Maserati's GranCabrio has long been the default choice for those looking for a truly glamorous four seat convertible. Now there's an even better version. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
With more power, more equipment, superior suspension and a hugely evocative soundtrack, the Sport version of Maserati's GranCabrio becomes the default choice for those looking for a four-seat convertible with serious presence. There's nothing quite like it.
I'm racking my brains and trying to think of a time when Maserati had a better crop of cars. Even when it was producing tackle like the Bora and the Merak, there was a nagging edge of flakiness to the cars and the feeling that a financial implosion was always just around the corner. The Biturbo years that led into the Karif, Shamal and Ghibli days are probably best glossed over, with a renaissance of sorts arriving with the debut of the 3200, 4200 GT and Quattroporte models. The ongoing development of the Quattroporte and the introduction of the GranSport and its GranCabrio sibling have given Maserati a rock solid foundation the like of which is beyond the living memory of many. The addition of the GranCabrio Sport model brings an even naughtier edge to its raffish drop top.
This GranCabrio Sport is a car my sister-in-law would hate. She works for Environmental Services and more specifically, Noise Abatement, and the most noticeable change with this GranCabrio Sport is that when the Sport button on the dash is pressed it's as if the volume has instantly been turned up to eleven. The specification sheet tells us that there's an additional ten horses under the bonnet and that the sprint to 60mph now takes 5s on the way to 177mph, but all you'll really care about is that soundtrack. It's incredible. The Sport button does so much more. It tightens the steering feel, sharpens up the response time of the six-speed automatic box and stops it self-shifting, it makes the throttle more sensitive and best of all it firms up the suspension. This is key. The 450bhp GranCabrio Sport rides on a version of Maserati's Skyhook adaptive suspension and it offers a far more supple ride than the conventionally suspended GranCabrio. Body roll is better contained as well, so it's a win-win situation. Yes, you might well find other open cars that are quicker across country but few feel quite such an event.
Design and Build
Although it is possible to find angles that make the GranCabrio's styling look a little strangely proportioned, most of the time it looks utterly gorgeous, with swooping bodywork draped voluptuously over some serious engineering. The 4.7-litre V8 is the business end, but the interior of the GranCabrio Sport is a very pleasant place to be. Some of the minor switchgear looks and feels a little out of place on a £100,000+ car but the overall effect is one of effortless elegance. The GranCabrio Sport offers plenty of room up front and even taller passengers can get into the rear seats, although they'll probably only want to stay there for shorter journeys. The roof is a traditional canvas item that takes a leisurely 28 seconds to lower, but then, the GranCabrio is touted as a full four-seater convertible and a 2,942mm wheelbase would appear to back this up. The roof has a lot of cabin to cover and should be forgiven for taking its time. At least the conversion process can take place at speeds of up to 19mph. Bigger shift paddles, drilled aluminium pedals, revised seat materials and custom badging differentiate the Sport's interior. A body kit, black finished headlights and twenty-inch alloy wheels also feature.
Market and Model
In isolation, the asking price of £102,615 might cause a few palpitations but what do you really compare this car with? How many other four seat exotic convertibles are there that are remotely price comparable? In this regard, the Maserati GranCabrio Sport has almost a free run at the market. Yes, BMW's 6 Series Convertible is a capable and beautifully built thing but it doesn't approach the Maserati's sheer force of personality. Aston Martin Virage? Sure, if you want to shell out another £60,000. Given that Porsche will charge virtually this much for a 911 with this sort of performance, the GranCabrio Sport seems rather good value for money. The interior is finished throughout in exclusive Poltrona Frau leather and there are options to further personalise the car. The MC Sport Line package is available for those who have deeper pockets still, and runs to interior and exterior carbon fibre features. For example it is possible to change the front splitter to carbon-fibre, while the side skirts are also available in black.
Cost of Ownership
It's impossible to pretend that the Maserati GranCabrio Sport will be anything other than a terrifyingly expensive car to run. Residual value is the big ticket item and no car in this class does particularly well so singling the Maserati out for particular abuse would be invidious. Insurance is an eye-watering group 50, servicing and spares are expensive and fuel economy is an optimistic-looking 19.5mpg. In case you're interested, carbon dioxide emissions are rated at 337g/km. Even these numbers won't dissuade the target clientele, however, who may well see the upfront price as such a conspicuous bargain that it offsets the ongoing costs with change to spare.
Some cars are designed to ruthlessly pragmatic criteria, others are just delightful things to behold and the Maserati GranCabrio Sport is one of the latter. Yes, it would be easy to criticise it in a number of objective ways but it's a bit of fun; something that makes the world around it that bit prettier and which rewards the senses of those with the requisite means in a way few other vehicles can approach. Perhaps the GranCabrio's Sport appellation is a little misleading. Despite being quicker and noisier than the standard GranCabrio, this is no sports car. The sophisticated suspension actually means it rides more comfortably than the standard GranCabrio and at only £4,500 more expensive, there seems little excuse. What's stopping you?