The History of the Grand Tourer {{favouriteCount}} Quantity of Likes

6 Jul 2015

The Grand Tourer. The GT. Gran Turismo. The name has been used many times over the years, on some legendary cars and some…. not so legendary ones. But what is a GT and is it relevant today?

The history of the Grand Tourer dates back to almost the start of the motor car’s history itself –  as soon as man was driving, he wanted to be able to get to where he was going in comfort, quickly, in a stylish manner. So the manufacturers of the time added luxury and more powerful engines to their models, which were almost exclusively two-door models for that extra bit of style and the Grand Tourer was born.

In the 1950’s cars like the Bentley Continental epitomised the GT. The 1953 R-Type Continental Coupe was a huge two door coupe with a stunningly styled body and could top 100mph meaning you could drive down to the south of France in comfort and ease.

There is a difference between a GT and a sports/supercar though – the GT should ideally be a 2+2, or have a lot of luggage room – you need a lot of luggage space on a long trip. So in the 1970’s there was a new raft of GTs coming from the established Italian supercar manufacturers. My personal favourite from that era is the Lamborghini Espada. A full four-seat car but in a low, long body, it featured a 3.9 litre V12 with 350bhp and would top 150mph. You and your good wife could stock the car up the roof with luggage and wine and blast through Europe’s best roads with ease, with a glorious V12 sooundtrack. Similar examples were the Ferrari 400i and a Maserati Ghibli.

In the 1980’s there was a notable GT in the form of the Jaguar XJS, with its creamy 5.3 litre V12 and low, long looks it was an instant classic – and one to watch if you’re looking for a classic to invest in!

The 90’s saw a slightly different take on the GT with a lot of manufacturers just making coupe versions of existing saloons like the Mercedes CL, but BMW went a different way with the 8-Series. The ultimate expression of this was the 850 CSi, a beautiful, low two-door coupe with a 375bhp 5.6 litre V12 under the long bonnet. It was expensive, fast and comfortable – the perfect attributes for a GT.

So what do we have to choose from these days if you want a Grand Tourer? Well thanks to the improvements in diesel engines, these have proven popular. The BMW 640d is a 309bhp slick coupe that also happens to do 50+mpg, meaning you have great looks, good performance and a realistic range of almost 800 miles.  Those sorts of numbers can’t be beaten if you want to get somewhere far away quickly, without stopping. But for me, a GT should have a big petrol engine for effortless, quiet performance so I need to choose something else. The new Mercedes S63 Coupe is a good choice, but it’s a little too much like the saloon in my eyes. So for me, there’s only one choice for the Grand Tourer of today – the Rolls Royce Wraith.

For me it ticks all the boxes – there’s a 6.6 litre twin turbo V12 producing a mammoth 625bhp which means it can reach 60mph in 4.6 seconds and top out at 155mph, but it’s the in-gear cruising stats that impress most. It’s imposing, has really trick suicide doors and has the near-impossible combination of pillow-like ride quality and great handling. There’s only the small matter of the £230,000 price tag…