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Friday 12th February 2010

Driven: Maserati GranCabrio

Rain doesn't stop play for Mark Nichol in Maser's new glamour-puss



Before any of us had stepped foot into the GranCabrio (or jumped into it, roof down, like The Fonz would) Maserati spent some time justifying the car's existence: it's steeped in tradition (despite being the first Maser four-seat soft top); it's bigger and roomier than anything in its price bracket; it's pretty much as good to drive as the coupe; research shows it fits the Maserati customer profile perfectly; and something about 'brand contribution'. I don't know what that means.

And it's all piffle anyway. Look at the thing. It makes you want to swear at first, in a good, cathartic way - most would agree that Maserati knows a thing or three about styling a car. Disagree if you wish, but for me the GranCabrio is stunning, cloth top and all. Maser claims a folding hard top setup was eschewed wholly on 'centre of gravity' grounds, but to be honest, look at any CC-type car and it's fairly obvious that the guys from Italy were always going to duck that big ugly stick. It's far easier to resolve a cloth hood than an origami metal one.


But it's still a clever roof. Three layers of fabric make sure that when it's closed it does a decent job of mimicking the sound deadening properties of a fixed head, only succumbing to wind whistle at motorway speeds. What it can't do, though, is fully emulate a proper roof's strength - and there lies the GranCabrio's big, gaping problem.

The chassis strengthening, which includes strut braces in the engine bay, and bolstering beneath the door skins and floor, undoubtedly smothers some of the scuttle shake, but never all of it. In fact, the Maserati's ride is almost its undoing. The Italian roads we drove the car on - mostly urban - were in awful condition, and the GranCabrio at times couldn't cope properly. You always expect a convertible's chassis weaknesses to be exposed on the worst extremes of road surfaces, but the Maser capitulates regularly, with an underlying rumble and persistently fidgety ride.


Firm springs, fast dampers and super thin rubber don't help, seeing the Maser smack into divots in a suspension-troubling way. There is some give in the chassis, so it's far from unbearable, but there's an uncomfortable blend of stiffness, chassis lard and structural compromise to deal with.

The thing is, it's not enough of a problem to put off those who adore its looks, and who hear its sensationally vociferous engine. As ever, the Maser's annoyances are forgivable because, like Paul Daniels, it has a unique personality and a few brilliant tricks up its sleeve, and thus a propensity to attract disproportionally hot members of the opposite sex.


The 434bhp V8 is familiar now, but no less appealing. You can tell it's hauling along a big car, which perhaps explains the lack of a 4.2-litre option for the GranCabrio, but it still sounds like the devil's chainsaw from 3,000rpm onwards - and more so if you open up the exhausts by pressing the 'sport' button.

Dynamically the weight throws a lardy spanner in the works, but again it's not to the extent that it stops the car being enjoyable. It never feels mega fast, (a 5.4-second 0-62mph dash is slower even than the base 4.2-litre GranTurismo's), but it performs adequately, and there's the distinct feeling that Maser has stuck to its guns and tried to keep it a driver's car. The steering is slack around the centre, but it's heavy and gets sharper with turn in, which means it takes a little getting used to, but is rewarding once you do. Ditto the brakes, which initially feel under-servoed, but reward harder effort with plenty of feel.


The inertia of weight never goes away, but it's still quite an agile car, and one that, like the Quattroporte, allows quite lethargic steering correction to power oversteer. The 'box is a ZF automatic, which in a twin-clutch world seems a little docile - especially when changing down more than one gear at a time - but which in D mode shifts quickly and smoothly enough. It won't stay in manual though, automatically putting itself back in auto within a few seconds of a shift, which is annoying.

Ergonomic details like the high set, very vertically positioned steering wheel, and the line of Alcantara on the contact point of the gearbox paddle shifters, make driving the GranCabrio an event. And what the cabin lacks in the outright build quality of, say, a high priced German, it makes up for in design flair and good use of contrastingly coloured and textured materials. If you can ignore the Peugeot switchgear, that is.


There's a well-worn adage that people drive cars like this for one reason alone... and you don't need me to tell you what it is. I don't buy that, necessarily, but for those who conform to the stereotype there's a good-looking, great sounding cabriolet here which oozes class and Italian credibility.

Those people won't get their neatly trimmed chest wigs all tangled either, because during our brief stint with the top down (it was miserable and damp in Rome); the GranCabrio did a good job of directing the hair-troubling gusts well over the cabin.

In spite of berating the GranCabrio's various flaws, most notably its ride, as a genuine four-seater for those with £100k-plus to spend, soft-top tendencies and a more casual approach to the finer and details dynamic behaviour it's actually quite appealing.

It sounds remarkable, looks sensational, goes fast, has a hood that works properly as a roof in the rain, is relatively refined and, well, it's a Maserati. Enough for some.

Click 'play' above to view

Click 'play' above to view

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Author Discussion

Beefmeister

Original Poster:

11,953 posts

115 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
I sat in one of these a bit ago in the factory in Modena, and had a damn good nose around.

I'm not ashamed to say i almost got wood looking at it, absolute thing of beauty.

Truly stunning automobilic porn...






No, i don't think 'automobilic' is a word either, but i couldn't think of a better word to go there...

