Few manufacturers can rival Maserati for glamour. In its heyday, its racing cars were famed as much for their aesthetic beauty as for their track success. The company still understands how to make its models look the part, and the new MC Stradale aims to add some of the brand’s motorsport know-how to its stunningly styled coupe line-up.
On the outside, the standard car’s curves are complemented by a 10mm lower ride height, deeper side sills and a more aggressive front bumper. The rear end has been redesigned to incorporate a diffuser, placing the exhausts higher up and closer together than before. Subtle bonnet vents and deep slots in the bodywork behind the front wheels finish the purposeful look.
Many of the changes are devised to create downforce rather than improve the car’s looks, and this focus continues on the inside. The first thing anyone who is familiar with the regular GranTurismo will notice is that the back seats have been removed, to save weight. Our test car was even fitted with the optional rollcage and race-style four-point seatbelts.
Slide into the supportive carbon fibre seats, though, and you’re greeted by the same classically shaped dash, delicate analogue clock and chrome-ringed dials that make the standard car feel so special. Acres of Alcantara trim and generous amounts of carbon fibre add to the sense of occasion.
Despite this, the Maserati isn’t perfect. Its dated sat-nav is fiddly to use, and some of the switchgear is low-rent for a car in this price range. Still, these worries are banished the moment you turn the key...
Some of the regular model’s sound deadening has been removed, so the 4.7-litre V8 barks into life with even more potency. And it delivers one of the most intoxicating soundtracks we have experienced. Baffles in the exhaust open at 4,000rpm in Sport mode to increase the volume, but they’re never closed in Race mode. And in this setting the Stradale sounds just as good as the Trofeo track version.
Selecting the Sport and Race modes also sharpens the throttle response and quickens the action of the automated gearbox. The transmission isn’t as smooth as the Jaguar system, but when you upshift in Race Mode at over 4,000rpm, with the throttle more than 70 per cent open, the six-speed set-up completes the change in 60 milliseconds.
The violence of the shift sends shudders through the chassis, yet the reward comes when selecting lower ratios as each and every downchange is accompanied by a glorious and perfectly timed throttle blip.
Drive the MC Stradale as a pure automatic, and it doesn’t really compare with the slick-shifting Jaguar. However, when you increase the pace, it’s a more dynamic choice. The same is true of the chassis, which has been tuned with keen drivers in mind. The firm’s engineers have learned from the Trofeo race series, and as well as the lower ride height, you get thicker anti-roll bars and stiffer springs. Add the sticky Pirelli P Zero tyres to the mix, and the Stradale produces much more grip than the Jaguar. You can’t escape its size and 1,770kg weight, but it turns into corners with real confidence.
The initial body movement takes a moment to settle, yet once it has, the Maserati’s composure is impressive. The steering has more weight than the Jaguar’s and, despite the firm suspension, excellent damping ensures the ride isn’t unpleasantly hard. Standard ceramic brakes round off a strong dynamic package by delivering mighty stopping power.
Against the clock there was only going to be one winner here – but the Maserati was far from outclassed. Despite weighing 17kg more than the XKR-S and having to cope with a 99bhp power deficit, the car’s traction is superior. That helped it sprint from 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds – trailing the Jaguar by only one-tenth of a second. And while the supercharged torque of the Brit gives an advantage in terms of in-gear shove, the Italian model never feels short on performance. Its racy V8 relishes hard work.
Timed over a flying lap of our twisting test track, the MC Stradale also proved noticeably faster than its more punchy rival – meaning it has the pace to back up its higher price tag and desirable image.
Chart position: 1WHY: Fastest and most extreme GranTurismo yet is a true supercar. Stunning looks, soundtrack and performance promise big thrills.