Taking the reins of this Rorty Stallion
Published on 13 Mar 2022
I happened to chance upon a list of the top five things one needs to do in the world before one dies (there are many such varying lists) and I was fascinated to note that I have managed three already and a fourth was in the pipeline, alas to be rudely interrupted by the Covid imposed travel bans. One was a stay at the historic Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong with its complimentary airport pickup in a signature green painted custom made Rolls Royce from its fleet of 14 Phantoms. The second was a flight in the now defunct supersonic jet, Concorde in which I traversed the pond between London and New York in just under three hours and the third was to explore the Grand Canyon in the USA. The fourth in the pipeline was a visit to China and to walk the Great Wall, but sigh Covid.
Which brings me to the point that if one were to compile a similar list for petrol heads, a drive in a Maserati GT would be at the top of the list for me. Ever since I saw a Rosso Trianfole (metallic red in common parlance) GT in a Los Angeles car park shimmering in the scorching sun, I was star-struck and always wanted to own or at least drive one, if only… and wasn’t my dream fulfilled when I was offered the key to the only Maserati GT Sport in the country, on a lazy Sunday morning, with the added proviso, keep it for two days as Monday was a holiday too and empty roads beckoned.
The red GT in sport guise was as stunning in the sun as I had remembered and the voluptuous lines brought back a flood of memories. The Sport is distinguished from its lesser sibling by a matte black prison bar grille instead of chrome, and adorned n the centre by Bolongas fountain of Neptune inspired chrome Maserati signature trident on a blue background. The Sport also goes without the fog lights and the rear gets two flattened oval tailpipes. However this car had undergone some cosmetic surgery and was fitted with the motorsport style vented and louvered bonnet with mesh inserts and an exhaust system sporting quad oval chrome tail pipes. The 20 inch Neptune design alloys were rubbered with Pirelli P Zeros.
That bit of trivia aside, I deep-dove into the leather slathered interior and felt immediately comfortable. It was not an intimidating interior with all kinds of high-tech gadgetry etc. and was devoid of too many buttons and controls and was like any old school grand tourer would look. So much so, some might even be disappointed that the interior does not look more like some of its rivals from Germany and England. However I like old school, because I don’t need to go through reams of paper in an owner’s manual or touchscreen to learn how to master the rituals, of using the air con controls, opening the doors and starting the car etc... I guess, Maserati believes in the maxim, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” as this model has had a very long life cycle and has been around since 2007 with the same body shape and engine to date, barring some minor cosmetic mods to the interior and exterior.
With that simplicity and level of familiarity I adjust the electric seat, insert the key and twist, yes you read it right key and twist, no keyless mumbo jumbo, and the glorious Ferrari designed and built V8 engine roars to life. I really mean roars and even at idle the neighbourhood kitchenware and window glasses reverberate. It’s a bassy engine with some very low decibels, blip the throttle and all hell breaks loose with those 454 horses under bonnet screaming to be released. It’s a naturally aspirated engine and hence the sound is pure and there are no soft limiters to restrict revving. It’s a sound to die for and when this orchestra plays for sure it will be a sell out on tickets. The engine is coupled to a six speed ZF gear box with paddles and comes with three drive modes, auto normal, auto sport, and auto ice.
I slide the gear lever to drive in auto normal and drive away with a very raspy burble. One thing that strikes me is how comfortable this car is for one with a sports pedigree. Just the last couple of days I had been behind the wheel of my Porsche Panamera and I thought that was unique and comfortable for a sports car, but I think this edges it on the comfort stakes. Even with all the windows up, the exhaust sound is unmistakable, and that sound dominates and dictates how you drive, because my single minded pursuit for a while was to elicit the burbles, the rumbles and pops and bangs on the rev equalization on down shifts etc. Having got over that initial kid in the candy shop syndrome, I took her for a longer drive to stretch her voluptuous legs. In normal mode the sprint to 100 km/h is despatched in a mere 4.7 seconds, and it is reached on the peak of the change over from second to third gear in the six speed box. The car just sings to 180km/h in a blink and one can make very rapid overtaking manoeuvres very safely in the knowledge of the reserves of power underfoot. Even under very fierce acceleration there is no drama, no tail wag etc. and the acceleration is very linear, probably because the torque kicks in rather high in the rev range.
