All petrolheads have a bucket list of cars they wish to drive before they die. My list is pretty lengthy and contains vehicles such as the Pagani Zonda Cinque, the Lamborghini Reventón and the Ferrari 250 GTO. I know I’ll probably never get to drive most of these cars but every now and then I do get to scratch something really special off the list. Recently, I couldn’t believe my luck when I was tossed the keys to bucket list number 13 – the Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale. It’s no prancing horse or raging bull but it is Italian and possesses one of the best-sounding engine notes on the planet.
Based on the GranTurismo MC Trofeo race car, the MC Stradale is essentially a road-going track car but it’s also multitalented enough for visiting the mall and driving around town. Along with various other bits, it’s been stripped of its rear seats to save weight (110kg), so it’s definitely not for the family man but it is exceptionally quick and that’s all that counts for a bachelor. If you’re a passionate track-day enthusiast you can also order it with a roll cage and a four-point racing harness.
The cabin is much racier than the GranTurismo S and possesses a delicate balance between comfort and excitement. It features racing bucket seats, an Alcantara-clad dashboard, red-stitched leather seats, carbon-fibre accents and gearshift paddles while still exuding a high level of opulence with the customary Maserati clock resting atop the dashboard
Apart from the 7 000rpm redline and low odometer reading of 1 900km, the first thing that I noticed when I climbed into the car was the absence of a gear selector lever or dial. Instead, an arrangement of buttons marked A, 1 and R replace the gear selector. Neutral is applied by simply pulling the two paddle shifters toward you. Unlike other supercars, which use a start button, the MC Stradale uses a traditional key to fire up the big V8. Starting it up is undoubtedly the best part: the car howls emphatically for a moment before resting into a lumpy idle that sounds like it’s gargling ball bearings.
The noise, in fact, is so magical that every time you bludgeon the throttle pedal you’ll get enveloped in a tenor-like crescendo; think Luciano Pavarotti screaming into a megaphone – it’s that loud. The sound comes compliments of a 4.7-litre V8 engine – a more powerful and better tuned version of the GranTurismo S. More power has been extracted from the power plant by installing one-way flaps inside the engine’s oil sump and lining the tappets and camshaft lobes with a diamond-like coating to optimise efficiency. The result is power increased by 8kW and 20Nm for a total output of 331kW and 510Nm. It isn’t a lot by modern supercar standards but remember that the MC Stradale only weighs 1 770kg.
To counter the weight of the engine, the three-mode sequential robotic manual gearbox has been placed in the back. It’s been integrated with a differential and offers an Automatic, Sport and Race mode. In Automatic mode the car drives well; not too soft and not too hard and the shifts are precise and comfortable. However, it’s when you select either Sport or Race mode that all hell brakes loose. Race mode is underscored by a red MC Stradale logo that lights up on the cluster and a glorious engine sound that roars into existence thanks to the exhaust bypass flaps that stay open. In Sport mode, however, the bypass flaps only open once the tach needle sweeps past 4 000rpm.
Race mode also limits ESP interference so you can have a bit of fun sliding around corners before it steps in to sort things out. Race mode’s shifting is very aggressive and will give your passengers a pounding if not used correctly. The robotic manual gearbox – especially in Race mode – requires you to feather your right foot off the throttle ever so sightly before selecting another gear for smooth changes. If you keep your foot buried in the carpet, the shifts are incredibly violent and necks will be snapped. The MC Stradale can also downshift sequentially and, with upshifts taking only 60 milliseconds, it can reach 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds while it’s geared for a top speed of 301km/h.
Apart from the heavenly engine rasp, this car is all about sublime handling dynamics – the combination of which is a quasi-religious experience. It handles quite superbly and no matter where you point the steering wheel the nose follows its trajectory with precision. Like the GranTurismo S, the MC Stradale retains a 48:52 weight distribution that, in tandem with the bespoke, Pirelli-clad, 20-inch wheels, aids in magnetic-like road holding. The steering is perfectly weighted and makes you feel like you’re in control all the time. This is because the suspension arrangement has been completely redesigned. The springs have been stiffened by 8 per cent at front and rear and the anti-roll bar’s diameter increased to nullify roll and optimise handling.
Of course, something this fast needs to be able to stop well, too, and it does so thanks to a carbon-ceramic Brembo braking set up. It takes some getting used to but it’s much more effective, lighter and conducts less heat than regular steel rotors.
The Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale is one of the most beautiful cars I’ve ever laid eyes on. Although its aesthetics are not to everyone’s taste, the MC Stradale turns a lot of heads – most of them female. In fact, it’s one of those cars that make people stop dead in their tracks as it drives past; almost as if they’ve been spellbound by its presence. Unlike other boisterous supercars I’ve tested over the years, people were surprisingly accepting of the Maserati GranTursimo MC Stradale even when hooning it through my conservative neighbourhood.
For a car of this calibre you’d probably expect to pay anything between R2m and R3m, right? Wrong. At R1.7m it’s only a fraction more than a 2011-spec Nissan GT-R . Yes, the GT-R is quicker in every way fathomable but it’s never going to be a Maserati. Ever.
I’m not sure what next year holds for me car-wise but one thing I know for certain is that it’s going to take a helluva lot to beat the MC Stradale. I think it’s close to the best car. The Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale is as close to automotive perfection as a car can get and proves that some cars do, in fact, have souls. It’s so perfect that driving anything else, or thinking of driving anything else, can almost be considered sacrilege.
At a glance:
Price: R1 699 000
Engine: 4.7-litre V8
Power: 331kW and 510Nm
0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 301km/h
Small video sample of the MC Stradale shot by my friend on his Blackberry: