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Published 20 September 2012 03:34, Updated 01 October 2012 11:58
Leonardo DaVinci believed art and science must walk hand in hand.
If he were still alive today, he certainly would have something to say about car design.
Give engineers free rein and you end up with the Nissan Micra. If you let artists loose, you get the Triumph TR6. Both stink. One’s an assault against good taste and the other falls artistically apart by itself.
The answer, obviously, is to do it Leo’s way, where the people who know how to make cars go work closely with the people who care how they look.
Maserati has it mastered. It makes some of the best looking machines on the road, bar none.
People in cafes cry out as you pass: “Quick, Mario, a Maserati,” such is their attraction. It’s like escorting a supermodel to an under 16s football match. No one ends up watching the game.
“An object is able to transmit emotions when there are other manual skills involved, the genius from the head being expressed through skilled hands, passion and heart,” supercar maker Pagini Automobiles head Horacio Pagani says. “Only then does an object come to life; is given soul and is able to tell a story.”
While he was talking about his own cars, he just as well could have been talking about Maserati.
The Italian company, founded in 1914, has been busy tweeking its successful model range, adding bits and improving the go-fast innards.
The 2012 Maserati GranTurismo S MC-Shift, which is laying the groundwork for a “Sport” version that will replace it in 2013, is the car you have when you’ve missed out on the race-bred version, the MC Stradale.
The car with the monstrous mouthful of a name has a carbon fibre trim and equipment package, and includes a revised suspension derived from the company’s motor sport program.
Carbon fibre adorns the facia, door handles, large gear paddles, centre console, mirrors, doors, side wings, front and rear wings plus the undercarriage at the rear.
While it’s not in the supercar league, the 331kW 4.7 litre V8 engine developed with Ferrari gets it from 0 to 100km/h in a searing 4.8 seconds and gives it a maximum speed of 295km/h. The Stradale with the same engine tops out at 301km/h.
The drivetrain has been upgraded with an electro-actuated gearbox with fast MC-Shift, transaxle layout (which means the gearbox is on the transmission at the rear for better weight distribution), sporty exhaust and brakes made with dual-cast technology.
The centre console tells you immediately that there’s a new way of doing things. There is no gear shift, just two buttons poking out of the carbon fibre, labelled “1” and “R”.
All of the action is controlled through the large carbon fibre paddles attached to the steering column and two more buttons on the facia, “Sport” and “Auto”.
This gives you four options, manual, auto, sports auto and sports manual. However, in auto mode, the car has a tendency to lurch through gear changes.
Around town, manual was my mode of choice because there’s none of that misbehaviour and with a quieter exhaust note it was a very civilised drive.
Nevertheless, it’s in sports manual mode that this baby comes alive. The gear changes are extraordinarily quick and take just a small flick of the paddle. Awesome.
Downshifts are accompanied by a throttle blip to keep the engine spinning and each gear can be held even at the rev limiter.
Add to that the noise from the exhaust as the valves open and the excitement factor ramps up 200 per cent.
Up past 3000rpm, the torque gathers itself up very quickly and propels you into the future.
Sitting low and wide, it has a terrific grip on the road and handles like a small sports car through the bends. I’m reliably informed its racing pedigree allows you to hang the back end out a little even with the electronic stability control on.
Adding performance like that to such beauty puts the Maserati at the top of the super sports car class.
And you can personalise it as you like.
“If you put together all of the combinations of all the finishes on all of the models, you reach the incredible figure of more than 40 million possible combinations,” Maserati chief executive Luca Dal Monte says.
The 2012 Maserati GranTurismo S MC-Shift is priced at $345,000, excluding on-road costs.
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