Like many niche manufacturers, Maserati's models have long lives, burnished by regular updates, enhancements and special editions. The company recently made a play for the big time with the launch of a new mid-size saloon, the Ghibli, hoping to up production levels and sales around the world. If truth be told, the focus on the Ghibli and the likely follow-up model, the Levante SUV, has distracted from the fact that the company's core car, the GranTurismo, is getting rather long in the tooth.

The most recent iteration of this Pininfarina-designed grand tourer, the GranTurismo Sport rolled into the Wallpaper* garage for assessment, following on from a sampling of its drop-top sibling last year. While the Maserati has undeniable presence, we can't help feeling that the original design is showing its age. Whereas competitors like Aston Martin and Porsche get away with slightly conservative design thanks to the innate rightness of the original forms, the Maserati's swoops, ducts and curves become ever more exaggerated and ungainly over the years. The overall effect is akin to a dose of rather obvious plastic surgery.

Likewise, the GT's cockpit is well appointed, lavishly upholstered and spacious, but it doesn't represent cutting edge ergonomic design. To bridge the gulf between heritage and tradition and race car pedigree is a tall order for any designer, but the Gran Turismo Sport does neither especially well. Even the central clock - a quirky signature feature of the cars for decades - looks like an afterthought, not a design delight.

It's when you turn the ignition that this car's raison d'etre becomes totally clear; the GT Sport is an automotive extrovert. The GT is a loud car, amplifying the sound of the big V8 to such an extent that the waffle and thunder follows you down the road, echoing off buildings and snapping heads. It's impossible to drive this car quietly, most especially in 'Sport' mode, which might as well bear the legend 'everyone look at me'. With a pair of Persols perched on your brow and some casual knitwear slung across the (capacious) back seats, the GT Sport is at home as accessory, despite the sound and fury. Perhaps that's all a grand tourer need be in this modern age, but we're still keenly awaiting the GT's successor.

TAGS: TRANSPORT