The Maserati Granturismo Sport is a new version of the Italian brand's 2+2 coupe.
As a replacement for the Granturismo S, the Sport sits between the entry-level Granturismo and the range-topping MC Stradale – and is a rival to the Jaguar XKR and new Porsche 911 Carrera S.
To freshen up the Granturismo's five-year-old design, Maserati has given the front of the Sport a more aggressive look, while the cabin has received a mild makeover.
We originally tested the Sport in Italy, but this is our first chance to try the car on UK roads.
What's the 2012 Maserati Granturismo Sport like to drive?
As its name suggests, the Granturismo is a grand tourer rather than a hardcore performance model, so it needs to excite you when you want it to without annoying you the rest of the time.
Maserati Granturismo Sport: faster than a Jaguar XKR
First, let's deal with the fun. The new Sport model uses the same basic 4.7-litre V8 engine as its predecessor, but tweaks to the engine management system and redesigned pistons have liberated an extra 21bhp, to provide a total of 454bhp.
There isn’t much pull low down, so you need to pile on the revs to access that power, but when you do, performance is devastating. From the start line and through the gears, the Maserati feels tangibly quicker than a Jaguar XKR, and not much slower than a Porsche 911 Carrera S.
You'll want to press the 'Sport' button whenever you're in the mood for entertainment, because the entire car instantly feels more alert. The throttle responses quicken and the engine note gets far fruitier – in fact, it's hard to think of many cars that sound quite so visceral.
Maserati Granturismo Sport: interesting things happen when you hit the 'Sport' button
Pressing the 'Sport' button also stiffens the suspension, keeping the car flat through tight corners and fast sweeping bends, although the steering is curiously slow. It weights up nicely, but you need to apply a surprising amount of lock, which doesn't really suit the sporty side of the car's nature.
The leisurely steering does work in the Maserati's favour on the motorway, though, keeping it stable at speed. Tap the 'Sport' button a second time and the exhaust quietens down and the suspension slackens off, turning the Granturismo into a comfortable and refined cruiser.
The ride is pretty firm around town, but the Sport copes with UK roads far better than any other Maserati we've tried.
The standard six-speed automatic gearbox is another positive, no matter how you're driving. It's smooth at low speeds and in stop-start traffic, but switch to manual mode and it reacts quickly to your commands, blipping the throttle on downchanges and holding your chosen gear even when you floor the throttle.
In fact, it makes the optional MC Shift automated manual gearbox seem pointless; this costs £3330 and brings even faster shifts, but it's jerky at low speeds, which makes parking manoeuvres a real headache.
What's the 2012 Maserati Granturismo Sport like inside?
Let's deal with the good bits first. The interior is nicely trimmed, so doesn't feel too much of a letdown next to that glamorous exterior styling.
Maserati Granturismo Sport: infotainment system is dated
The Granturismo is comfortable and considerably more spacious in the back than either a Jaguar XKR or Porsche 911. Don't expect acres of legroom, but there's just enough for a couple of average-sized adults.
The driving position is also good, and the new front seats are as supportive and comfortable as they look.
However, the chunky windscreen pillars create awkward blind spots, especially when you're entering a roundabout or pulling out of an angled junction.
Another problem is that some key elements of the cabin are starting to show their age – especially the infotainment system. This suffers from old-fashioned graphics and a clunky interface.
Should I buy one?
The Granturismo is a devastatingly handsome car, and this new Sport version is undoubtedly the pick of the range. It deserves serious consideration by anyone looking for a sub-£100k 2+2 coupe.
True, a Porsche 911 delivers a sharper drive and a Jaguar XKR is better value for money, but neither has the cachet or exclusivity of a Maserati – nor sounds as good.
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
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