After a few familiarization runs I got onto sport mode and immediately one can feel the “panther crouching for the hunt effect” and everything firms and hardens up to go for the prey. In this mode when you do punch the pedal the car just surges ahead and the gear changes are so fierce that you feel as if Ronda Rousey kick boxed your chest and there is a slight thud and it is repetitive all the way through. The suspension too is very firm and precise in contrast to the slight wallow you feel on normal mode at high speeds. The car corners like a Maserati should and the huge Brembo stoppers - 6 pot in front and 4 pot at the rear - do the job in exemplary fashion. The red painted callipers look the part too.
The rather dated hydraulic steering is fabulous and has great feedback and one is left wondering what these advancements to electric steering etc. have achieved as opposed to the good old hydraulics, especially when they can be made to feel so good.
It is as good as any grand tourer could get. The leather clad front seats are supportive and comfortable and with a good range of electric adjustment and says “big or small we support them all”. The rear seat leg space is very good for a car in this category as I was able to settle in comfortably with an inch to spare in the rear, with the front adjusted for my driving position, which is something you can’t say for even some regular executive cars. The head room is a squeeze if you sit upright, but with a slight comfort slouch even your worst enemy wouldn’t complain. Ingress to the rear is pretty easy as you just need to press a button and tilt and the electric seat does the rest, to provide you a large aperture for entry.
Maserati has ensured that Pavrotti would be in sync with the exhaust symphony by providing a high powered Bose boom box with a multitude of speakers and a sub-woofer, and the current owner has upgraded the rather dated button and dial operated screen with an android touch screen which has integrated the audio and air con adjustments as well, and now the car is on a par with the 2019 editions which have the large touch screen.
The steering is a carbon fibre, alcantara combo affair with the Italian colours at the twelve O clock position and is very tactile.
The rear boot space is adequate and can accommodate four persons’ worth of luggage if you opt for soft bags, or the bespoke Maserati soft luggage. The boot also has a power socket for an ice box etc.
Cup holders abound and there are two in front, two in the center console and two more for the rear seat occupants, so Maserati designed the car ground up for four passengers, it seems.
The Not As Good
As with any sensible review, one needs to look at some downsides and nitpick a bit to make the review unbiased. As I said earlier despite advancements by its competitors the interior has not kept pace with its rivals, but in mitigation the owner has invested in some touch sensitive gadgetry to upgrade the functionality.
This car is equipped with the expensive carbon fibre pack for the console and other trim bits and the steering, but sad to say I am a bit disappointed with its lack of lustre, especially in comparison to other offerings in the market. Probably I have spoilt my eyes by looking at other benchmarks or the car may have had extended exposure to sunlight. Either way it could be brought back to life by a good valet treatment, I guess.
Again the flip type blade key fob popular with Koreans is a definite no-no for car priced circa US$ 150,000 at launch, especially when the rivals made the design of the key fob an art form. Ditto with the gear lever too, but again I guess these are easy fixes now with aftermarket addenda.
The front is very low and hence one needs to exercise extreme caution going over speed humps and Irish channels. To be a really versatile grand tourer, Maserati could have emulated Porsche and some other brands by fitting adaptive damper control where one could lift the car on demand, at the press of a button. Just my rather extreme view guys. That would have really been a great testament to the Maserati tagline of “excellence through passion”.
The seat belt access requires the skills of a contortionist as it is anchored on the B pillar which is about a foot aft of the seat, a courtesy hand me over function would have alleviated this issue. This was a feature available on most Mercs and Beemers of the era, even pre 2007. It would have been a minor irrelevance in a lesser car, but for the top of the line Maserati grand tourer priced closed to the stratosphere, it is an unpardonable omission.
I hope Maserati is not on a no smoking crusade as the car discourages smokers with possibly the worlds tiniest in car ashtray in front, which can just about accommodate one stub, maybe it’s not against smoking, but just chain smoking.
At a time when there is a drought of any new metal, a car such as this, with this level of exclusivity to be accessible to our motoring fraternity is indeed a great pride, and Kudos to well-known motor enthusiast, consultant and Mr JLR - Sheran Fernando for being the privileged owner of this piece of exclusive exotica. A big thank you to him for generously offering his pride and joy, to our custody with a wave and a flourish, and a do what you please attitude.
Unfortunately we can’t place a price on this car as the market is so warped and the exchange rates are like jelly beans, so one can only assume that that it must be nudging the realms of a telephone number in terms of rupees. The ban may continue for a couple of years maybe and for sure one could only drool when one sees this car on the road, and blessed are those who get to savour the delights behind the wheel.