Maserati GranTurismo S

Italian stunner scores on style and exclusivity

Badges don’t come any more evocative than the Maserati trident, and the GranTurismo S is the hottest version of the Italian firm’s beautiful coupé.

It features a race-inspired automated manual gearbox, but its 433bhp 4.7-litre V8 engine is outgunned by the 503bhp Jaguar. It also costs £88,000, which is £15,600 more than the XKR. Does it live up to that price tag?

The Maserati looks a million dollars from the outside. Using the gorgeous Pininfarina-styled GranTurismo as a starting point, designers have added a revised front bumper, lower sills, aggressive black headlight surrounds and a set of intricate 20-inch alloy wheels. So while the regular model’s beautiful proportions remain, the S is far more purposeful and easily wins the battle for kerb appeal.

Sit behind the wheel and it doesn’t feel like an £88,000 car, though. We’ve no complaints about the smart Alcantara upholstery, supportive sports seats and chrome-rimmed switches. You even get room for four adults inside. But the stereo looks cheap compared to the Jaguar’s fully integrated set-up, and trim quality isn’t a match for the Brit, either. Plus, while the XKR features a theatrical pulsing red starter button, the Maserati uses a traditional ignition key.

There’s nothing ordinary about its engine. The high-revving 4.7-litre V8 barks into life, and is controlled by the latest version of Maserati’s automated manual box. There is no shifter on the centre console – just a pair of buttons for switching between reverse and city modes.

Instead, you change gear with the large steering column-mounted paddles: pull the left one to shift down, the right one to go up and both to select neutral. The plastic levers are a disappointment, but they have a positive spring-loaded action. And every downchange is accompanied by a perfectly judged blip of the throttle.

The six-speed box can also work as a full auto, although it isn’t as smooth as the Jaguar’s, and its all-or-nothing clutch can make for jerky low-speed manoeuvres. Use it as a manual and the speed of upshifts is impressive, but you need to lift off the accelerator forreally smooth changes.

On the road the Maserati thrives on revs, and the harder you work its charismatic V8, the better it sounds. Peak torque doesn’t arrive until 4,750rpm, and below this it isn’t as responsive as the Jaguar engine. But the Italian car generates more grip, and its linear power delivery made it more predictable on our test track’s greasy surface.

The Maserati’s firmer suspension provides excellent body control, and the 1,880kg coupé feels surprisingly agile. The steering is also weightier, delivers quicker reactions and inspires more confidence.

But the trade-off is that the GranTurismo S doesn’t tackle poor surfaces with as much composure as the supple XKR. The Maserati is more at home on B-roads than town routes or motorways. But the novel gearbox and glorious exhaust note mean it always feels special to drive. Does that tip the balance in its favour?

Details

WHY: Italian firms dominate the sports coupé class – and the GranTurismo S even has a race-inspired manual gearbox.

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