Years ago, whilst attending an advertising copywriting course, I recall being warned that any attempt to dub any product ‘The Art of….’ would result in instant dismissal. Happily, I was spared this indignity, shortly thereafter being summarily ousted, instead, for suggesting that the diamond merchants, Prestons of Bolton, might benefit from the strap line: ‘Give her one and she’ll let you give her one’. Rarely have I heard a door slam with such force…
Still, it’s nice to think that the entirely scary Wolfgang Reitzle (remember ‘When Rover Met BMW’?) would have joined me on the copywriting scrap-heap; after all, was he not in charge of Ford’s PAG wing at the time that Jaguar advertising was underscored by the dubious epithet ‘The Art of Performance’?
Right. And what does this have to do with your review of the new 2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport?
After travelling just 100 yards down the road in Maserati’s new GranCabrio Sport, even the most hard-bitten copywriter would struggle in vain to resist branding this car ‘The Art of Noise’. Because pretty much any noise you can conjure that’s loud enough to send you scurrying for cover behind the sofa or cause the hairs on the nape of your neck to spontaneously troop the colour can now be yours for just £102,615; the asking price for this astonishing racket on gloss black 20in rims.
The GranTourismo is such a beautiful car that it’s hardly surprising it manages to remain achingly pretty despite the loss of a lid. The new Sport may be readily identified from its more demure GranCabrio sibling through bespoke front corner splitters and side skirts, a back grille and headlamps, body coloured door handles, black exhausts and those massive 20-inch wheels.
Inside the Maserati GranCabrio Sport
On board, a gently warmed over interior features longer, Trofeo racing car-style steering column-mounted shift paddles fitted as standard, drilled pedals and swanky new seat facings.
The specimen I drove adds further ocular yelp via a small raft of ‘MC Sport Line’ options which, I’m told, 40% of buyers will find irresistible; a cool £6120 worth of carbonfibre dotted hither and thither, inside and out. This includes the steering wheel rim, which, boasting soap-on-a-rope grip levels, is not a good idea.
A smattering of trim details lack the quality required of a 100 grand car, whilst the chrome lipped, dark blue driver’s instrument dials now look somewhat dated when mated to carbonfibre (think any one of Hugh Hefner’s recent wedding photographs). But the only real howler is the front seats, which compensate for ridiculously intrusive lumbar support with absolutely no lateral hold whatsoever, leaving one free to slosh to and fro like the occupant of a button-back Chesterfield on a storm-tossed skiff.
And what powers the Maser GranCabrio Sport?
This version of Maserati’s all-alloy, conventionally aspirated, 4.7-litre V8 has been lifted, piecemeal, from the GranTourismo MC Stradale. It delivers 10bhp and 15lb ft of torque more than that of the standard GranCabrio, equating to an insignificant 0.1 second improvement in 0-62mph acceleration, and a handsome 1mph increase in top speed. Like you’ll notice.
More significantly, a thorough undercarriage overhaul includes 15% stiffer front and rear springs, 1mm larger front and rear anti-roll bars, and a particularly well judged revision of Maserati’s Skyhook electronic damping.
Most significantly, a stab of the ‘Sport’ button elicits a quicker throttle response, stiffer damping, more weight in the helm, 50% faster shift times from the six-speed automatic gearbox and, once the baffles automatically open at 2500rpm, an exhaust note that’ll punch the wax clean out your ears at 50 paces.
Go on. Press the Sport button for us…
Additional ‘Sport’ mode bonuses include automatic throttle blipping during downshifts and, in manual guise, the unavailability of kick-down, a refusal of the gearbox to change up on your behalf even with the needle pinging of the rev limiter, and the permanent opening of the exhaust baffles.
Akin to swimming in wellingtons (a great deal of activity under the surface for less forward motion than one would like), performance is mildly disappointing. Given that it weighs 100kg more than the tin-top, this 1890kg Maserati is never as fast as it sounds, despite ostensibly encouraging figures, and, even in ‘Sport’ mode, must be worked with unseemly vigour to wring the best out of it.
How does the Maserati GranCabrio handle and ride?
Despite the rigorous stiffening of suspension components, the GranCabrio’s ride is entirely impressive, remaining fluid, supple and remarkably comfortable even in ‘Sport’ mode. But it cannot be deemed agile. Nothing nearly 5 metres long could ever be deemed agile. Let’s face it, the fact that the Queen Mary 2 does 35 knots and you could readily water ski behind it doesn’t make it a speedboat.
True, you can hustle the big Maserati along sweeping A-roads at a spectacular lick, plenty of feedback from the steering wheel and active dampers keeping it flatter than a post-Stobart hedgehog through the bends. But it’s less pleasure to navigate round the tighter, twistier stuff, its sheer size ultimately shackling aspirations of true agility.
Particularly since the brakes are so poor. Despite drilling, grooving and ventilation based efforts to get them interested, they remain long in travel, spongy and imbued with all the bite of a glove puppet. I mentioned this to a man I know who owns a GranTurismo. He simply muttered ‘better than they were…’
Despite being evidently flawed, the Maserati GranCabrio Sport remains deeply elegant, relentlessly charismatic, gratifyingly exclusive and hilariously loud.
Those of a more Teutonic automotive persuasion would suggest you’d have to be as mad as a hat made of butter to want one. But, lest we forget, flaws can add character. It’s merely a question of how many warts you’d accept on Angelina Jolie before interest waned.