Driving the 2008 Maserati GranTurismo is like dating an Italian supermodel: her beauty gets you a lot of attention in public and being with her just makes you feel good. Actually, having never even met an Italian supermodel, we're going with a stereotype here, but in many ways the graceful Pininfarina-designed GranTurismo fits it. Her mouth might be a little big and toothy, but that's where we've pushed the comparison too far. The big toothy grille on the car looks great, but wouldn't work so well on a person.
As for the cabin electronics, our supermodel's English is maybe not so good, and our Italian is virtually nonexistent. The GranTurismo features a hard-drive-based navigation system with room for music storage, and a menu system that was baffling. But, a little time spent with our beauty started to clear up some of the language barriers. Once we understood her better, we found she was pretty smart, although some of her European traits just don't work in the U.S.
Test the tech: Sound off
We could listen to the dulcet tones coming from the engine of our Italian beauty for hours on end. But, at the same time, we were impressed by the throaty roar of a German in our garage, so we decided to enlist Wayne Cunningham, Antuan Goodwin, and Mike Markovich as judges to determine which had the best engine sound, the Maserati GranTurismo or the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Our judges gathered around each car and listened to the engine note as we turned on the ignition, then revved it up. Because the Mercedes-Benz limited the revs to 4,000 in Neutral and Park, we set that as the upper limit for both cars.
The GranTurismo was first up. It uses a 4.2-liter V-8 with variable valve timing and four valves per cylinder, producing 405 horsepower at 7,100rpm and 339 pound-feet of torque at 4,750rpm. Its redline is at 7,500rpm. The engine started with a little cough, and then whirred as the revs built up. We built up engine speed to 4,000rpm, let it drop, then revved it up again. Markovich said of the GranTurismo's engine, "It doesn't have that sort of rasp I would expect from an Italian engine; more refined, befitting the character of the car." Goodwin agreed that it was a refined sound, and he had expected it to be more high-pitched. Cunningham felt that it wasn't quite like a Ferrari's engine sound, but it seemed to benefit from Italian tuning, eschewing harshness for a fine, silky rumble.
Next up was the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, the tuned-up version of the C-class, featuring a 6.2-liter V-8, also with four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing. This engine produces 451 horsepower at 6,800rpm, with a 7,200rpm redline, and 443 pound-feet of torque at 5,000rpm. The C63 started with an immediate bark, and was overall louder, as we would expect from the increased displacement. Cunningham noted the staccato quality of the sound, that you can "hear the valves and injectors working." Goodwin appreciated the immediate roar from the engine at the start. "The C63 sounds harsher than the GranTurismo," Markovich said, "but it's putting out a lot more power."
Our judges also admired the look of the engines, although they noted that most of the GranTurismo's engine is hidden by black plastic cladding, with just a nice Maserati trident badge on the intake manifold. The C63's engine is more exposed, with a gray crackle finish on the intake manifold and a small plaque with the signature of the engine builder.
In the final assessment, the judges favored the sound from the C63. The GranTurismo didn't stand out enough, with its more refined and muted song. As Goodwin pointed out, "As a sports car guy, I like the C63 better. It sounds like its going to beat you up and take your lunch money."
To hear the engine noise and our judges, listen to the Car Tech podcast number 79.
In the cabin
The 2008 Maserati GranTurismo dresses well, with fine material and switchgear in the cabin, as you would expect from a car going for well over 100 grand. But, there are some flaws: the door-sill panels covering the side airbags are very evident, with big, visible seams; and a monochrome LCD showing climate control settings looks more utilitarian than stylish.