By Mike Torpey on 2010-10-10 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
WHEN you enter the realms of superpowered performance exotica there are two distinct types of car.
There's the flash category inhabited by Ferrari and Lamborghini and the classic, more restrained, appeal of marques like Aston Martin and Maserati.
Okay, so you've got the dosh and can take your pick - which do you go for? A case of diamond-studded bling versus pin stripes perhaps, maybe Versace and Bulgari versus Thomas Pink and Dunhill.
The trick may be to find a combination of both. On the one hand a model that possesses the testosterone, style and soundtrack of a pure-bred Italian sports car, on the other a grand tourer simply oozing the essence of distinction.
So enter the Maserati GranTurismo S, a super coupe blessed with pedigree, punch and leather-clad luxury.
The original idea of installing a racing engine in a road-going car was hatched at Maserati back in 1947 with the company's first GT, the A6 1500 GT Pininfarina.
The latest model arrived in 2007 and has since been expanded to include the GranTurismo S and S Automatic that comprise this trio of modern day masterpieces.
If the standard GranTurismo is both imposing and elegant then the S raises the bar for every facet of the car from its more powerful engine with new ‘robotic' manual transmission to a stiffer suspension.
The black front grille, bulging rear end and carbon-effect highlights all look the business, though the real stand-out features are the black 20-inch, seven-spoke alloys with bright scarlet brake callipers.
Then there's the sound, a discreet murmur that becomes a full-blown racetrack roar with a touch of a Sport button, which opens the valves allowing gases to exit the system more directly.
And talk about pumping up the power. In the S model the V8 engine capacity is hiked to 4.7-litres, the rev limiter lifted to 7,600rpm, power goes up by 8.6 per cent to a whopping 440bhp and torque is increased to 490Nm.
The serious numbers are acceleration of 0-62 in 4.9 seconds and top speed of 183mph, that's if you can find an airfield.
Yet for a refined, long distance drive in relaxing comfort this black panther of a vehicle can become a pussycat.
So how do you criticise a car as desirable as the GranTurismo? Well the huge paddle shifts slightly hinder the indicator stalk and the sound system buttons are irritatingly small.
Don't expect any fancy fuel figures either - a dozen miles to the gallon if you're lucky - and while there's loads of cabin space the rear two seats are not really big enough for adults to travel very far in comfort.
Maserati GranTurismo S
Mechanical: 440bhp, 4,691cc, 8cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 183mph
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Combined MPG: 17.1
Insurance Group: 50
C02 emissions: 387g/km
Bik rating: 35%
Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited miles
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