As a life-long motor racing fan I have always had a soft spot for Maserati, one of the sport’s great names. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to check out some of the latest road models from this historic marque when the Maserati Roadshow visited the luxurious surroundings of Stapleford Park, near Melton Mowbray, in March. Whilst other manufacturers take their road-cars and develop them for sport, Maserati build their racing pedigree into all their models from the outset.
LEVANTE S GRANSPORT
First up was the Levante S GranSport, only recently launched in the UK. The Levante premiered at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, announcing the arrival of Maserati in the world’s largest luxury segment. It was a turning point that reaped huge rewards: from its launch until June 2017, 25,000 Levante cars were sold in 72 countries around the world, making it the highest-selling Maserati over that period.
Based on the evolution of the Ghibli/Quattroporte platform, the Levante chassis has been developed to offer unique on-road driving dynamics and competitive off-road capabilities, combined with supreme riding comfort and day-to-day practicality. The premium Italian SUV was conceived around three main pillars: design, exclusivity and performance, and the restyled model still represents the optimum blend of these three elements.
The 2,979cc 60° V6 twin-turbo direct injection petrol engine develops 430bhp, accelerating from 0 – 100 kph in a very impressive 5.2 seconds and with a top speed of 264 km/h (164 mph). The Levante has a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox and Q4 Intelligent all wheel drive with rear limited-slip differential, developed to deliver a typical Maserati rear-wheel drive experience, even in low-grip road conditions. It acts on demand by transferring traction to the front wheels with an immediate response.
In keeping with the race-bred tradition of Maserati, the Levante features double-wishbone suspension at the front, incorporating the latest technology for optimum control and precise handling. The suspension towers are integrated into the body structure of the car. The quadrilateral architecture guarantees precise and direct steering. A multi-link five-arm suspension is featured at the rear to provide exceptional comfort and performance.
The Sport mode highlights the car’s more dynamic character: the throttle pedal is more responsive, the engine mapping provides maximum over-boost throughout the range and the exhaust system opens completely, emanating a loud and deep guttural sound.
When the driver pushes the Sport button twice, the selected mode not only calibrates the engine and transmission, but also increases the suspension stiffness
The overall package is very stylish with its imposing grille inspired by the sensational Alfieri concept. The concave grille pays homage to historical Maserati models like the Tipo 60 Birdcage and has become a signature feature of all Maserati models since its adoption by the Levante.
Maserati has relaunched the Ghibli for 2018 with a subtle restyling to emphasize both its elegance and its sportiness – the pillars of its Maserati signature personality. Faithful to its DNA, the 2018 Ghibli range offers unmistakable class, top-quality performance and a stylish yet comfortable driving experience.
Since its debut in 2014, the Italian sports sedan has been delivered to more than 70,000 customers in 70 countries making it the best-selling Maserati in history.
The Ghibli shares its core architecture – chassis, suspension layout, V6 engines and eight-speed ZF automatic transmission – with the flagship Quattroporte, but is 293 mm shorter and 50 kg lighter.
The car’s perfect weight distribution, front double-wishbone/rear multi-link suspension and standard Limited-Slip Differential (LSD), guarantee the razor-sharp road handling for which genuine Maserati models are famed.
The top-range Ghibli S and S Q4 versions with the 2,979cc 60° V6 twin-turbo direct injection petrol engine develops 430 bhp and 580 Nm peak torque, 20 hp and 30 Nm more than in 2017. The increased power output gives the Maserati sports sedan a top speed of 286 km/h (177 mph) and better acceleration. The new Ghibli S accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds, while the Ghibli S Q4, with the Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system, reaches 100 km/h in only 4.7 seconds.
The Ghibli Diesel with its Euro 6-compliant 3.0-litre V6 engine produces 275 bhp, among the best in its class.
For me, the Pininfarina-designed GranTourismo MC is the ultimate expression of Maserati’s sporting pedigree, an out-and-out thoroughbred GT car.
The luxurious four-seater sports coupé was conceived as an ultra-modern interpretation of Maserati’s very first production grand tourer, the elegant Maserati A6 1500 of 1947. Over the years, the GranTurismo has evolved into one of the most iconic Maserati cars ever built, thanks to its uncompromised GT character.
This character is perfectly expressed by a uniquely compelling combination – bold yet elegant design; the exhilarating, inspirational performance of a naturally aspirated, Maranello-built V8 engine; and hand-crafted comfort offered by four individual, Poltrona Frau® seats.
The GranTurismo range has been streamlined for 2018 and two well-defined versions will be offered – Sport and MC. The 4.2-litre GranTurismo is now discontinued, while the Sport and MC share the same powertrain and interior personalization packages.
The MC (Maserati Corse) takes on an important ambassadorial role for the entire Maserati range, representing the company’s long and illustrious racing heritage. Replacing the previous MC Stradale, it offers a wide array of features already proven in other Maserati models.
The 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 unit is hand-assembled by Ferrari in Maranello, weighs only 175kg, features a wet sump and, exclusive to Maserati, a cross-plane crankshaft. This provides unrivalled throttle response, free-revving characteristics and a thrilling Maserati signature sound.
The engine develops 460 bhp at 7,000 rpm, a peak torque of 520 Nm at 4,750 rpm and the MC will reach 100 kph in 4.7 seconds with a top speed of 301 kph (187 mph).
The six-speed ZF Automatic gearbox (MC Auto Shift) has been conceived to match the extra performance of the V8 powerhouse. Engine power is fed to the rear wheels via an asymmetric limited slip differential – 25% in traction and 45% in release – with a final ratio of 3.54.
It can be operated in Auto-Normal, Auto-Sport, Manual-Normal, Manual-Sport and ICE modes. In the Manual modes, gearshifts are directly controlled via the steering column-mounted gearshift paddles and the car operates as a true manual, holding each gear until it receives driver input. In Manual-Normal, the driver can shift through to the red line, while, in Manual-Sport, the transmission will hold the gear until the driver initiates the change, even if that means the engine hits its rev limiter.
In Sport mode, the super-fast MC Auto Shift mode is also activated. This is capable of making gearshifts in just 100 milliseconds. This mode includes automatic blipping on the downshift, along with a Launch Control system, called the MC Start Strategy, which functions with the Maserati Stability Program (MSP) turned off.
I was fortunate to be accompanied by Jamie Unwin, Maserati’s tame racing driver who helped me to get the most from the GranTourismo experience. The GranTurismo is engineered for great ride comfort while also providing superb precision and handling through the hydraulic steering system with instant feedback and a direct connection between the road and the driver’s fingertips. This overall handling prowess is matched by formidable stopping power of Brembo’s dual-cast braking technology.
Many thanks to the Maserati Regional Roadshow team for this opportunity although, sadly, time ran out before I had the chance to drive the Quattroporte, I must say though, that the GranTourismo gives the most fun you could have away from the race circuit, a wonderful flagship for the current Maserati range.