Edited by Beefmeister on Friday 12th February 14:06

soad

19,081 posts

61 months

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Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Looking good, ooh - the noise it makes is damn nice too.

GrahamMS

57 posts

169 months

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Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Looks beautiful...but more interesting is that PH considers Debbie McGee to be disproportionately hot. Who is Paul Daniels anyway? smile

Spunagain

396 posts

143 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Hi
Very pretty, but for a review of a sports cabrio whose USP in its prece bracket is that it has 4 seats, it's a pity there's no mention of the rear seat space or even a piccy of the back seats.
Will I fit in the back or is there only room for legless dwarves?


boomboompow

2,471 posts

69 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Spunagain said:
Hi
Very pretty, but for a review of a sports cabrio whose USP in its prece bracket is that it has 4 seats, it's a pity there's no mention of the rear seat space or even a piccy of the back seats.
Will I fit in the back or is there only room for legless dwarves?
Surely you'd want to be in the front seat? wink
Advertisement

Art_Vandelay

6,500 posts

69 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Peugeot switch gear? Didn't realise Maserati shared anything with Peugeot confused

Bigchiefmuffin

32 posts

87 months

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Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
The thing is, besides looking great ( and I think it really does ! ), there is really nothing this cars does that a BMW 335i convertible doesn't do better. You would really have to be a heart over head type to go for this.

Airbag

3,466 posts

81 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Beefmeister said:


No, i don't think 'automobilic' is a word either, but i couldn't think of a better word to go there...

Edited by Beefmeister on Friday 12th February 14:06
Automotive?

kambites

40,736 posts

106 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Bigchiefmuffin said:
The thing is, besides looking great ( and I think it really does ! ), there is really nothing this cars does that a BMW 335i convertible doesn't do better. You would really have to be a heart over head type to go for this.
I think anyone with ears could pretty easily argue against that point.

briSk

14,173 posts

111 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Bigchiefmuffin said:
The thing is, besides looking great ( and I think it really does ! ), there is really nothing this cars does that a BMW 335i convertible doesn't do better. You would really have to be a heart over head type to go for this.
..almost by definition!

you'd have to (in some way) be heart over head to buy the 335icab over any other 1, Z, or 3 35i option...

_____________________

i still don;t like how big these cars are. i think they need a smaller model to the gransport. just like the gtr (but different obviously!) i wouldn't have one because of the width. mmmm-matron.

edinph

310 posts

59 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
OK, who do I have to sleep with to get one of these?

edinph

310 posts

59 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
edinph said:
OK, who do I have to sleep with to get one of these?
ps. Fuji White with navy leather please!

drivin_me_nuts

15,962 posts

96 months

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Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
I don't think it's a head over heart decision at all. I don't think that someone who would consider this car would even look at something common (and I mean that in a numbers sense) as a BMW convertible of any description.

It's a very seductive mix; large convertible for the affluent and it carries a sporting label, not a fatherland uber alles one. What's not to like?

Targarama

13,456 posts

168 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Lovely, I want one.

Now, as for that video - who filmed it? Complete rubbish. Couldn't see much of the car, couldn't hear it stretch its legs properly, could only hear it sound it like an auto box changing up all the time.

I'd best go and sit outside Maranello in Egham and watch some go past up the Egham bypass ears

Beefmeister

Original Poster:

11,953 posts

115 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Airbag said:
Beefmeister said:
…

No, i don't think 'automobilic' is a word either, but i couldn't think of a better word to go there...

Edited by Beefmeister on Friday 12th February 14:06
Automotive?
Ah yes, automotive. I work in the automotive industry, used to be an automotive engineer, and am trying to be a journalist.

I'll chalk this up to being an off-day...

biggrin

Dunce hat firmly on head.

bigblock

666 posts

83 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Spunagain said:
Hi
Very pretty, but for a review of a sports cabrio whose USP in its prece bracket is that it has 4 seats, it's a pity there's no mention of the rear seat space or even a piccy of the back seats.
Will I fit in the back or is there only room for legless dwarves?
Tend to agree with you. It would be handy if the review mentioned what the accomodation was like in the rear seats. The only point of buying this model over the two seater is the extra seats so why no photos or description of them?

Verde

439 posts

73 months

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Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
It's likely that the targeted demographic doesn't care about such things, but it's tough to hold in high regard a modern car that has a flexible chassis. It's what kept me from buying a Saab convertible in the 80's (the rear-view mirror shook so badly that it was a useless ornament - though they were soooo cool) and in the third millennium is considered, by and large, a solved problem by makers in just about every other country.
Yes, this is a stunningly beautiful car, and based on my experience with the coupe, likely sounds as only a beautiful italian car can. Like Saab's, Citroen's and others, Maserati's are always on the cusp of greatness. But rarely great.

ScottishSamurai

6,392 posts

61 months

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Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all


That is all.

McAndy

6,214 posts

62 months

[news] 
Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
edinph said:
OK, who do I have to sleep with to get one of these?
Not sure it matters given who you could sleep with once you have one! B-E-A-OOTIFAL!! lick

shalmaneser

2,897 posts

80 months

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Friday 12th February 2010 quote quote all
Art_Vandelay said:
Peugeot switch gear? Didn't realise Maserati shared anything with Peugeot confused
^^^Yeah that.

confused
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