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B Driven

Grand Scheme

Cremona, Italy. When we first drove the Maserati GranTurismo, we were taken in by its voluptuous lines and luxurious accommodations, but we were a bit underwhelmed by the power and refinement underfoot. So we were particularly eager to drive this new S (sport) version, and we were pleased to find it provides us with a lot of the features and attributes for which we’ve been clamoring.

It is particularly true in the case of the Maserati GranTurismo S that nothing helps like more power and torque. The base model uses the aging 4.2-liter V-8 engine engineered and is produced in Maranello by Ferrari, creating 400 horsepower at 7,100 rpm and 339 pound-feet of torque. With the surprisingly large and hefty 4,145 pound GranTurismo, that translates to a somewhat leisurely 5.1 seconds for acceleration to 60 miles per hour.

However, for the GranTurismo S, Maserati employs the same 4.7-liter V-8 used in the achingly beautiful Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione—here, good for 433 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque. That’s little less power and a little more torque than in the Alfa. Curb weight of the GT S is quoted at the same 4,145 pounds as the base GranTurismo, while the Alfa 8C makes use of more lightweight materials, checking in at just 3,495 pounds. So, for all the assumed benefits of adding 447 cubic centimeters of engine displacement, the performance improvements might seem slight, because, well, they are. Acceleration for the Maserati Gran- Turismo S to 60 mph can happen now in 4.8 seconds, and top speed rises 6 mph to 183 mph. While not class-leading pace, there is plenty of exploitable power available at all speeds.

The three most important items that this higher-performance model needs to address are the base GT’s loosey-goosey standard suspension, it proves somewhat vague steering at higher speeds on imperfect surfaces, and the limp power delivery down low in the revs where we need it most.

Maserati says that it has calibrated a GT S-specific version of its 2- mode electronically monitored Skyhook suspension for America, but we were only able to drive European-spec models with the standard suspension at the launch on Cremona’s lilting roads. If indeed the fresh default steel suspension on our cars represents the equivalent of the Sport setting of the new Skyhook aluminum system, buyers will be happy when they’re in the mood to get racy. New dampers and springs that are 10 percent stiffer and a larger rear torsion bar helps to keep the horizon more horizontal in hard maneuvers. We were initially doubtful that this simple solution would make the S feel sporty enough, but we enjoyed the amount of rigidity in the new setup. Additionally, the coupe’s big, beautiful 20-inch wheels help translate the more buttoned-up suspension into better steering feel at elevated speeds. Despite all of this hardening at the heart of the GT S, ground clearance remains the same, though the new, handsome side skirts make the coupe appear to sit lower.

The throttle-exhaust connection is one of the best features on the S, reminding us of any Aston Martin above 4,000 rpm. Press the Sport button near your right hand on the center dash and twin exhaust valves open up, creating a straighter path to the quad exhaust tips. Hearing the opening action of the valves, too, is a nice mechanical touch for the ears. In this setting, we actually sat still in neutral and played tunes with the gas pedal. It’s really a brilliant sound, and you can go stealth through crankier neighborhoods just by deactivating the Sport mode, thereby shutting the valves.

Almost as if by magic, Maserati has made the 6-speed gearbox seem like a civilized transmission that’s just right for the car in which it sits. No other implementation of this particular gearbox in the car world has appealed to us, particularly as it has been used in the standard GranTurismo or in Aston Martin V8 Vantages up until recently. Luckily, the latest round of software programming does wonders, and this resuscitated transmission works even better here than the same unit in the Alfa 8C.

Still, at lower revs tooling around town, there are occasional moments of driveline shudder. In mid-range revs up to 5,500, however, the shifts are just fine and feel normal for an S car. It’s also worth noting that the gigantic motor sports style shift paddles on the steering column are among the best we’ve ever used, as it is easy to drive the car on a demanding winding road and still find the paddles without hunting around for a too-small button or lever.

Inside, the dashboard is as gorgeous as ever, with jewel-like blue gauges and a prominent center stack that houses the stereo, satellite navigation, as well as heating and air-conditioning controls. It’s worth noting that for a sport model of a car of this caliber, the seating is not supportive enough in the side bolsters for hard driving. If they were covered in Naugahyde, we would be squeaking and scrunching throughout an enthusiastic steer. Still, the chairs are beautifully assembled and comfortable for cruising, with top-quality leather, immaculate stitching, and a range of adjustments that will happily accommodate drivers well over 6’ feet tall. The style-conscious will also appreciate that the interior is available in a seemingly infinite number of color and material combinations, from the subdued to the wild. Having said all of that, the standard satellite-navigation unit feels distinctly old-tech and isn’t as intuitive to operate than the systems in most less-exclusive vehicles.

So, what is the asking price for this gorgeous, throaty Italian? From the $114,650 for a delivered base-model GranTurismo, the GranTurismo S bumps up to $149,420. That’s a 30 percent hike over the equally gorgeous GranTurismo, but given the crippled U.S. dollar and the marked improvements in the GT S, we would say it’s the going rate if you have to have one. Just 1,500 copies are slated for production globally, so if the Maserati GranTurismo S sounds like your dream car, get on the phone now and call Park Place Maserati in Dallas or Maserati of San Antonio. For more expert road tests, visit nextautos.com/automakers.

By Matt Davis