Maserati GranTurismo Coupe

Dressed in boldly sculpted couture curves that shame a Ferrari 612 Scaglietti, built on a shorter wheelbase (by five inches) version of the Quattroporte’s acclaimed front-mid-engine, rear-drive chassis, and powered by the familiar 4.2-liter V-8-with power increased from 394 horses to 399-the new Maserati GranTurismo is exotic and glamorous, inspiringly original, and deliciously unconventional. It’s the second all-new Maser in less than five years, and America is its Number One sales target.

Concealing four full seats behind two gracefully swooping doors, the GranTurismo combines the opulent accommodation of a Bentley Continental GT with the price of a well-optioned BMW M5, while promising a carefully honed poise, balance, and deftness either German might envy. It may lack their huge firepower, but as Quattroporte owners already appreciate, deft dynamism reaps the richest rewards for discerning drivers.

Most expected Maserati to deliver a direct replacement for the decade-old GT: a two-door 2+2 coupe to tempt a few thousand discerning enthusiasts a year from their default purchase of a Porsche 911. The GranTurismo is emphatically not that car, and for good reason, as Maserati technical director Jean-Luc Brossard and head of vehicle engineering Paul Fickers explained when we met them at Maserati’s Modena HQ.

“When I joined Maserati in 2003, it was a time to reflect on the company’s position and to define our objectives for the GranTurismo,” says Brossard. “We knew from our customers that the new coupe needed to be elegant and sporty, but that it should also offer comfort and space, so we decided on a bigger, full four-seater car.

“We had also found that, where our customers used to drive 5000 miles per year or less, they now cover 20 or even 30,000 miles in a year. Consequently we’ve been working hard on improving durability and quality so that we’re a genuine alternative for customers who previously would only consider a Mercedes or BMW.”

Where does the GranTurismo fit into our world? Right at the heart of it, judging by the looks and promise of sharpened and more sporting dynamics. Tipping the scales at about 4150 pounds, the GranTurismo is approximately 110 pounds lighter than the Quattroporte sedan, nearly 500 pounds lighter than a Mercedes CL, and over 1000 pounds less than a Bentley Continental GT. The Maser has great stance, too; wide for its length. Fitted with the latest generation of Sachs’s Skyhook active damper technology, the GranTurismo has switchable suspension settings, Normal and Sport, and Fickers says the spring and damper settings are 30 to 40 percent firmer than on the Quattroporte. The initial production run, which starts in the summer, will be of GranTurismo Automatics (with paddle-shift) and a DuoSelect version to follow soon after.