With each passing year, another cohort of normally staid members of our national life suddenly turn up in spray-on Lycra on Strictly Come Dancing. And more and more of the world's plump GTs are embarking on a double life with a track-biased version.
Now it's the Maserati GranTurismo's turn. The new one - an addition to the range not a replacement - is called the GranTurismo MC Stradale. MC is Maserati Corsa, the factory race shop, and it looks rather like their GT4 racer. Stradale means road-going.
It has an extra 10bhp over the exisiting GranTurismo S, taking the total to a nice round 450. This issues from a V8 that sounds like a flashmob of heavy metallist lead singers. But in a good way. The transmission is a flappy-paddle job that finally gets the idea pretty well off pat, serving up spine-tingling shifts under power and sawtooth downchanges too.
The body changes look great, partly because there's no bootlid plank spoiler to spoil the flow of the GranTurismo's buxom silhouette. And they add downforce without extra drag. Top speed nudges up to 187mph. That's psychologically important to an Italian car because it's 1km/h over 300. The 0-62mph drag is 4.6 seconds. Quick but in no way qualifying as a supercar.
The chassis is stiffened, but not too much. After all it has to go on the road. The dampers are passive, not the adaptive ones Maserati uses on other cars, but this turns out to be an advantage. Maserati never really got the adaptive ones right.
The brakes are carbon fibre. So are the one-piece seat shells. The whole thing is 100kg lighter than standard. But it's still the wrong side of 1,700kg with fuel in the tank. And it's still a lot longer than say a 911 GT3 or Aston N24, so that's going to hamper its agility on small roads.
Not by much, it turns out. The Stradale feels lighter and a whole lot more solid than the standard GranTurismo, and we like it very much. It works on real roads. The steering is committed, and the traction backs it up. It's balanced and stays on your side. There's a bit of body roll but overall things are really nicely sorted as a fast road car.
And it rides well. There's a bit more road noise than standard. And more from the engine too, but why on earth would you want less of that? So it's huge fun, has masses of character and looks to die for, but still works as a proper fast long-distance tourer. All in, we're struggling to see why you'd opt for the standard machine.
Except that Maserati refuses to fit rear seats to this one. Actually, being a two-seater isn't the sole measure of a sporty car. Any more than padding shoved down a dancer's Lycra doesn't actually signify how much ballroom he needs.