✔ Sharp handling, a true four-seat tourer, the sound – oh, the sound! ✖ Not as dynamic through the twisty bits, brakes could be better.
☀ ☀ ☀
Maserati. The name alone conjures up a long, rich history of opinions,
memories and emotions. From the middle of the last century, Maserati led from the front of Formula One racing, the speed kings of that era risked life and limb for the sport they loved. A roaring spectacle of oil, grease and lead-filled exhaust fumes far, far removed from today’s sterilised, flaccid yawn that is ‘Bernie’s Road Show’.
The quill that scribed Maserati’s proud history in F1 has long since dried. Today, the company creates cars for drivers who drive simply for the unbridled pleasure it offers. From the Quattroporte, the GranTurismo, the all-new Ghibli and the GranCabrio Sport…all offer a self-penned dance with the open road.
Each Maserati is hand made with precision and minute attention to detail. The components are produced at locations throughout Italy including Maranello, Modeno and Cuneo. In Modena where all the components come together, each worker is allocated just 28 minutes per vehicle, with around 35 cars produced daily.
So, it was late summer that the Maserati GranCabrio Sport came to visit for a few days. It is, without doubt, one of the most spectacularly outrageous cars I have ever had the pleasure to pilot. Astonishingly good, spectacularly loud, discernibly gorgeous and acutely desirable. It is those things and more – delivering an unrelenting assault on the senses.
But it’s not for the meek of heart or financially timid. In its standard form, it costs £102,645 which sets it head-to-head with some of the world’s most coveted convertible sports cars.
While a two-door, the GranCabrio’s interior encapsulates four full-sized adults in comfort and will do so for considerable distances. We had the top down for most of our 400-odd miles and were three or four up for most of them.
Inside, all the controls are surprisingly simple and easy to operate with an excellent driving position attainable through the powered seats. Leather and red stitching abound but in a tasteful sporty way.
To the delight of the extrovert in all of us, it is not difficult to get noticed in this Maserati. Fire up the 4.7-litre V8 engine and the initial roar will turn heads within a quarter-mile radius, but the engine note quickly settles into a gurgling burble at idle. As you set off, the sound is gloriously subtle and full of promise. The car is so easy to drive it flatters the driver’s ability with seamless paddle shift gear changes, amazing throttle response and pin sharp steering. There are no bone-shaking, spine-crunching surprises in the ride and quite how this car balances the need for competition dampers with excellent ride quality eludes me.
Little did I know that all that was about to change…
There is one little button which takes this car to its very own Narnia. It is marked ‘Sport’ – and it changes everything. It elicits quicker throttle response, stiffer damping, greater steering weight and 50% faster shift times from the wondrous six-speed ZF-sourced gearbox. Popping the throttle has the waste baffles open automatically at 2,500rpm, resulting in a totally berserk exhaust note that would remove the feathers off a low-flying duck.
The drive is as you would expect from Maserati – precise, impressive and fluid. You couldn’t call it agile, the car is nearly five metres long. You can shift the big Maserati along sweeping A-roads with quite a bit of lick, getting plenty of feedback from the steering wheel and the active dampers keeping it planted on the black stuff.
But it is not without fault. It is less of a pleasure to ‘enthuse’ through tighter, twistier stuff because its sheer size brings on an element of scuttle shake which extinguishes the earlier promise of true agility. Stopping this beast is a bit of a challenge as the brakes seem to fall short of their inevitably urgent task in hand. Despite drilling, grooving and ventilation-based efforts to get them perked up, they remain long in travel, spongy and a bit toothless. Still, you do get used to it. Very quickly, as it turns out.
Despite being evidently flawed (which adds character), the Maserati GranCabrio Sport remains elegant, charismatic and exclusive. This car is not a status symbol but a personal indulgence for those who love real motoring.
Would I get one? Sure, quicker than you can stab a finger at a button labelled ‘Sport’.
* Price: £102,645 * Top speed: 177mph (with the lid on) * 0-62mph: 5.2secs
* Economy: 19.5mpg (combined) * CO2: 337g/km * Kerb weight: 1,890kg * Engine: 4.7-litre V8 petrol * Drive: Rear wheels * Power: 444bhp @ 7,000rpm * Torque: 376lb/ft @ 4,750rpm * Gearbox: six-speed auto with paddle shifters *