Seriously Beautiful This is a serious GT, not merely a shortened sedan; the elegant roof line curves gracefully into a fashionable short deck. By Ken Gross, Contributor Date posted: 07-26-2007 405-bhp, 4.2-liter V8 - 6-speed ZF automatic transmission - Based on Quattroporte platform - Designed by Pininfarina We've just driven the 2007 Maserati GranTurismo through the Italian Alps between Bolzano and Moena on the famed Brenner Pass, and we're very impressed. Hey, Italian car and Italian Alps? Why shouldn't we be impressed? Maserati is back, give or take a few stumbles. The first GranSport was fast, but stylistically it resembled a Celica on steroids. The born-again Quattroporte is breathtakingly beautiful, but only recently did it finally get the automatic transmission it needed, as the original Cambiocorsa automated sequential manual gearbox better suited a hard-core sports car. But the fix is in, and the 2007 Maserati GranTurismo proves it. Starting With Something Good The Pininfarina design is distinctly Maserati with many cues from the marque's past; LED taillights contribute to high visibility at night. Maserati has had a long series of high-performance GT cars — like the 1500S, A6GCS and the 3500GT, not to mention the exclusive 5000GT — sold to royalty like the Aga Kahn and the Shah of Iran. In penning this latest iteration, Pininfarina stylists had much tradition to draw upon. So there's no confusing the GranTurismo with any model Ferrari. When you see the new GT in person, you're impressed with its immense road presence. A wide, traditional Maserati grille with a prominent trident badge bares its teeth like the flared mouth of a tiger about to strike. The body is curvaceous, yet finely drawn. The bi-xenon headlights have an angular shape, but once you step back, they meld perfectly with the car and look like cat's eyes for those sharp teeth. The roof line is an especially elegant arch that curves gracefully into a fashionably short deck. At first glance, you'll think berlinetta, a little coupe, but there's actually a lot of room behind those small rear side windows. Muscular rear haunches and a very slight forward rake underscore the perception that the car is poised to leap forward. The surface of the body is superbly developed, and various reveals and ridges delight the eye. A continuous curve sweeps from the rear fenders to an imaginary point that defines the front fender shape. And the Cd is an impressive 0.33. The less said about the three portholes on each front flank, the better. This is a Maserati, not a Buick. Why not design a triangular slash that evokes some of the other styling elements, or even a vent from some vintage Maser? Meanwhile, prominently sculpted wheel openings are filled with handsome 19-inch alloys that carry Pirelli P Zero tires, 245/40R19s in front and 285/40R19s in the rear. Optional 20-inchers with 245/35R20s and 285/35R20s can be selected, and these carry a bold multispoke design adapted from the Birdcage 75 concept car that Maserati displayed at the Geneva auto show. It's Italian Through and Through Driven in the Italian Alps, the new GranTurismo transports two passengers (or four) in utter comfort and luxury. To create the GranTurismo, Maserati engineers cut the platform of the Quattroporte sedan by about 5 inches, then trimmed the rear overhang by nearly 3 inches. The GranTurismo measures 192.2 inches overall on a 115.8-inch wheelbase, so the car is comparable in size to a BMW 6 Series, Jaguar XK and Mercedes-Benz CL500. The GranTurismo is Italian through and through, so there's a palpable sensuality to the interior that reveals itself in that warm Poltrona Frau leather (available in 10 colors), accented with a choice of either wood or body-color trim. In fact this car is a riot of colors, as there are 19 color options for the steering wheel, shift knob and dashboard. There's even a palette of optional colors for the brake rotors. The look is sustained by the sensual curvature of the handmade seats and door panels, the inviting tactility of the controls and (yes, we'll say it) even the fussiness of some electronic aids, like the less-than-intuitive navigation system. Maserati's trademark analog clock is present, and there's a nicely matched audio system. There's slightly more room in the GranTurismo 2+2's rear seat than its BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz competition (especially the Jag), and the space is nicely outfitted with armrests, climate control vents, storage pockets and even a pair of cupholders. As for practical attributes, front and side airbags are in place, as are curtain-type head-protection bags. A Maserati Means Business The Maserati GranTurismo's introduction at the Geneva auto show created high anticipation