Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Maserati GranTurismo

Maserati GranTurismo

It is a pity that there is apparently no loophole in UK law that would allow the new 4.2litre V8 Maserati GranTurismo — one of the world’s most handsome four-seat coupés — to be classed as a motorcycle, because if it was, it would not require a front numberplate. The alternative is plainly for Maserati vigorously to lobby MPs and get the Vehicle Aesthetics (Full Frontal, Particularly Maserati) 2007 Bill tabled, pronto, to make an exception for its GT.

The reason is plain to see: the new Maser’s nose is far too distinguished to carry a humdrum plate bearing a set of letters and numbers.

Yet bikers — a few of whom blatantly, shamefully and very dangerously show total contempt for the law — do not have to carry a front numberplate on their often superquick machinery. Not because it would be ugly, spoil its aerodynamics and generally upset the lederhosen brigade, but because of injury that might be caused to pedestrians involved in an accident . . . and, apparently, there is no convenient position at the front of a motorcycle to place a plate satisfactorily and legally.

For the GT, though, it is a legal requirement, with letters and numbers measuring 64mm high and 44mm wide. Of course, an owner might decide to cite the motorcycle precedent and not fit one but that, Paul Watters, an AA legal expert, says could theoretically mean a fine of up to £1,000 under Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations, 2001: “And it would rather draw attention to car and driver.” The GT is not all front, though. Its styling by Pininfarina is an impressive blend of smoothly curvaceous promontories, sharp edges and aerodynamic niceties that wrap around a plush interior with seating for four, well-fed, nondouble jointed adults — making it almost as roomy as a two-door saloon.

Sixteen feet long, more than six feet wide and weighing 4,145lb, the GT — based on the big Quattroporte but with a shortened wheelbase — has been designed to lope over long distances, although once its driver has become used to its size, it will tackle country lanes and mountain roads with cool confidence. Skyhook electronically variable active damping is a £1,721 option that enhances its handling. The driver can stab a Sport button to tauten the GT’s suspension, quicken throttle response and raise gearshift points of its six-speed automatic gearbox.

Gearbox and engine have been designed to work in close harmony and, by and large, they do. But there were moments when communication seemed slightly lacking if maximum power was demanded in auto mode, with a slight pause as if the transmission thought, “Oh, well, all right, let’s get going, then . . .” The way to beat that is to boot the throttle really hard into kick-down or, better still, to use the perfectly placed paddles for do -it-yourself assurance and really enjoy the GT’s mechanically cohesive competence and driver integration. Power output is 399bhp and the engine can be taken to 7,200rpm for full-throttle up-shifts (062mph, 5.2sec) accompanied by a stirring but well-mannered growl from the V8 and its quadruple tailpipes.

Mature, confident and sophisticated, the GranTurismo is sensible, practical and signals Maserati’s resurgence in the UK, with emphasis now on continuously improving quality. Andrea Antonnicola, the Maserati GB managing director, is confident of the GT’s success: “We already have over 450 orders for the GranTurismo, with £5,000 deposits on each. Three years ago we sold 480 examples of all our models combined; this year we expect to sell about 600 and for 2008 we just want to know how many cars the factory can supply in right-hand drive. Maseratis are bought for their exclusivity and increasingly for their quality — which is approaching that of the German marques. Residual values are very high.”

At £78,500, the new car is hardly cheap, but it is very competitive in its rarefied market sector, although metallic paint is a cheeky £552 extra and pearlescent £4,583.

But like all Maseratis, the GT is highly individual and, as with an Italian suit, shoes or shirt, it is all about style, energy and flair — even with a British numberplate hung on its nose.

Specification Car Maserati GranTurismo Engine 399bhp 4.2litre V8, torque 460Nm Transmission Six-speed auto plus paddle shift Performance 0-62mph 5.2sec, top speed 177mph Fuel consumption combined 19.7mpg CO2 emissions 330g/km Price £78,500 On sale October
Source: maserati

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