Maserati prepares new F-Type rival
Fancy a two-seater with a Quattroporte engine? Paul Horrell reports on the impending GranSport
Maserati is firming up its plans to build a car to take on the Jaguar F-type. That's to say a fast, front-engined two seater. It's quite a bit smaller than the current GranTurismo and GranCabrio.
Our information is that the new Maserati will be 4.5 metres long, which is almost exactly the size of an F-type. Which fits with what Maserati's boss Harald Wester (above) told me earlier in the year: "We need a smaller sports car. The four-seat GranCabrio is in a segment where even the biggest-selling competitor sells just 2000 a year maximum." A smaller open car would sell in bigger numbers.
So instead of being twinned with the next-gen GranTurismo four-seater, the next GranCabrio will be a convertible version of a smaller coupe. That new compact coupe will be called GranSport.
Or at least that's the name Maserati used when it revealed the plan to stock market investors. It showed a slide with three sports cars to be launched after 2015: GranTurismo, GranCabrio and GranSport.
Their on-sale dates aren't until 2015 and onward, because Maserati has first to finish its ambitious plan to roll out the new Quattroporte, then its Jag XF-sized new Ghibli saloon, and then in 2014 its sports-SUV called Levante.
So what do we know about this new GranSport, surely the most lithe and sporty Maserati since, what, the Merak and Bora? Well, it's front-engined, and will major on the company's rather exciting new 400bhp twin-turbo V6. That engine pushes the huge Quattroporte along with decent vim, so imagine what it'll do with a compact sports car.
We also know Maserati will use a lot of aluminium to lighten the basic steel body. The aluminium suspension will be derived from the Quattroporte's and Ghibli's, too, but obviously the floorpan is shortened.
There will be none of the rear-mounted single-clutch paddleshift gearbox that the current GranTurismo uses. Instead, a senior engineer nodded to us, the GranSport car will use a front-mounted twin-clutch. That solution is chosen because it's lighter than a normal auto, and gives a sharper and more connected drive.
There's also the potential to pluck stuff from the QP menu: they could install the 500bhp twin-turbo V8, and optionally four-wheel-drive too – though the engineers haven't mentioned these to me yet so please treat this sentence as informed speculation.
Meanwhile the GranTurismo coupe will be replaced more-or-less like for like, as a four-seater, because that segment is fairly large and Maserati doesn't want to abandon it.
There's been a lot of rumour washing around that Maserati will build its own version of the Alfa 4C. Maybe so, although recently we've heard high-level denials. Whatever, that 4C spin-off isn't the GranSport. The GranSport is the front-engined machine we've been describing above. And the GranSport is very probably also the car Maserati wants to use take itself back to the racetrack.
Wester told me, "The MC12 dominated GT1 racing for several years, including the first FIA world championship in 2010. Then the regulations became a mess. Now the FIA is redefining them. I would love to come back in a few years." But we have been officially told there won't be a Maserati version of the LaFerrari (the MC12 was derived from theEnzo) so the job falls to the GranSport.