2012 Maserati GranTurismo Performance

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Performance

The GranTurismo's a raucous-sounding, fluid-handling machine, and this year Maserati's done away with the base engine so all drivers get the benefit of more displacement and more horsepower.

All Maserati GranTurismo coupes and convertibles now come with the 4.7-liter engine, with either 433 horsepower on tap in base coupes and convertibles, or 444 horsepower and 376 pound-feet of torque in the Convertible Sport or MC coupe. In either form it's a thrill-packed ride up the powerband. The Ferrari-sourced powerplant barks out beautiful music when pushed up near its redline, pounding out bucketfuls of useful torque on the way. A sport exhaust system on MC coupes and Sport convertibles amps up the soundtrack, something Maserati says owners were keen on, but we're mixed on its effects: in some driving modes, it's open all the time, and the booming accompaniment to the usual melodic noises isn't always a good thing.

The 2012 Maserati GranTurismo lineup has the perfect blend of sportscar responses and luxury-car refinement--not to mention that wicked V-8 burble.

The V-8's always teamed to a six-speed ZF automatic that gets sport controls of its own, on MC and Sport models. It's a quick, decisive gearbox that's light-years ahead of the automated manual it replaced. With available shift paddles, it snaps off gearchanges more quickly than most automatics we know, and in sport mode it blips the throttle to match revs before downshifts and holds gears at redline--a great way of accommodating those who really wanted a traditional manual transmission but don't get one at all on the GranTurismo.

From one stock drivetrain come varied performance figures. Maserati claims the base S coupe takes 4.8 seconds to accelerate to 60 mph, and reaches a top speed of 183 mph, while the base convertible takes 5.3 seconds and reaches 176 mph. The S convertible shaves a tenth of a second off the 60-mph times. MC coupes reach 60 mph in 4.8 seconds but hit a top speed of 185 mph, a psychological win of 300 km/h in the metric system.

The Ferrari-inspired soundtrack and performance will lure you, and the GranTurismo's beautifully sorted-out handling will woo you to the Italian school of grand touring. It's nimble--no, you don't need "for its size" here--aided by quick steering and a near-ideal weight balance, front to rear. Amateurs can feel out the car's limits without too much worry, and the GranTurismo's compliant enough to absorb some bad driving and still make it look good. The ground-hugging weight of almost 4,400 pounds helps here, but so does the automatic Skyhook suspension, which has choices for normal or Sport reflexes, both of them being well inside the luxury-car limits of comfort. There's little uncontrolled body motion in the GranTurismo, and Sport mode firms up the ride even further, while it sharpens throttle response. Big Brembo brakes have excellent feel that will remind you of some more exotic machines.

The GranTurismo MC has an asterisk here for its standard single-rate suspension. Skyhook's still an option, but the MC comes from the factory ready for competition, with standard springs and shocks, the sport transmission, a limited-slip differential, sport-tweaked stability control, and Pirelli PZero Corsa tires, 245/35-ZR20 fronts and 285/35-ZR20 rears. Collectors and racers will love its absolutely flat cornering and the carbon-fiber trim, but everyone else will be better suited in a Skyhook-equipped car with all the opulent wood trimming.

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