Maserati's 'best' is a true work of moving art

Ed Joyce

Can a car be a work of art? Many think so, including fashion designer Ralph Lauren, who was quoted as saying, 'I've always seen cars as art; moving art'. Seven of his collection of classic automobiles were exhibited at Boston's Museum of Fine Art. One definition of art is that it is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.

If that is the case, then the Maserati GranTurismo S Automatic must be considered as a piece of moving art. Combining the sensual with the aggressive, the Pininfarina-designed GranTurismo S is beautiful from any angle, its design echoing the Maserati 200SI of the mid-50s.

From the drama and tension of the exterior, stepping into the driver's seat is not a disappointment, for the interior is stunning. A sea of textured Italian leather, unlacquered so as to age gracefully, upholsters the cabin. Flashes of textured aluminium provide contrast, and the roof is lined with Alcantara. The materials and colours of the interior can be personalised to individual taste via Maserati's online Car Configurator or a factory visit for its Atelier personal service.

The four individual seats, with the Maserati trident emblem embossed on the headrests, are exceptionally comfortable, and there is more room in the back seats than in many coupes. Access to the rear seats is improved by the car's easy entry system, but getting into the rear seats of any two-door coupe is always a tough task. An eight-way electrically adjustable driver's seat, four-way adjustable steering column and well-arranged pedals make it easy to find the perfect driving position, and all controls are well thought out.

Audio comes in the form of an 11-speaker advanced Bose Surround Sound system tailored specifically for the car's interior.

The 4.7-litre V8 engine that powers the GranTurismo S, the same engine that can be found in the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, produces 440 PS (434 bhp), some 40 more than the non-S 4.2-litre GranTurismo. Torque also receives a useful boost over that of the 4.2-litre, from 460 Nm to 490 Nm. This results in a 0 to 100km/h time of just under five seconds and a top speed of 295km/h, the fastest speed of any road-going Maserati. But the GranTurismo S is not designed to be a sports car, for it is a grand tourer in the traditional sense of the term, designed to cover long distances with ease and comfort. At 1,880kg, it is a heavy car and the sensation of almost leisurely acceleration seems to contradict the performance figures, but a glance at the speedometer showed the S was going much faster that it felt.

The ZF six-speed automatic gearbox changes smoothly right up to the 7,200 rpm red line.

In normal mode, there is a muted growl from the V8. However, pressing the sport button not only stiffens the chassis and speeds gear changes by 40 per cent, it also opens special bypass valves in the exhaust system to add power and change the engine sound to a sonorous snarl. It is a wonderful noise, as head-turning as the look of the car. Standard on the GranTurismo S is the Skyhook suspension system, consisting of six electronic sensors that analyse the driver's style and the road surface to provide the optimum ride. Skyhook also integrates with the automatic gearbox software to minimise any body movement from changing gears. With near-perfect weight distribution, and antisquat and antidive geometry calibrated into the all-independent suspension, the ride is firm but well-damped, and the roadholding is excellent. The brakes, developed in tandem with Brembo, are meaty and progressive, well up to the task of stopping this near two-tonne GT from high speed.

The HK$1,688,000 GranTurismo S Automatic must surely be Maserati's best offering in a long time.

It has a body to die for, a sensational Ferrari-derived engine, a sumptuous interior, great driving dynamics and an ability to cover long distances effortlessly. It is a head-turner like no other car I've driven.