Maserati GranTurismoClick to enlarge picture

Designed by Pininfarina, the GranTurismo features styling cues from the Birdcage concept car as well as the MC12 race car.

Geneva Motor ShowMaseratiMaserati GranTurismo

Maserati designers created the GranTurismo to be a comfortable daily driver but still provide the performance of a sports car—in essence, what makes a grand touring car a grand touring car. But this is not the first GranTurismo to come from Maserati.

About 50 years ago the A6 GranTurismo debuted for a different gaggle of journalists at the Geneva Motor Show. Styled by Pinin Farina, this was the first Maserati built for the road following 33 years of race car production. Five years later, the gorgeous A6GCS debuted, and it would be the last Maserati coupe styled by Pinin Farina—until now.

Meant to be Driven

So where do you go for your first experience behind the wheel of the latest GT car from Maserati? Italy, of course. In this case Bolzano, which is in northern Italy near Austria. In this region the Dolomite Mountains provide not only amazing views but also some rather twisty roads. Enter the GranTurismo.

Photo Gallery: Maserati GranTurismo

At the start of our press drive, journalists gathered in the centuries-old plaza at the center of Bolzano, where 10 GranTurismos glistened in the morning sun. My driving partner and I chose a car painted Grigio Touring Silver, with a flashy Rosso Corallo (red) interior.

As we headed up the mountain roads, a few things became obvious. First, the GranTurismo had plenty of power, and the exhaust note was music under strong acceleration. Second, the GranTurismo is not a small vehicle, which quickly became evident on winding mountain lanes.

Luckily, traffic coming from the opposite direction was scarce, and the GranTurismo handles like a smaller sports car. Responsive steering, sticky tires and plenty of power on tap made for an entertaining drive as we crested cols in the famous Dolomites.

Under the long hood of the GranTurismo breathes the same Ferrari-built 4.2-liter V8 that powers the Maserati Quattroporte; however, it has been tuned specifically for the GranTurismo. Output from the V8 is 405 horsepower with 339 lb-ft of torque.

For a car if this stature, 405 horses doesn't seem all that powerful in an era where dozens of cars exceed 500 horsepower; in fact, some cars that could be considered competitors of the GranTurismo exceed 600 horsepower. But the idea behind the GranTurismo isn't about bragging rights. It's more about Italian style, tradition, turning heads and exclusivity.

That said, the GranTurismo is never lacking in the power department. Sixty mph arrives in about 5 seconds, and when unconstrained by local laws, the GranTurismo can reach a top speed of 177 mph. Unfortunately we were not on the Autobahn, but during short stints at triple-digit speeds the GranTurismo felt very stable and planted—as if one could stay north of the century mark all day.

The GranTurismo borrows the new ZF 6-speed automatic transmission first introduced in the Quattroporte. The transmission adapts to driving style and driving conditions; however, drivers can also choose from four different operating modes: Auto Normal, Auto Sport, Low Grip/Auto Ice, and Manual.

Great handling can be attributed to the powerful V8's position behind the front axle, resulting in a balance of 49 percent of the weight in front, 51 percent in the rear. Maserati also has an available what it refers to as the "Skyhook" suspension system. Using sensors to keep track of acceleration, road conditions, wheel movement and direction of travel, the Skyhook system provides constant damping control to provide a comfortable ride without sacrificing handling.

However, there was one area of disappointment. The GranTurismo sports powerful Brembo brakes with ventilated discs and 4-piston calipers at all four wheels—with a claimed stopping distance from 62 mph of 115 feet. However, this is not what we experienced.

Braking was not good at all in the cars we were driving, especially when slowing from high speeds. Apparently this was more of a maintenance issue than a problem with the Brembo system. We were in the GranTurismo after many other journalists had already been behind the wheel, so the cars had been driven very hard for weeks before, leading to the brake degradation.

Inner and Outer Beauty

In addition to its stellar driving qualities, there's no denying the GranTurismo can be called one of the most beautiful cars on the road, both inside and out.

With exterior styling influenced by the 75th Anniversary Birdcage concept car, the GranTurismo features a powerful stance with a large, concave grille; swept-back headlights; and bold fenders that carry the powerful image into the hood. A V-shaped power bulge sweeps back from the large Maserati trident at the center of the grille.

From the side, the curves of the fenders emphasize the large 19-inch (or optional 20-inch) wheels. The silhouette gives the impression of moving quickly, even when at a standstill.

The interior is awash in Poltrona Frau leather, both on the seats as well as the door and dash trim, and is available in ten different colors. Poltrona Frau (an Italian company, of course) earned its reputation producing high-quality leather furniture. The cabin can be further customized with a number of wood trims, including walnut, rosewood or tanganyka. Wood trim can also be varnished to a piano-like finish.

Power-operated front seats can be equipped with three-level seat heaters, and dual-zone climate control keeps occupants comfortable. Rear seats provide ingress and egress with relative ease. Although the seat can hold two adults, it is not what one would consider roomy.

Those fortunate enough to actually get to the point of picking an exterior color for their GranTurismo can choose from 19 colors, a number of wheel treatments in 19-inch or 20-inch styles, and brake calipers available in six different colors.

Naturally, this new Maserati features the latest entertainment and safety technology. A 7-inch high-resolution screen displays audio, onboard computer and navigation information, and a 30-gigabyte hard drive stores all navigation maps and also acts as a musical jukebox that can store about 180 hours of music.

Maserati has teamed up with Bose to create an optional high-end sound system that features surround sound and multiple speakers. While the navigation system is not perfect, it is a major improvement over the one in the Quattroporte.

The new GranTurismo is also available with a custom set of luggage from Maserati partner Salvatore Ferragamo. The five-piece set was designed to fit perfectly into the trunk. Conversely, Maserati claims two golf bags will fit if the outing does not require luggage.

Production and Availability

The GranTurismo is produced by hand alongside the Quattroporte at the factory in Modena, Italy. Production should be around 3,500 cars per year worldwide, with about 40 percent of those units slated for America, which is Maserati's number one market.

With so many different color and trim combinations, Maserati officials expect 30 percent of the GranTurismos bound for the U.S. will be custom orders. Company PR says the anticipated wait time for a custom order is about four months.

Base price of the GranTurismo in the U.S. with destination charge, gas guzzler tax and dealer prep is $114,650. Deliveries began in September 2007.

On a related note, rumors have already begun circulating about a convertible version of the GranTurismo. While no official word has been given, the company has always had an open-top car in its lineup. And since Maserati is one company that stays close to its heritage, it seems only a matter of time before that top comes off.

In the market for a new car? MSN Autos is pleased to provide you with information and services designed to save you time, money and hassle. Click to research prices and specifications on any new car on the market or click to get a free price quote through MSN Autos' New-Car Buying Service.