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Move over Mercedes-Benz, backpeddle BMW, and just get out of the way Jaguar. The new Masser is about to hit town and it wants its day in the sun. The tops are off and let the boulevard battle begin.
This is the new and very stunning — Maserati GranCabrio, the open-top version of the potent GranTurismo coupe, which goes on sale in Australia in April for $338,000. That's $19,500 premium over the hardtop but that hasn't deterred 20 buyers who have already put their hand up for one. And numbers will be limited. Australia's allocation for the year is just 43 cars.
Maserati has had cabriolets before, but the Spyders have all been two seaters. This is the brand's first four-seater and it's aimed directly at the American market Maserati gambling its prestigious brand combined with the extra seating capacity will prove a marketing winner.
In Australia, true four-seaters, as against two plus two, are thin on the ground but Maserati is up against models from Benz, BMW and Jaguar for the up-market ‘fun in the sun’ dollar. Maserati is counting on pulling power of the cabrio — the third model in its lineup behind the coupe and Quattroporte sedan — to drive it out of the global financial crisis to add even more sex appeal to the famous Italian brand.
It does so in spades. This is adult-rated car porn; a cabrio to lust for. A car that should equally appeal to both sexes but for different reasons.
It has performance, and it has style. But the cabrio nearly didn't make it to market so early in 2010. Maserati's marketing director Massimo Farao hinted to Carsguide that the company, which has been regaining ground after years of financial losses, had considered stalling the launch because of the worldwide economic crisis.
"Sure we looked at it (delaying the launch) but decided to go ahead and introduce this new model. The global situation had a very serious impact on our markets but, with careful planning, we finished the year in the black. It was the right decision; the GranCabrio adds a third model alongside the Quattroporte and the GT to round out our lineup," he says.
While it may seem an easy task to create the GranCabrio by simply chopping the roof off the Turismo, Farao says the task was not that simple. "We had to do a lot of work to strengthen the car because the cabin is so long," he says. "We did a lot of strengthening around the sills and under the car and we kept the weight difference (over the coupe) down to less than 100kg, which if you look at our rivals is a remarkable achievement."
Defying modern trends, Maserati opted for a three-layered fabric roof instead of a folding metal lid, although the mechanism itself is very similar to that used by Ferrari in its California. The decision Farao says was made on tradition, style and practicalities. The soft roof allows for proper four seats and luggage space, albeit it's limited. Opening and closing the top can be done on the move up to 30km/h, taking 20 seconds plus another eight seconds to open or close the windows.
The GranCabrio shares all of the underpinnings of the coupe, including the 4.7-litre V8 (323kW/490Nm) from the GT-S version and the six-speed ZF transmission from base model GT. It misses out on Maserati's lightening quick electro-actuated semi-automatic gearbox which can make gear changes in just 100 milliseconds. It's a safe bet however the high performance gearbox will feature in an S version of the cabrio which is believed to be under development and due in a year's time.
And like the Turismo there is a downside: the V8 engine is thirsty at 23.9l/100km in the city and averaging 15.4l/100km (combined cycle) for a mix of urban and highway running. Nor is it clean and green, producing 358g of CO2 per kilometre. It's an area Maserati says is working on to improve for the next generation of cars, expected after 2012.
While the lighter coupe is quicker over the standing 100km/h dash at 4.9 seconds and has a top speed of 295km/h, the cabrio shouldn't belittled. It's only marginally slower, at 5.3 seconds to 100km/h, and tops out at 283km/h with the roof closed and 274km/h with it open.
At 2942mm, the new Maserati has one of the longest wheelbases on the market and uses the space to provide a luxurious Italian leather-bound. But it's not all good news. While Maserati says you can get two sets of golf clubs in the boot, the luggage space is compromised by the folding rag top. The same top severely reduces visibility to the rear quarter and rear headroom is going to be tight for anyone over 6ft.
The cabrio's sensuous styling with its sleek profile is all thanks to Pininfarina, while Maserati also worked with Bose to design the audio system, tailored for open air driving.
This cabrio also comes packed with safety features including multiple airbags, traction and stability control, the latest generation of anti-lock brakes with brake assist and a patented rollover protection system the hoops are electronically fired in less than 190 milliseconds. There's also an elaborate alarm system designed to deter thieves from pinching items from the cabin if the roof is down.
Who would be mad enough to launch a cabriolet in winter. The Italians, who want their new model ready for summer, that's who. To set the picture: The first snowstorm in 25 years blankets Rome as it spreads across Europe. Blocked roads, cancelled flights, stranded passengers sleeping at airports, chaos on the cobblestoned streets, Romans building miniature snowmen on the backs of their scooters. It's beak and freezing and we can't drive the car.
The Maserati team take it on the chin. "Hey, we have built a beautiful car for summer," one quipped. And they have. The following day it takes me exactly 11 seconds to make my mind up about that. That's the time it takes to circle the boulevard cruiser. That's twice as long as it takes for the cabrio to hit 100km/h from a standing start.
Hey, this is supposed to be a cruiser not a bruiser, but a zero to 100km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds for a car which weighs in just under two tonnes says Maserati means business. This is no show pony and the ride and handling show Maserati's development work in producing a car which soaks up the bumps but also allows flat cornering has worked a treat.
Despite its stunning looks, there is no hiding the fact the GranCabrio is a big lump of a car. This is a high flying four seater first class lounge on wheels. But any cabrio is always going to be a compromise. Removing the roof creates enormous engineering problems to maintain rigidity, while storage of the folding room is going to rob luggage space. But Maserati has done a good job here.
The rear pews are tight but comfortable and there is some boot space which is a bonus and there's little in the way of buffeting indeed the cabrio is so well protected the optional wind blocker is not needed.. The GranCabrio is two cars in one. Left in its normal settings it is a very capable cruiser. Push the sport button next to the steering wheel and it's a whole new ball game.
Sport means the suspension becomes stiffer, the gear changes are quicker and, beyond 3000rpm, the V8 get a much deeper and louder note thanks to a small gate being opened in the exhaust which allows a free flow of gases, partly bypassing the muffler. The engine note is nothing short of breathtaking.
Deep, sonorous, sexy and mind-blowing with the roof down. Like it. No. I'm in love with it.
|(base)||4.7L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$92,990 – 115,990||2010 Maserati Grancabrio 2010 (base) Pricing and Specs|
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