How refreshing it was to take the wheel of a car that brought the memories of yesteryear flooding back, no hybrid, no electric power, but sheer drive enjoyment aided by a Ferrari engine under the bonnet.
The car in question is the Maserati GranTurismo, which has had a few tweaks for this year, but still it retains the magic that is Maserati. With design by Pininfarina, there is now more exterior aerodynamic styling and a touch of the modern, intuitive new driver interface and infotainment system and as it should be- is built in Modena. Two versions are available, Sport and MC, I drove the latter over home roads, and this time round the event was based in County Down with HQ at the new Titanic Hotel in Belfast.
Oh yes, performance is a key factor with the GT, but so also, is luxury. It was conceived as an ultra-modern interpretation of the Maseratis first production grand tourer, the elegant A6 1500 of 1947. Over the years, the GT has evolved into one of the most iconic Maserati cars ever built, thanks to its uncompromised character.
This is perfectly expressed by a uniquely compelling combination, bold yet elegant design; the exhilarating, inspirational performance of a naturally aspirated V8 engine and hand-crafted comfort offered by four individual, Poltrona Frau seats. In essence, the GT is the ultimate expression of what grand touring means to Maserati. The GranTurismo, together with its GranCabrio sibling, is assembled at the historic Maserati plant of Ciro Menotti in Modena, following the highest manufacturing and quality control standards in the world. More than 37,000 GranTurismo and GranCabrio models have been sold globally since 2007.
Maserati had brought a selection of their range to my home patch and with 470bhp at the command of my right foot, I was delighted to leave the hustle and bustle of Belfast as I pointed the sleek Maserati in the direction of the Ards Peninsula. Enroute, I managed a few miles of the old Ards TT circuit where in a bygone age, Maseratis had raced over the famous road circuit. I also drove the original hillclimb course at Craigantlet. My route took me lough side to Portaferry with the return along the coast and past the most easterly point of our island. I was surprised to learn that the car was equipped with not an eight speed gearbox, but a six speed ZF which worked in harmony with the Ferrari engine- and what a glorious sound!
The MC just edges out the Sport in performance terms, rest to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds and a possible top speed of 301km/h; a car that has to be handled with a helping of respect. The central splitter is the element that most clearly distinguishes the two models and the MC boasts an even more pronounced design, giving greater emphasis to the motor racing pedigree. The new front bumper and redesigned air splitter, meanwhile, reduce dynamic drag from 0.33 to 0.32. The track-focused MC is equipped with a carbon-fibre bonnet in the body colour as standard. The bonnet also features down force-optimizing air-vents. Additionally, there are iconic vertical air vents in the front wings, deep functional side skirts, titanium brake calipers and forged wheels, now ten percent stronger and lighter. A pronounced rear lip spoiler is another dynamic highlight. Thankfully I did not have to call on the brakes in an emergency, however I’m confident that they could bring the MC safely to rest. The interior is far from being bland with the already noted infotainment system and both models also now feature the high-end Harman Kardon Premium Sound system as standard. I have to be honest though, the only sound I wanted to tune in to was the rasp of the glorious Ferrari engine! Alas, the opportunity to drive such rarely comes my way, but when it does it is really special. I confess I have never driven a Ferrari on the road, have done tyre testing, so you can appreciate when the opportunity to drive a Maserati with a Ferrari power plant is offered I do not even have to think about it. For 2018 there are eight interior colours and five interior trim options, from Carbon Fibre to Black Piano and Walnut Briarwood, available on both versions.