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Car of the Year 2006: Maserati GranSport

Robert Ross

The GranSport is a refinement of Maserati’s Coupé Cambiocorsa, with extra power, tighter suspension, aggressive but tasteful bodywork, and interior options that set this sports GT apart from every other car in its class. Former design chief Frank Stephenson’s muscular update of Italdesign-Giugiaro’s original form appears handsome and purposeful—as opposed to Aston Martin pretty—and resonated with most of our drivers. “I’d take this over the Aston Martin,” said winemaker Doug Shafer. “The Maserati is like a classic Cabernet . . . understated, with a presence and power.”

The GranSport’s considerable power derives from a delicious, high-revving V-8 that may as well have a prancing horse on its intake plenum. The engine is manufactured in the same facility as that of the Ferrari F430, and the two powerplants share the same basic architecture. Luke Thornton addressed this equine DNA by calling the GranSport the ideal car “for whoever wants a Ferrari that isn’t a Ferrari.” Indeed, the sound throughout the rev range is worth the price of admission—especially when the car is in Sport mode, when freer-flowing exhaust and quicker shift mapping add layers to the motor’s music. One would not be insane to buy this vehicle for the exhaust note alone.
 
Largely because of its F/1-derived Cambiocorsa gearbox, the GranSport elicited a wider variety of responses than any other car at our event. The unit was a revelation to some but left others wondering whether a garden-variety manual would not be a better solution. “So close to perfect,” said Todd Thomson, “but the transmission is useless.” Herb Harris’ more gracious assessment offered similar sentiments: “I like everything about this car, but the F/1 box needs a little work.” Others found it flexible and lightning-fast, although most agreed that the car’s full-automatic mode is best forgotten in favor of the paddles. Experience tells us that a few days behind the wheel learning to extract the most from the Cambiocorsa—probably the best electronic gearbox on the market—will make believers out of most skeptics.


The GranSport features an honest-to-goodness backseat that accommodates two normal-size, two-legged passengers—an anomaly for a car in its class. In fact, apart from the Ferrari 612, this may be the only GT in which four adults can travel in comfort, which places it high on the daily-driver list. Unlike the useless rear shelves that allow Bentley’s Continental GT, Aston Martin’s DB9, and Porsche’s Carrera to claim four-passenger status, the Maserati’s seating offers genuine “room for four in a true sports car,” according to Ron Mittelstaedt.

Comparisons between the Maserati GranSport and Aston Martin V8 Vantage are inevitable, but, as is the case with the Corvette and the Viper, they are very different cars. Although it costs roughly the same and shares the GranSport’s basic specifications, the Vantage will be produced in far greater numbers. Furthermore, Maserati’s Officine Alfieri personalization program allows clients to configure a one-of-a-kind, bespoke automobile, with color-to-sample paint and interiors that rival Versace in style. The Maserati also will appeal more to the performance-oriented driver who wants a less flashy exterior, a superior fit and finish, and a race-derived drivetrain. Steven Taback—a three-Mercedes household of one—exclaimed after his outing in the GranSport that it is a “beautiful ride in every way. It’s going to be hard to beat.” 
 
Some of us agreed: William Curtis, CEO of Robb Report parent company CurtCo Media and a committed convertible fan, purchased a Maserati Anniversary Spyder on the spot after driving the GranSport, and months ago, I eschewed my Porsche Carrera habit in favor of an Alfieri-personalized GranSport. 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE 4.2-liter V-8
POWER 395 hp at 7,000 rpm
TORQUE 333 ft lbs at 4,500 rpm
ZERO-TO-60 4.8 seconds
TOP SPEED 180 mph
TRANSMISSION 6-speed Cambiocorsa electronic manual with automatic mode
WHEELBASE 104.7 inches
CURB WEIGHT 3,704 pounds
BASE PRICE $98,500

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