Maserati GranSport With Sequential Gearbox

Here’s a supercar that wins you over straight away: the Maserati GranSport. It has the classic lines of a grand touring supercar, which look great from any angle even in black, which is not my favorite color for any car.

Based on the Guigaro styled coupe, which has been around for quite a while, the GranSport has subtle styling changes that not only improve aerodynamics but also make the rather heavy tail less obtrusive. It starts with a chin spoiler at the front, then there are curved side skirts and a small rear spoiler. The classic long, sloping nose with flush-fitting headlamps, a high wide hood, fastback coac hroof and curved rear fenders. Very nice. Not only that, but the Cd is fairly low at 0.33.

Genuine 2+2

There is a surprising amount of room in the back - fine for two adults for short journeys and there is a small trunk. Normally, you would not expect to travel far with more than one passenger, so the Maserati GranSport appears to fulfill the need of a grand touring supercar to provide comfort for two and their luggage travelling at speed. And top speed is about 180 mph.

Compared with the Coupe and Spyder, the GranSport has tauter suspension with lower profile tires and the latest electronic systems developed in the Fiat Group such as ‘skyhook’ adaptive damping, normal and sports mode, stability control and the Cambiocorsa semi-automatic sequential gearbox, which is similar to those developed by Ferrari for its F1 cars.

Front and rear suspension is by double wishbones, all made from aluminum forgings to reduce weight, coil springs and adaptive skyhook dampers and anti-roll bars. Skyhook damping means that the controller computes position and angle of the body relative to an imaginary point in the sky and adjusts the damping accordingly.

Together with Maserati’s latest 4.2 literV-8 which develops 395 bhp at 7,000 rpm, and maximum torque of 330 lbft (452 Nm) at 4,500 rpm, this is a great package suggesting that this will be a great grand tourer, with effortless power when you need it.

But does it work?

The specification may be good, but the question is always whether it adds up on the road. First impressions are good. The Gransport is not as low as some supercars, so it is an easy car to slip into. Adjust the electrically controlled seat, set the steering wheel position, and you’re all ready to go. The instruments are pretty good two simple main dials with white numerals on a dark blue background, with the minor ones at the sides.

The gears are controlled by a pair of good paddles behind the wheel, except for reverse which is selected by a small lever, and then when you want to go forward you pull on the up paddle, and first gear is engaged. Very easy once you get used to it.

You have both manual and automatic modes, and Sport this also controls the damping. Sport shifts at slightly higher speeds, but as normal shifts up at 7,000 rpm, you only use that when you’re really hustling and need the stiffer suspension.

V-8 burble promises power

Press the start button, and after a couple of turns, the engine springs to life with a burble promising the power about to come through. How does the sequential box compare with a manual? There’s a lot of controversy about these boxes, so let’s get that out of the way. If you are driving very fast, it is excellent. The shifts are fast and fairly smooth and you get 

whatever gear you want quickly. When you are cruising along, the shifts are slower and seem to go in a two-stage shift with a slightly jerky movement between. Once you get used to the Cambiocorsa, though, it works well. If you’re dedicated to manual boxes you’ll take some convincing, but there is no manual option on the Gransport.

Terrific grand tourer

Cruising along at speed the Maserati GranSport covers the ground quickly and quietly. On motorways, the car simply eats up the miles as you enjoy the good seat, pleasant steering and good view. Rear vision is very good, but the hood is a little higher than on many a supercar, not that this is a problem.

The ride is excellent, too. True, there is a lot of thumping and bumping on poor road surfaces, but the shocks are well absorbed, in a way that sets standards for supercars and is good proof that you don’t need a hard ride to make a supercar handle. If you switch to Sport mode, the damping is a good deal firmer, and is ideal for track days or driving really hard up mountain passes for example.

Power and handling to suit

Once onto main cross-country roads, you can enjoy the flair and passion that goes with a truly Italian supercar. The engine is willing and very gutsy. Thanks to the wide speed range it has a surge of power at most speeds. Up to about 3,000 rpm, the car accelerates well, but not dramatically, but only hints at the power to come. At these low speeds, the car is fairly quiet.

Get up to 4,000 rpm, and suddenly, the mild note turns into a slightly ragged howl and your neck snaps back as the power thrusts the car forward like a rocket. Before you have time to think, you need to shift up or brake for the corner coming up fast. If you shift up, then as you pour the power so you need to stiffen your neck to withstand the terrific acceleration.

On country roads, the GranSport shows its true colors. Acceleration is vivid maxima in the lower gears are about 50, 70 and 90 mph and the car turns in sharply into any curve or corner, mostly cornering very flat. There is no hesitation, and the nicely weighted steering gives good feedback of the bumps and hollows, but not so much indication of how well the tires are gripping. A little more feel would be welcome.

As you might expect from a thoroughbred, the GranSPort tracks round corners as if on rails, and does not divert from the line you steer on the straights or corners, whether bumpy or not.

Neutral handling

The handling is neutral through almost all corners, with a feeling that over steer is coming next except that the stability control prevents it. It is surprising how often the stability control comes in for a second or two.

Accelerate hard from a T-junction, and the car will spin the wheels for a second or two enough for the back end to step out a shade but then be pulled under control by the electronics.

With wide, low profile tires, the car has masses of cornering power, so that generally you just swing your way around. Of course, with that weight of the engine up front it is actually over the front wheels, but the weight distribution is balanced to some extent by the rear-mounted gearbox under steer can show up. In particular, on long slow bends the under steer builds up, but you can overcome that with a little flick on the wheel as you enter the corner, and proceed without losing speed. Lift usually has a similar effect, but slows you down.

On twisty country roads, the GranSport is a joy to drive. You accelerate hard out of corners, brake before the next one and click down two or three gears with the paddles at the same time, and turn in quickly and surely. Round she goes, and off you go again, pushed back into the seat with that dramatic acceleration.

During these exercises the steering sometimes feels a little low geared, but overall it is hard to fault this great grand tourer. It is a more practical car than many a supercar, and is near the top of the league at the grand touring end.

If you are thinking of buying a Porsche 911, because of its combination of power and space, the GranSport makes an excellent alternative, with better handling, but worse fuel consumption. Other competitors include the Aston Martin 

V8 Vantage only a two-seater and the Jaguar XK, which needs the supercharged engine of the XKR to compete. Buy the Maserati GranSport and you’ll get a supercar with real character, great looks and it is exciting to drive.