The Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale is a mysterious beast, alluring and confounding in almost equal measure. The “Stradale” tag indicates it’s a road-going version of a racecar; a lean, focused, road warrior – which it most certainly is – but it’s also got two rather roomy seats in the back. And don’t let the name fool you: it isn’t really a Grand Tourer because it revs too high for comfortable motorway cruising. The gearbox, meanwhile – another update – is savage at everyday speeds, giving you a kick in the kidneys every time you accelerate out of a roundabout.
It costs (as tested) £118,060, which means you’re in Aston/Porsche/Audi/Merc/Jag territory. All of those companies make superb sports cruisers for six figures, give or take. In the past, you’d have taken the Maserati for the simple reason that it’s the best-looking, but with the Jaguar F-Type out there, I can only give the Maserati second prize in the beauty contest.
All of this makes you wonder exactly who the idiosyncratic Granturismo MC Stradale is made for, and where exactly they’re supposed to drive it. Then you spend a little bit of time in the cabin and it all begins to make sense.
I left London late and caught crowds on the M1, giving me ample time to appreciate the comfortable and wellappointed interior; there’s rather a lot of carbon fibre going on, but I can forgive that. I was en route to Harrogate’s Hotel du Vin for an overnight stop-off before heading north-east to Whitby. Hotel du Vin is made up of a row of converted Georgian terraced houses overlooking the grassland of The Stray. It’s a beguiling combination of modern and traditional; not unlike the Maserati. I sloughed off the day’s travel with moules frites and a ribeye steak, creme brulee and half of the cheese trolley, before falling upstairs to bed.
The next day, I struck out for Whitby, heading north through Ripon and Thirsk before entering the North York Moors. It’s ominous territory, despite the gorgeous carpeting of purple heather that covers the moorland. The gloomy afternoon view is dominated for miles around by the monolithic radar tower of RAF Fylingdales, Britain’s early-warning ballistic missile detection station. It’s surprising how chilling a featureless, angular slab of concrete can be, but it’s easy to imagine the twitchy, paranoid nights during the Cold War, when people sat here watching for the first signs of armageddon.
Talking of twitchiness: don’t lift off at 80mph on greasy, puddled roads in the MC Stradale. Aquaplaning across the white lines – albeit briefly – does nothing for your heart. This isn’t a car you can just push around without a care in the world – it requires concentration and a deft touch.
I arrived at Whitby Abbey at sunset and was met with breathtaking views across the river Esk to the Whitby Beach and beyond to the North Sea. The scenery wasn’t what brought me here, though: I was here to eat the best fish and chips in Britain. The haddock and chips at Trenchers knocked spots off anything I’ve had down south.
For the last leg of my trip, I backtracked beyond Harrogate to the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey. The weather had improved, and my feelings for the Maserati were growing. It might not have the beating of its rivals on paper, but it excels in putting a smile on your face. In dry weather, it really is a joy to drive.
The Devonshire is wonderfully modest about its attractions: the rooms are floral and airy, the spa wholly devoid of pretentiousness; luxury leavened with exposed beams and stonework. And how many hotels can boast a ruin as grand, unspoilt and approachable as Bolton Abbey? Rumour has it the Beckhams have been known to book the place out. Ten years ago, that might have been something you’d turn your nose up at, but Posh’n’Becks’ have improved with age.
Before heading back to London, I stopped off for lunch at the Cow and Calf on Ilkley Moor, which allowed for a post-gustatory stomp around the rock formations at the high point of the moor. From this elevated position, I looked down upon the Maserati; it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I thought, but that’s kind of the point. If you’re looking for sense, buy a Volvo.
The GranTurismo MC Stradale is a real luxury, more-so than cars that cost twice the price. It’s probably best bought as your second sports car, the one you only drive when the mood takes you. But when it does, you’ll not be left wanting.