Good: stunning to look at, engine noise, poised handling, comfort, that badge
Not so good: pricey, thirsty, not as agile as some rivals
Welcome, as the late, great Dickie Attenborough once said, to Jurassic Park. Home of a species that you thought had long-since vanished from the Earth - the big, cross-continent GT with a massive naturally-aspirated V8 engine.
Perhaps it's a touch unfair to call the Maserati GranTurismo MC a dinosaur, so I won't actually do so, but there's no denying that there's something very old-school about a low-slung Italian coupe with a massive V8 petrol engine, designed to whisk playboys and playgirls from the Dorchester or Ritz to their luxury villas overlooking the Med in a single bound. No-one really does that anymore - crowded roads, private jets and tighter speeding laws have rendered the trans-European GT something of an endangered species, but there's no denying the appeal.
So, before the batteries take over and we lose the magic of the classic, un-turbocharged V8, let's have a last go-round in one, shall we? The Maserati GranTurismo MC awaits...
The GranTurismo is actually 11 years old this year, a continuously evolved design, originally sketched by Pininfarina, which harks back to the glory days of the fifties and sixties, when a hot coupe with a big engine really was the best way to flit between cities.
For 2018, the GranTurismo range has been updated a bit. The old 4.2-litre V8 engine is now gone, so both models (Sport and MC) use the same 4.7-litre unit. The styling has been reworked a bit (not by Pininfarina, which is now owned by the Mahindra Group, but by Maserati's own team of pencil-wielders) and gains a new bumper, new grille (more shark-like than before), tweaked aerodynamics (the coefficient of drag figure is now down to 0.32) and some new colour options.
Inside, the dash is now a little more sculpted, the iconic Maserati clock is a little more prominent and the new 8.4-inch touchscreen now comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (a shame that the software and interface for the touchscreen is nicked from cheaper Jeep models, but I guess one can't have everything...).
Despite Maserati's protestations that, unlike its in-house rival Ferrari, it makes comfy, long-haul GT cars and not sports cars, the MC part of the badge refers to Maserati Corse, which means that this is, in fact, the hard-core, sporty, almost track-focused version. As we shall see, it's hardly a 911 GT3, but it does come with a carbon fibre bonnet (featuring extra air vents that reduce pressure under the car and reduce lift), titanium brake callipers, 20-inch forged 'Trofeo' wheels and a gorgeous fillet of pure carbon fibre that acts as a boot lip spoiler. The MC also gets a unique exhaust system, which has quiet and 'ear-bursting' modes depending on your mood.
It is still a GT at heart, which you can tell as soon as you pop the long door and slip down into the cabin. The seats, covered in Poltrona Frau leather, are supportive, but also wonderfully comfortable. There's none of that German 'squeeze-your-ribs-good-and-tight' feeling in here. For a car that's supposedly set up for track work, it's very cosseting. The cabin architecture does look a little old, now, and the fact that the ZF gearbox has only six speeds certainly helps to date the GranTurismo's origins, but the levels of quality are generally pretty excellent, and if it's easy to play Spot-The-Cheap-Parts-Bin switches, then at least the choices of materials for the main fixtures - wheel, gear shift, paddles - is exemplary.
Thumb the starter button and the main attraction fires into life. The 4.7-litre V8 engine, made for Maserati by Ferrari in its own engine foundry, is a classic work of Italian engineering. While there is a traditional V8 bassline, this is not a lazy, American-style engine. Peak power is developed at a lofty 7,000rpm and the noises that this engine makes getting there are far more Donatello than Detroit. It is musical, rather than just loud, although it's certainly plenty loud.
Fast too, although perhaps not so much as you'd expect. A peak power figure of 460hp is about what you'd expect to get from a family hatchback these days (well, not really, but you know what I mean) so the GranTurismo doesn't have the sledgehammer hit of an AMG or BMW M car. Indeed, it's around 150hp down on the Germans' best efforts, so this is definitely no supercar. Even the relatively laid-back Ferrari Portofino musters 591hp from its 3.9-litre turbo V8, so the Maserati is well behind the opposition, here.
That said, you wouldn't reckon it slow, by any means. Select Sport mode and firewall your foot and the MC leaps ahead, powered seemingly by feeding an orchestra into a gigantic food blender, and it can hit 100km/h from rest in a very brisk 4.7 seconds. OK, so a well-driven BMW M3 will have that beat, but then the M3 won't sound or look this good...
In spite of the GranTurismo's aged structure, the handling is actually pretty decent. The MC sticks with good old hydraulic power steering, so feel and feedback are good, and while the steering has to hang around and wait a bit for that long, low nose to respond, it feels communicative and responsive. The all-round double-wishbone suspension gets Maserati's 'SkyHook' system (which, supposedly, keeps the body steady, as if suspended from a hook in the sky, while the suspension works underneath) and it too works well, surprisingly well on narrow, bumpy Irish roads. It's never less than firm, that's for sure, but your spine never feels under dangerous levels of assault. The combo of pliant chassis, sharp steering and the instant throttle response from that V8 engine actually make the MC quite brilliant cross-country. Could you go faster in a rival product? Yes, probably, but equally probably not by all that much, and you might not be having quite as much fun. For all its flaws, the GranTurismo is bursting with character, not least the glorious sounds coming out of that V8 engine, and it genuinely puts a smile on one's face.
Would you buy, one though? Well, to be honest, I wouldn't. I'd probably buy a Quattroporte, which, with the 3.6-litre turbo V6 petrol engine is only 30hp shy of the GranTurismo's power output and which, with its exceptional cabin comfort and poised handling, is arguably a better Gran Turismo, technically, than the GranTurismo MC. It's a car I'm glad still exists, though. Gorgeous, properly noisy, more agile than you'd expect and maddeningly, gloriously Italian. Let's hope we can keep this sort of DNA alive for a while yet...