Monday, November 17, 2008

Maserati Gran Turismo or Alfa Romeo Competizione 8C

(Alfa Romeo in Geneva Autoshow and Maserati in L.A. Autoshow)

There has been quite a few times when I have been opposed to test drive a car that I feel could be worth a test and ultimately a fine car. Yes, it happens yet again when I insist on testing the Gran Turismo and the rest of my group fancy the Competizione. So, we decided to battle it out in two groups and you, readers could decide for yourself. As we have mentioned earlier that due to security reasons, we are unable / disallowed to click pictures while road-testing cars, we insist on you / readers to visit the official website of these respective car companies or see them in a showroom so that you feel what we feel while being around them – the Maserati Gran Turismo and the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.

All petrol heads must disregard themselves as one if they do not fancy these cars. I mean, come on, one look and I just cannot get my eyes and hands off either of them. But, I still reckon that the Maserati looks better. The wavy car model badge on the Alfa could have been considered as a style but it just doesn’t look professional for an Alfa. So, I can say, and all in my group agree that the Maserati is more refined and just appears to have been composed with much more care. The Competizione was made as a fast sports car by Alfa. However, Maserati looks more of a sport lover. Firstly, it is the name itself, Gran Turismo. Secondly, look at the front. You see, there is absolutely no room for a registration plate. And, I would imagine it is better off without one. The two-door, four-seat coupe that Maserati has made is beautiful, comfy and roomy. I guarantee that a 6ft individual could easily and comfortably sit behind a 6ft individual. Even in the interiors, Maserati have offered million leather colour combinations for their customers to choose from. Please do not ask me about the finishing. It is better than perfect. It is Italian; moreover, it is a Maserati for Pete’s sake.

The Maserati carries a Ferrari-sourced 4.2 Litre V8 engine. Its’ design convention bears resemblance with Ferraris’ 599 GTB Fiorano. So, the car is essentially a GT car, a luxury sports car. It is a big car, around 5 metres long and weighs close to two tonnes. And, that is exactly the factor that aroused the critics against this drop-dead gorgeous sports car. In addition to the heaviness of the car, there is an evident lack of low-end urge/torque in the car unlike its’ competitors. The Mercedes CL 500 produces 380hp at 6000rpm and 530nm at 2800rpm. The supercharged Jaguar XKR produces 410hp at 6300rpm and 560nm at 4000rpm. Disappointingly, the Gran Turismo delivers 405hp only at 7100rpm and 460nm at 4750rpm. The V8 growl too is not as menacing as the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. But, I must say it is not very bad either.

Since it is of Italian origin, and it is a Maserati, I did worry about the gear box. Although the Quattroporte had a very good gear box, there were rumours circulating that the Gran Turismo would be carrying something else. I am glad that they used the same gear box. The ZF auto-gear shift is very impressive. The shift timings are good and while in sports mode it is even more effective. The suspension gets tauter and the 20-inch wheels nurture the better handling of the car. Does it work? Not really. If I am to be honest, there is still a tiny hint of under-steer.

The Competizione is a two-door, twin-seat sports car made by Italians – Alfa Romeo. It was primarily made as a concept car but they eventually put it into production. Thus, it was very, very hard to convince for permission to test this car. Anyhow, this car uses Maseratis’ modified platform and carries Ferrari/Maseratis’ 4.7 litre V8 engine.

Figure a pattern here? All these cars are under Fiat and use Ferraris’ engine. Even the suspension and the gear-box have been taken from the Maserati. Just as Clarkson said, and I readily agreed, this car needs to be driven to the Maserati service station and not to the Alfas’.

It is just a matter of taste when one says that one likes or dislikes the way the car looks. I didn’t shake a bit when the salesman told me the car was hand built. I mean, it was evident. As I mentioned earlier, the wavy badge, the unmistakable rattling sound from the back and the wind noise. Wind noise, from an Alfa?! These are perfectionists committing errors. No, no, not good. First of all, the buyer compromises that he is buying a Maserati with an Alfa badge. And, secondly, he needs to compromise with the obvious mistakes while driving. The under-steer that the Maserati had is experienced here too. Actually, it is more in the Alfa. In fact, the handling is worsened by the heavy steering. So, it falls behind the Maserati. Here is where the Vantage has an advantage. But, it is the exquisite factor (rare to see) of the Maserati or the Alfa that pushes the Vantage behind.

Having criticised it, I must say, I instantly shook when I turned it on. The growl that the V8 on the Maserati lacked was present here. While the Maserati took up to 5.2 seconds to reach 100kph, the Competizione was a second faster. The Maserati reaches a top speed of 285kph and the Alfa goes up to 290kph as it is lighter. The quickness in the Alfa is also because of more power – 450hp and torque – 480nm (almost at the same revs as the Maserati). Wait, I am not finished with the sound as yet. Then, it is the overrun; Ah!!! The sound gives cargasms. If the Maserati, along with its poise produced this noise, it would have been a clear choice here.

Now comes the hard part. Which one is better? You as readers need to decide when it
comes to looks, agreed? I mean, it is just a matter of taste. When it comes to performance, I judgementally conclude the Maserati to be better in handling and the Alfa to be better in other departments. You see, since the Competizione is still due production the rattling sound, the wind noise can be excusable.

Trust us, it is very hard to be conclusive here. Almost every component on and in the Alfa is from Maserati. So, as for now, I (after the test I have won the majority) would prefer the Maserati which costs AUD 306,750. That is, AUD 13,852 more than a high-end Vantage and AUD 40,099 more than the expected price of the Alfa. It is better than the Alfa which is currently quite faulty. Hope they mend it so that you can save cash by buying a Maserati (Competizione) over another Maserati (Gran Turismo). The Maserati rendered quite lucrative to Fiat after 17 years only specifically after the late quarter of 2007. It could be because of the Gran Turismo, couldn’t it?

So, there you go. If you are impatient and need an exquisite car stat, buy the Gran Turismo. If you have faith in Alfa Romeo and believe that they will mend their exquisite car, patiently wait for the revised Competizione. If you don’t want to be different and want everyone to pat your back appreciating your safe though common choice, go for the Vantage.

Copyright © Ajey Padival 2008 (Brisbane, Australia; +61-434360675;

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