Maserati GranCabrio 2011

Maserati GranCabrio Sport Review

$328,000 Mrlp
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It’s certainly one of the most stunning-looking drop-tops on the planet, and has an exhaust note to die for. We’re talking about the latest work of art from Italy - the Maserati GranCabrio Sport.

CarAdvice was in Dubai this week to get a taste of the more powerful Maserati GranCabrio Sport, which gets its engine from the GranTurismo MC Stradale along with several other improvements in the ride and handling department.

Power is up to 331kW (up from 323kW) and torque rises to 510Nm (from 490Nm), but even with performance figures quoted as 5.2 seconds from 0-100km/h and a top speed 285km/h, it’s not quite in the supercar league.

Thankfully, this time of the year is winter in Dubai, so the soft top is permanently down for this Maserati experience. It’s a luxury that’s only possible several months of the year in these parts when the temperature maxes out at around 26-28 degrees Celsius. The last time we were here, it was an egg-frying 46 degrees in the shade, making open-air motoring a bona fide health hazard.

Maserati built some stunning exotics in the 1960s and 1970s, with the likes of the Ghibli and Merak, for example, but they well and truly lost their way in the 1980s and 1990s with some less than satisfactory designs that did nothing to continue the marque’s tradition of turning out beautiful machines that went as good as they looked.

That all changed with the launch of the first-generation GranTurismo, and the Italian car maker hasn’t looked back since. A successive line-up of beautifully styled models has made Maserati a popular choice among cashed-up buyers with an eye for style, and an ear for one of the best exhaust notes this side of a Formula One car. What Maserati engineers have created here is more to do with ‘art’ than a simple exhaust note; such is the emotional engagement that comes with each prod of the throttle.

The GranCabrio Sport is beautifully styled car, but it’s also adopts an aggressive profile from almost any angle. The typically large black grille with the ‘floating’ Trident’ symbol with red accents look good as does the lower mesh intake that forms part of the deep front splitter. The rear end profile also works nicely with its racey rear diffuser and integrated exhaust tips, both in black. The charcoal-coloured gloss rims set the Rosso Trionfale paint job off nicely and adds character to the more powerful image of the ‘Sport’.

Maserati does interiors well, too, even when the brand was in the stylistic doldrums. The GranCabrio Sport continues that tradition of beautifully supple leather mixed with a touch of old world luxury with that typical Maserati clock in the centre of the dashboard, and a series of buttons similar to those found in Maseratis of a past era.

This particular edition dispenses with wood inlays and trim, opting instead for various carbonfibre bits including the steering wheel. That’s a bit of a problem really, because as nice as it looks, it isn’t the most practical piece of kit especially if you’re prone to sweaty hands, as it can get rather slippery in the humid conditions.

As comfortable as the seats are, the front pews lack sufficient side bolstering to hold you in place during those more enthusiastic driving moments in the bendy bits, but then again this is a grand tourer and not an out and out sports car.

There’s a proper old school key to start the GranCabrio, too, and frankly whatever complaints you might have about this car (and there are a few) are all but forgotten from the moment the 4.7-litre V8 fires up. It’s a truly bespoke sound, much like that of a Ducati in the bike world, in that no other bike sounds the same, twin or no twin.

It’s quick to respond, too; bury the throttle from a standstill with the ‘Sport’ button pressed and acceleration is instant and deliberate. It’s quick, but it’s not brutal. It’s more of a consistent surge of power and torque, rather than flat-out ballistic speed.

The MC Auto Shift six-speed transmission is a relatively fast-shifting unit, too, as well as being smooth on upshifts and downshifts. The perfectly synchronised throttle blips as you brake for corners are another form of aural bliss. Drill the throttle through one of Dubai’s many tunnels and you may find your passengers reaching for earplugs as the decibels rise.

Despite the fact that Maserati has stiffened up the suspension on the GranCabrio Sport, and it wears 20-inch alloy wheels, the ride remains pliant, if not supple, even over speed bumps.

Drivers will appreciate the high level of communication through the steering wheel with plenty of weight from the dead centre and firming up more at speed. That said, the GranCabrio doesn’t feel all that agile through the tighter bends. Blame that on the sheer size and weight of the car. At almost five metres in length and weighing 1980 kilograms, the laws of physics prevent proper sports car-like cornering with this Maserati.

The driving position is nice and low, so you feel part of the car, and the leather pews are supremely comfortable.

Despite the adoption of ventilated and cross-drilled brake discs for extra high-speed driving, there have been several reports of poor stopping power. Not so in our experience. We repeatedly stepped on the stoppers after flat footing the car up to 150km/h, and braking was excellent.

It was only fair that I tried the rear accommodation in what might be labelled a 2+2 on first glance. Firstly, ingress and egress requires little or no gymnastics, or effort. It’s also particularly comfortable with sufficient legroom for my sub six-foot frame, but taller builds will find longer trips painful, I suspect.

For weekends away with your partner, you will need to use the rear seats for luggage stowage, as there is little room in the boot where the space-saver takes up most of the space.

For many buyers, the GrandCabrio Sport's stunning looks, beautiful leather upholstery and killer exhaust note are likely to be sufficient compensatation for any shortfalls in performance or handling.

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