for the model. The new-generation 90-degree V8 is the same engine fitted to the latest Quattroporte with its new automatic transmission. When you awaken the DOHC 4.2-liter V8, a deep bass rumble from four big tailpipes underscores the realization that this new Maser means business. Maserati claims an output of 405 horsepower at 7,100 rpm, while peak torque amounts to 339 pound-feet of torque at 4,750 rpm, of which 75 percent is available at 2,500 rpm. Maybe 405 hp doesn't seem like enough in these heady days of 500-hp offerings from AMG and M-Sport, but it's more than adequate to launch the GranTurismo to 60 mph from a dead stop in just 5.1 seconds, and it'll carry this car to 177 mph if you dare. The six-speed automatic transmission adapts delightfully to your intentions. Drive aggressively and it downshifts with alacrity (even stopping fuel flow for a nanosecond to minimize shift shock) when you need to summon all the horses for a fast pass on an Alpine road. To change gears, you can use the nicely positioned paddles mounted on the steering wheel or just manipulate the console-mounted shift lever. There are four shift modes: Normal, the default driving setup; Sport, an aggressive mode where the shifts occur at 20 percent higher rpm than Normal; Manual, controlled by the paddles or the stick; and Ice, where 1st gear is never engaged and all gearchanges take place at no more than 3,000 rpm. Though this is the same automatic featured in the new Quattroporte sedan, it's been more aggressively calibrated for the GranTurismo. The transmission won't magically produce Honda-like fuel economy, though, as the GranTurismo is rated at 11 mpg in the city (worst in class). Italian Car, Italian Alps An active suspension helps combine resilient ride quality with the agility required for mountain passes. Along our Alpine test route, not far from Innsbruck, Austria, many of the blind corners and sneaky switchbacks might be considered tight for a car of this size, but they didn't faze our Modenese beauty. The powerful Brembo brakes with cross-drilled rotors and four-piston calipers controlled the 4,145-pound GT unfailingly. The steering was very precise on-center, with just enough effort to afford reassuring control. This coupe is also surprisingly quiet at high speeds, with minimal wind noise. With the windows down, the strega-like howl of the four-cam V8 was a delight. If lurid slides are your thing, the GT's traction-lock differential can be disconnected, and Maserati's engineers are particularly proud that the coupe's weight distribution is 49 percent front/51 percent rear. Special lightweight, aluminum-bodied gas-charged dampers linked to an active ride system are an option, though we didn't get to try it. As far as the conventional system goes, the Sport suspension setting is noticeably stiffer than Comfort mode, not uncomfortably so. Maserati is not trying to offer a hard-edged sports model; that's Ferrari's thing. The GranTurismo is exactly what its name implies: a fast, long-legged, comfortable Grand Tourer, with space for two, yet it's also able to carry two full-size adults in the rear. (Better make that "two skinny adults in the rear," because the seat bolsters are pronounced.) The trunk measures 9.1 cubic feet and it'll hold a pair of golf bags or five pieces of the optional Salvatore Ferragamo leather luggage. There's no spare tire. Operators Are Standing By The interior is warm and inviting in the Italian style; rear seat is more generous in size than the competition. The 2007 Maserati GranTurismo lists for $110,000; delivery, gas-guzzler tax and other charges should bring the bottom line to $114,640. Compared with a Bentley GT (and yes, it's that good), this is a bargain. Maserati expects to break even in 2007, and in fact just registered its first operating profit since Fiat bought the company in 1990. The cars are sold in 58 countries, and sales are predictably spiking in China, the Middle East and the Far East. Dealers in the U.S. are taking deposits for September delivery, but since Maserati S.p.A. already has 1,700 GranTurismo orders worldwide, cars will be just trickling into America through the fall. Once production has ramped up, yearly volume is expected to be 3,400 cars, with the U.S. market accounting for 44 percent of sales. If the Maserati GranTurismo were a woman, she would be Sophia Loren, that grand film actress of Italy's heyday during the 1950s, when the country was the worldwide center of art, culture and design. Like Sophia, the GranTurismo is zaftig in all the right places, mature, sensual and confident. And always a head-turner. First Impressions: Refined and with great road presence, the GranTurismo lives up to the traditions of the past and the technology of the future.