When Maserati promised me the keys to their GranCabrio Sport, I obviously snatched them as quickly as I could. I then had to work out exactly what I was going to do with the car over the week it was on my drive. It had to be something to match the spectacular sense of occasion the Maserati creates, but I also didn’t want to bankrupt myself with an eye watering fuel bill.
I’ve never been very good at sensible plans though, so a few phone calls later saw me with access to what remains of RAF Alconbury’s airfield.
Before then I got acquainted with the car. This is a variant of Maserati’s big bruiser, the GranTurismo, but with the roof cut off. It’s the first four-seater convertible that the Italian firm has ever made and, much like the GranTurismo that this is based on, it is achingly pretty.
You could frame the car and hang it on your wall and nobody would bat an eye lid. Yet that evocative trident on the grille means that the car is tasked with doing far more than simply looking good, and that explains the addition of the word ‘Sport’ on the boot lid.
While the car shares much with the ‘normal’ GranCabrio, including its 4.7 litre V8 engine, the Sport model extracts a little more power, with 454 horses available. That’s more than you would find in a BMW 650i and is enough to rocket the Sport to 60 mph in just five seconds flat. If you’re brave, it’ll take you all the way to 177 mph.
The suspension has been stiffened, and there are thicker anti-roll bars and an electronic damper system simply called Skyhook. That means there are aluminium dampers that constantly adjust the ride, managed by an electronic control unit that receives data from accelerometers positioned on each wheel. There’s much more to it, but it gets very boring and technical.
The end result is that the GranCabrio Sport pulls off the California cruiser role with ease, remaining relaxed and amiable as you wind your way along King’s Parade. The ride quality really is superb, far more refined than you have any right to expect when you cast your eye over the 20-inch wheels and overtly sporting stance.
If you want a little more though, you can press a discrete button labelled ‘Sport’. Then all hell is let loose. This is where the runway came in useful…
The throttle response sharpens, there’s weightier steering, the gearbox shifts between ratios more quickly and those mysterious Skyhooks make it go round corners flatter and quicker. Then, just to be really clear that things are different, some valves open in the exhaust to create a noise similar to volcano erupting in the rear seats.
Even the changes Clark Kent goes through when he wanders in to a phone box don’t come close to what happens with the Maserati. This is Bruce Banner and The Hulk.
The transformation create a sense of confidence that leaves you feeling able to pitch the car in to any corner at any speed and expect the laws of physics to simply be disregarded. They’re no longer relevant.
It’s at that point you end up facing the wrong way in a cloud of tyre smoke, the noise from the exhausts echoing off in the distance. And it’s then you realise that it’s that incredible aural stimulation that’s leading you to behave like a hooligan.
Driving through my home village of Brampton at 20mph sounds like the start grid at Le Mans, the V8’s bark bouncing off every tea shop and thatched roof. You change gear just to hear the throttle blip. You stop to let everybody out of junctions purely so you can listen to the exhaust crackle as the revs drop. This is not a car you can be discrete in.
For all of its lunacy, every now and then you might want to drive it to the office, or pick up some shopping at Waitrose. It’s during those more relaxed moments that you’ll notice the interior is some way off the best in class. It’s minimalist by design, like the sharpest of Italian suits, but you’d have a right to expect a little more of a flourish for your money.
It’s plenty spacious enough though, with even the back seats being genuinely useable, although it does get a bit tight for two grown adults once the roof is up. There’s also a perfectly good sized boot that will take a week’s shopping, but it’s unlikely to do the job well enough if you want a three-week driving tour of Europe.
At £102,000, there’s no getting away from the fact that the GranCabrio is not cheap, especially when you see that BMW’s 650i M-Sport is £20,000 cheaper and quite a bit quicker.
The Maserati is so much more desirable, though. Once you’ve seen the Sport in the flesh, you don’t really care about rivals. Frankly it wouldn’t matter if there was a Massey Ferguson engine ahead of you, just so long as it looks like it looks and sounds like it sounds.
The Maserati may not be quite perfect, but once you fire up the engine and the car shakes to a rumble deeper than that from any jungle, any shortcomings are quickly forgiven.
My bank manager hasn’t forgiven me for getting through a set of tyres in two days though. I should definitely leave the planning to other people.
Engine: 4.7 litre V8 petrol engine
Top speed: 177 mph
0-62 mph: 5.0 seconds
Power: 454 bhp / 460 PS
Torque: 384 lb/ft / 520 Nm
|Official combined mpg: 19.5 mpg
Road Test economy: 18.3 mpg
CO2 Emissions: 337 g/km
VED Band: M / £490 per year
Insurance group: 50
Kerb weight: 1,980 kg