Maserati GranTurismo S Automatica: Road Trip to Reims
Maserati wants its GranTurismo to disprove the adage that ‘a high-performance sports car should be broad, low and uncomfortable’ and hence ‘not suitable for long trips’.
So, Roberto Rasia dal Polo took a GranTurismo S Automatica – the ‘pluckiest’ version, equipped with the MC Sport Line kit – and drove it from Modena, home of the Trident, north through the Mont Blanc Tunnel, and then via a lengthy detour to Reims… “In Reims, the pits and the stands along the main straight of the famous racetrack, once the scene of legendary battles between such heroes as Fangio, Moss, Behra, Musso and Villoresi, have been renovated and the track’s 5.10 miles are open to public traffic: an irresistible temptation. At 3000rpm, the car responds with ease to the controls and allows gentle cruising through Reims to admire the tallest spires of the famous Gothic cathedral – but just a few millimetres more on the throttle, and the V8 Maserati gets ready to fly. Its nature and sound change radically. The interior is filled with a powerful roar and the cruising ease is transformed into full power on the old track’s straight, where at just 40mph it’s time to lift off: the local gendarmerie are very strict.
“Despite its double nature – sportiness and comfort – being evident from the outset, the GranTurismo S Automatica nevertheless discloses its qualities gradually, increasing the pleasure of taming the car. The comfort is worthy of a saloon and, after a 10-hour trip, we felt like a stroll along the Marne Valley, which spreads from Champillon to Epernay.
“Here you find a breathtaking panorama of the most famous champagne vineyards in the world and so we stopped for the night, enjoying a glass of champagne at the ‘Royal Champagne’, a top-class hotel owned by the Baglioni Group.
“The following morning, we take advantage of the dawn light to photograph the Maserati under the Gueux racetrack’s stands and in front of the pit. The logos from long-ago sponsors are intact, creating a colourful collage on the buildings, and leading one to think the track is still operational… if it weren’t for the modern street signs and pavements.
“We drive the circuit’s 8.2km in respectful silence. The only one fully at home in these dramatic surroundings is the GranTurismo S Automatica. The French onlookers show appreciation for the stylish car, although the 4.7-litre engine is unable to unleash anything like its 440 horsepower in the severe speed limits. Nevertheless, the racing potential of a car which leaps from 0 to 62mph in only 5 seconds can be clearly imagined.
“Before ‘enduring’ a second night beside the champagne vineyards, we head for the heart of the Champagne region. Ten minutes from Champillon, we enter Aÿ, Bollinger country since 1829. Bollinger is one of the three largest independent producers – and it has remained in the hands of the same family since its foundation. ‘Bollinger is renowned as the King of the Pinot Noir,’ Clément Ganier, Bollinger’s marketing manager, tells us. ‘Nature and the history of the Maison have been good to us, offering us Pinot Noir Grand and Premiere Cru as well as Chardonnay, which make up the majority of our vineyards. Our harvest covers more than 60% of our needs and this is an unusual percentage among producers.’
“The 163 hectares of Bollinger vineyards give rise to 2.2-2.3 million bottles a year, but we feel the deepest thrill when Monsieur Clément takes us to the Bollinger cellars. After descending a steep stairway, we come to a treasure trove of 10 million bottles, 6500 of them magnums, stacked to allow settling and to sharpen their character. In Bollinger’s cellars is the heritage of Aÿ’s champagne, immersed in dark corridors and grottos populated by fungi that help maintain the proper amount of dampness. To wander around the cellars is a thought-provoking experience, helping us to understand the essence of such a celebrated and delicate wine.
“While the best champagne and our Maserati both belong to worlds of luxury and sophistication, they are mutually exclusive. To unstop a bottle means we must leave our GranTurismo S Automatica parked for a second night. Tomorrow, we shall abstain from alcohol and return to the road.”
Text: Classic Driver, from a translated text by Roberto Rasia dal Polo
ClassicInside - The Classic Driver Newsletter