearbox is derived from the Ferrari F430. Within the first five minutes of taking the GT Sport's wheel, it was obvious that this was a different car from the automatic. Tight corners were attacked with aplomb.
With 94 kg taken away from the front axle, the ease with which the nose changed direction was more in keeping with a car that weighed 500 kg less. It relished corners and devoured the short straights in between. The only drawback was the over-assisted steering that lacked feel and information from the front tyres.
Any concern that its 57 per cent rearward weight distribution would make the electro-actuated version exhibit instability at the high speeds achievable on the autostrada was unfounded. The GT Sport handled the task of a high speed touring vehicle with steadfast confidence and stability.
|Maserati GranTurismo Sport
|Price:$450,000 (without COE)
Engine: 4,691cc V8
Transmission: 6-speed automatic or 6-speed electro-actuated gearbox (EAG)
Max Power: 453 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Max Torque: 520 Nm @ 4,750 rpm
0-100kmh: 4.8 secs (A), 4.7 secs (EAG)
Top speed: 298 kmh (A), 300 kmh (EAG)
CO2 emissions: 331 g/km (A), 360 g/km (EAG)
Distributor: Hong Seh Motors 6266 1555
The famous Maserati exhaust note had an added dimension not found in the automatic. Lifting off the throttle pedal of the GT Sport effused a series of wonderful progressively descending notes, beautifully rounded and true to its Italian ancestry.
As a driving machine for the devotee, the Maserati GT Sport with the electro-actuated gearbox is the superior choice providing an absolutely thrilling drive on the open roads.
However, if the car is intended for the regular day-to-day urban commute, then the automatic version would be more suitable. In either case, it is one of Pininfarina's most beautifully styled cars that will withstand the test of time.
This article was first published in The Business Times.