Anyone looking for something semi-exotic, with a continental flair that a blazing-fast Corvette ZR1 can't deliver, should aim their substantial bank accounts directly at the 2012 Maserati GranTurismo.
Whether a base coupe, base or Sport convertible, or a race-ready MC, the GranTurismo's a gentleman's GT, with the eminently livable ride and ergonomics of a luxury car, and straight-line acceleration and handling that come very close to true exotic territory.
Styled by the Pininfarina design house, the GranTurismo exudes Italian flair in equal doses to the sheetmetal and the cabin. The low-slung nose, widely flared hips and big trident logo are rolling sensuality. The cabin's a plushly lined, finely detailed place to work, and Maserati gives choices for wood finishes, leather colors, even top colors on Convertible editions.
For the 2012 model year, Maserati's left the smaller-displacement 4.2-liter V-8 on the shelf. All GranTurismos now carry the 4.7-liter V-8, with base coupes and convertibles achieving an output of 433 horsepower, while Sport convertibles and the racing-minded MC coupe pushing output to 444 horsepower. The sonorous V-8's a thrilling match for the ZF six-speed automatic: there's no manual transmission option, but the transmission's a quick shifter, especially when Sport mode's specified. There's even an active exhaust system available to amp up the GranTurismo's classy soundtrack, but we're not convinced it makes the sounds more sexy. With either powertrain, 0-60 mph times are bracketed around the 5.0-second mark, and top speed reaches as high as 185 mph.
Maserati's Skyhook air suspension and nicely tuned steering seem to shave off big chunks of the GranTurismo's hefty curb weight. MC coupes swap out the Skyhook suspension for a single-rate setup, but it can be re-installed as an option. The steering's quick with just a touch of vagueness that comes with the longish wheelbase, and the suspension's adjustable "normal" and "sport" modes strike the perfect balance for a car of its size and intent. Big Brembo brakes seize the day--and look fabulous painted red, yellow, or whatever color you like.
Performance isn't quite in the Ferrari category, but the GranTurismo beats its Italian cousins handily in comfort and luxury. It's an intimate cabin but adults can actually ride in the back seat without too much chiropractic harm. The trunk's fairly small, but Maserati's custom-fitted luggage should take the sting off the slight inconvenience.
The finest features, aside from custom trim options (even red-stitched trident logos for the headrests), include a touchscreen navigation system, standard Bluetooth, and on convertibles, a thick power-operated convertible top with a glass rear window.
The distinctive Maserati panache has a narrower appeal than some cars in its price bracket, but at about $125,000 and up, the GranTurismo is an emotionally charged alternative to a cool-touch 6-Series, SL or even a 911.
For more on performance, styling, safety, features and utility, check out The Car Connection's full review of the 2012 Maserati GranTurismo lineup.