Never Meet Your Heroes

Maserati launched the fabled Granturismo grand tourer coupé back in 2007, and the company has sold over 37.000 since then. A facelift was unveiled back in June, prolonging the car's lifespan by another few years.

The Granturismo has always been something of an enigma, with a fantastic V8 and a heavenly soundtrack to boot. 

But what's it actually like to drive? To find out, I jumped behind the wheel of a 2013 Maserati Granturismo Sport to put the Bologna Beauty to the test.

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Let's get some facts and specifications out of the way first. The Granturismo Sport was unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. It acted as a replacement for the Granturismo S, which had been released four years earlier. It had a new MC Stradale-inspired front fascia, new headlight, new seats and a new steering wheel.

Things also changed on a technical level, with the revised 4.7L F136 Y V8 now pumping out 460 horsepower. This made it the most powerful Granturismo at the time. The MC Stradale now shares that title, also kicking out 460 horses.

The six speed automatic gearbox supplied by ZF Friedrichshafen was offered as standard, with a six-speed sequential gearbox available as an option. This was also the gearbox that my particular Granturismo was equipped with.

The Sport version further developed and modernized the Granturismo, which was almost a decade old by this point.

The Sport version further developed and modernized the Granturismo, which was almost a decade old by this point.

Before we continue, I need to talk about the phrase 'never meet your heroes'. It's a sentence often used in reference to celebrities. But I believe it can also be very apt when talking about cars.

The Granturismo most certainly is one of my automotive heroes. And I met it.

So, was it any good? Or was I disappointed by one of my heroes?

I'm afraid there's no simple yes or no answer to that question. It's a lot more complicated.

On the one hand, the Granturismo S is a car oozing with style and elegance. Jason Castriota, the car's designer, has done a great job of making the car look timeless and classy, but powerful and agressive at the same time. Finding a middle ground between those two is not exactly easy, but Castriota has somehow pulled it off.

Visually, the Granturismo is near flawless.

Visually, the Granturismo is near flawless.

But, on the other hand, it's quintessentially Italian. And nowhere does that become more clear than in the interior. When you step into a German car, everything feels purposefully built. It feels like someone put more than five seconds of thought into it. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the Granturismo.

My biggest issue with the Granturismo's interior are the buttons on the center console. For a car from 2013, they look incredibly old. They look like they belong on a midsize sedan from the late 90's. But this is not a 1998 sedan. This is a 2013 grand tourer with a price tag well over €150.000.

But that's not all. The seats (in a grand tourer, may I remind you) are not all that comfortable. Yes, I'm fully aware of the fact that this is not a Rolls Royce with seats made out of six dead cows. But when you literally name your car 'Grand Tourer', you expect a certain caliber of comfort. Isn't a grand tourer designed to cover large distances in good comfort? I'm not entirely sure that's possible with these seats.

The interior seems to be the Granturismo's Achilles' Heel.

The interior seems to be the Granturismo's Achilles' Heel.

But one of my biggest grievances I personally had with the Granturismo's interior can be found behind the steering wheel.

As previously mentioned, the Granturismo I drove was fitted with a six-speed sequential gearbox. This means it had paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, like most modern performance cars.

However, I found the paddles to be rather large. That in itself is not really a problem. What is a problem though, is the fact that the indicator stalk, that rather important part with which you tell your fellow motorists where you plan on going, is located behind the large left shifter paddle. During my first few minutes in the Granturismo I nearly accidentally downshifted multiple times while looking to tell other people I was planning to turn right.

Big deal, right? It's something you get used to over time. Sure, it might be, but for the time I was behind the wheel, it irritated me, because other cars did it better. Hell, some of the other cars I've driven and reviewed did it better, because the paddles weren't so damn big. I just feel like it could have been in a far more convenient manner. That bugs me.

Speaking of the gearbox: that was another problem I had with the Granturismo. When you drive along in a normal way, the gearbox feels unsophisticated. It's slow and clunky. When it moved to a higher gear, I felt like the entire car was briefly pulled back as it selected the new gear, before sort of pushing forward again once the gear was engaged. And, once again, that's something that doesn't exactly benefit the comfort of the car.

So far I've been narking about the Granturismo quite a lot. Is it a complete fiasco of a car then? Was meeting this hero a complete letdown? A crushing disappointment?

No, it wasn't. Because the Granturismo has a trick up its sleeve: the Sport button.

Press that little button, and it instantly makes you forget every single flaw the Maserati has. The buttons look outdated? Couldn't care less. Uncomfortable seats? No problem. The indicator stalk is in an awkward spot? I have no idea what you are talking about.

The noise. My goodness, the noise. Much has been said and written about the noise that V8 produces. And I knew before the drive that it was a good noise. It's almost the stuff of legend.

But nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the attack on my senses that occurred when I first accelerated away from a traffic light in Sport mode. It's a deep, howling, soulful, almost emotional noise. I don't think I could ever get tired of the sounds that V8 bellows out. It is simply magnificent.

The Granturismo shines brightest in Sport mode.

The Granturismo shines brightest in Sport mode.

But as good as the Sport mode is, it doesn't solve the car's problems. Because the moment you turn it off you're back to being annoyed about seats, buttons and gear changes.

The Maserati Granturismo S is not a perfect car. Far from it. It has so many little flaws, so many little inconveniences. But something draws you to it. It has a soul, you can't help but love it. Like I said, it's quintessentially Italian. You know it'sall that good. But you still want it.

As Jeremy Clarkson once said:

Owning this car is like owning a two year-old child. It is really annoying for most of the time. But if anyone tries to take it away from you, you’d kill them.

Never meet your heroes? Not in this case.