Harder Edged, but Not Stripped Down
Unless you’ve been living in an underground wine cellar in Modena for the past few weeks, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Maserati, once known for its success in Formula 1 and international sports car racing, has decided to expand its lineup with the Kubang SUV that debuted at the Frankfurt auto show. Once again, cries of blasphemy echo through the ranks of purists. Once again, the faithful, trident-bearing fans feel betrayed at the hands of the almighty dollar. And once again, enthusiasts call into question their faith in the automotive world.
Truth is, Maserati’s real focus has been on building relatively cushy road cars for more than 50 years now, and the storied marque continues to focus on bringing cars to market that cater to those passionate about driving. Case in point: the Maserati GranTurismo MC, an even more sporting version of the standard GranTurismo coupe. Now, before you get too excited, there’s no way we can tell you with a straight face that the MC (abbreviation of Maserati Corse, after the European racing series) is a dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core, stripped-down road racer. It’s not. But it is a more focused, more unique version of a car that continues to be the bread and butter of Maserati’s current lineup. It’s also the fastest, most powerful car in the current Maserati model range.
To build an MC, Maserati starts with a standard GranTurismo coupe and adds some functional cosmetic touches. Those front fenders are wider than the standard car, made from steel, and direct air through the integrated vent for cooling and aerodynamics. Air intakes are also found on the hood — another piece unique to the MC — and the front bumper has been redesigned with a prominent splitter in the name of more downforce. Side skirts help channel air past the car and blend in with the wider front fenders. Out back, a lip spoiler has been added to the rear deck and a new bumper cover rounds out the aero package. All told, downforce at 125 mph has increased by 50 percent rear and 25 percent front, according to Maserati engineers, but the drag coefficient remains the same as the standard car — a slippery 0.35.
Mechanically, the MC packs a few changes as well. Most pertinent is the engine, which remains a 4.7-liter V-8 but gets a power bump to 444 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, gains of 11 and 15 percent, respectively. Remarkably, the changes, including a special exhaust system and ECU tuning, actually increase the car’s fuel efficiency by 6 percent and lower emissions by 13 percent. Talk about having your cannoli and eating it too. The six-speed automatic transmission also gets revisions to drop shift time by 50 percent in auto sport mode, while holding gears to redline in manual mode. An MC launch control mode has also been added for would-be drag racers.
As you’d suspect, changes have also been made underneath the GT MC. As standard, the car gets a unique single-rate suspension tune (no heavy, superfluous adjustable stuff here) that sees spring rates increase by 8 percent and the front anti-roll bar diameter increased to 25 mm. Those looking for a softer ride can still specify the Skyhook adjustable air suspension, though we’d tough it out with the standard kit. Uniquely styled 20-inch wheels are available only on the MC, underneath which are the larger brakes from the GranTurismo S. The lightweight MC sports exhaust system and wheels combine to save 22 pounds over the standard equipment.
Put it all together, and the MC is quite a different animal on the road. Pin the throttle from a stop and the MC responds with a vicious bark from the exhaust that morphs into a high-pitched howl, and the newfound responsiveness raises it from the league of merely “sporty” GT cars. The suspension is obviously a little firmer ride than the familiar Skyhook gear, but it helps deliver a better sense of purpose and keeps the MC cornering flatter when the going gets twisty. True to claims, shifts in auto sport mode do seem snappier, though to be honest we kept the car in full manual mode the majority of our drive, exhaust valves fully open to get the best of the unearthly shriek coming from the twin tailpipes. We also appreciated the longer, MC-unique, Trofeo-design shift paddles, which are easier to find when the wheel is in any position but straight ahead.
Maserati knows its audience, so the seats are the standard comfortable units with special MC stitching — no single-piece carbon shells here — and even the rear seats remain intact. Carbon-fiber interior trim is everywhere and Alcantara covers the headliner. Yes, this is still a grand touring car in the finest sense, ready to eat up hundreds of miles of road at rapid pace, while delivering safety and comfort. But the MC is more focused, more encouraging of finding a few more mph on your favorite local B-road. And with those bulging front fenders and subtle carbon-fiber lip spoiler, it just looks sexier than the standard car.
The cost? $143,850, which includes destination fees (all $1800 of them) and quite a few standard extras by the way of trim. Matter of fact, Maserati says that a GT S optioned to the level of the MC would cost just over $3000 less than the MC, and the car still wouldn’t have the unique aero kit, wheels, or power bump.
So rest assured: Maserati isn’t all about family-haulers just yet. Like at Porsche, we couldn’t care less what Maserati needs to sell to pay the bills, as long as it continues to build cars like this.
|2012 Maserati GranTurismo MC|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||4.7L/444-hp/376-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3800 lb (est)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||194.2 x 75.4 x 52.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.8 sec|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||13/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||N/A|