Shopping for a new Maserati GranSport?
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by Hans Lehmann/Hidden Image (10/25/2004)
Don’t let the doors fool you.
There is often a fine line between perception and reality, and for the carmaker that can blend a bit of both, buyers are often willing to hand over a hefty premium.
That’s clearly a motivating factor behind the design of the new Maserati GranSport, the latest addition to the marque’s expanding line-up. The Italian automaker starts out with its eponymous Coupe then makes a variety of exterior and interior changes and a few subtle tweaks under the hood. The result is a $98,172 sports car that’s likely to appeal to those who want what almost nobody else has, whatever the price tag. The question is whether the new car is more than just a high-priced poseur.
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Those familiar with the basic Maserati Coupe will recognize the GranSport immediately. The most notable exterior changes are focused on improving aerodynamics, including a larger mesh grille meant to improve engine breathing, a revised front spoiler, and a small lip spoiler in the rear. A new front bumper gives the car a more aggressive looking snout, but also improves downforce. So do the oversized rocker panels that are the most distinctive differentiators with the new Gran Sport.
2006 Maserati GranSportEnlarge Photo
As noted, the car gets larger, 19-inch tires, the larger wheels sharing their look with the even more limited-edition Trofeo.
“Every piece that’s been changed on the car has been changed for a functional purpose,” pointed out Frank Stephenson, chief designer for both Maserati and its parent, Ferrari, during a walkaround of the new car.
Slip inside and you’ll find a cockpit clearly influenced by the world of Italian fashion, starting with the distinctive BrighTex covering, which replaces the standard Coupe’s wood and plastic. Along with the carbon fiber finish that is the other dominant interior material, this mesh-over-mesh BrighTex fabric enhances the car’s sporty look and feel. A number of key controls also have been relocated to improve ergonomics, and the GranSport gets a glove-firm set of sport seats. Alloy pedals complete the package.
Under the hood, Maserati has made a series of subtle refinements, including an improved intake manifold, tightened engine tolerances, and a new exhaust system with a bypass valve that kicks in at 5000 rpm.
In contrast to the Coupe, the new car is offered only with the Cambiocorsa. But this electronically shifted manual transmission has been reprogrammed for significantly faster shifts. The actual gear changes now occur in 0.18 seconds. Complete shifts take as little as 0.4 seconds from the time you press one of the paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
Those looking for a big bump in the numbers may be in for a disappointment and question whether all this is more image than anything else. The GranSport is rated at an even 400 horsepower, a modest ten more than the Coupe. Off the line, the GranSport takes 4.85 seconds to launch from 0-100 km/h (0-62.5 mph), a meager 0.05 seconds faster than its humble sibling. Top speed nudges up 2.5 mph, to 180 miles per hour.
2006 Maserati GranSportEnlarge Photo
On the street, there are some subtle differences that distinguish GranSport from Coupe. The basic two-door is itself nimble and confidence inspiring. Steering is crisp and handling precise. When we first drove the car, two years ago, we found the Cambicorsa to be the weak link, a bit erratic and often jarring.
The changes to the GranSport transmission seem to have overcome most of our concerns, at least when it comes to irregular shifts. With the accelerator wide open, shifts will snap your back as hard as a visit to the chiropractor, but during less aggressive maneuvers, the Cambiocorsa proved surprisingly smooth. As to handling, the GranSport seems just a bit better planted on the road than the Coupe, taking corners with surprising dexterity.
On the track, the GranSport does even bit better at differentiating itself. The car is more stable on the straights and hunkers down better in the corners. Cautiously comparing Maserati’s own numbers, we found their best driver regularly slicing two seconds off his lap times with the GranSport, the sort of advantage a racer would kill for.
But is the GranSport worth the extra $15,000 if you’re just driving it on the street?
There is, of course, the issue of exclusivity, something that plays heavily on the minds of most Maserati buyers in the first place. The GranSport is truly exclusive among the elite, the Italian automaker intending to produce just 1000 during a planned, two-year run. To completely personalize each car, Maserati will provide a variety of options, including a black mesh grille, different wheels, and yellow brake calipers.
The reality of the GranSport is that there are only the most subtle differences from the basic Maserati Coupe — except when it comes to the price tag. But for those influenced by perceptions, there’s enough reason to spend the extra money to get a car that’s a true rarity.
Base Price: Estimated $98,172
Engine: 4.2 liter V-8, 400 hp
Transmission: Cambiocorsa electronically shifted six-speed manual, F1-style paddle shifters, rear-wheel drive
Length by width by height: 178.0 x 71.7 x 50.7 in
Curb Weight:3696 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): n/a
Safety Features: Front and side airbags, pre-tensioning seat belts, inertia fuel cut-off switch
Major Standard Features: Driver and passenger power seats with memory, electronic alarm with anti-tow protection, cruise control, CD player, trip computer
Warranty: Four years/ 50,000 miles