"Maserati has a long history of open top sports cars, but the GranCabrio is the first Maserati to extend this experience to four people," says Glen Sealey, General Manager of Maserati Australia and New Zealand. "But, the fact that this car offers four seats does not mean that it is any less a Maserati. Not only do the four occupants in a GranCabrio travel in the same luxury, comfort and exclusivity for which the GranTurismo and Quattroporte have become bywords, the GranCabrio offers the performance expected of a Maserati and, with the roof down, even more opportunities to enjoy the orchestral sound track provided by the Maserati V8 engine."
The hood of the Maserati GranCabrio is an engineering masterpiece. A frame with five cross bars and no less than three different protection groups of layers mean that it does not balloon at speed, remaining stiff and flap free. It folds down in just 20 seconds, a fully automatic process that may be initiated not just from inside the car but also from the outside, so that on a hot day the roof may be opened without having to sit or even get into the car. It may also be raised and lowered on the move up to 30 kmh, which takes 28 seconds. Yet, for all this technology its shape all but mirrors that of the GranTurismo coupe, which means that roof up or roof down, the GranCabrio is a beautiful and graceful car that is attractive and balanced from every angle, and, at just 65 kg, its weight has a minimal effect on the performance of the car.
The hood has even been developed with local conditions in mind - the cold and wet weather testing was done on the South Island of New Zealand, so the GranCabrio can cope with even the worst of Kiwi weather. New Zealand also provided the conditions for the snow and ice calibration of the GranCabrio's stability control system.
"The Maserati GranCabrio is much more than a convertible version of an existing model in the range," says Mr Sealey. "Its broad range of attributes as well as its ability to excel in all the traditional requirements of a convertible mean that its sales will not only be predominantly to new customers for Maserati, it will also further enhance the image and reputation of the Maserati brand as a whole. For these reasons we expect the GranCabrio to substantially add to Maserati's sales total in both Australia and New Zealand."
Although broadly based on the Maserati GranTurismo coupe, the range of changes made to the car to transform it into the GranCabrio effectively mean that it is a new model. Given the magnificent styling of the GranTurismo, it is no surprise that, other than the hood and its associated features, the majority of the changes to the GranCabrio are under the skin. These ensure full maintenance of body rigidity and integrity - a significant task on a four seat convertible with the longest wheelbase in its class - and enable the GranCabrio to offer the same fine combination of handling, roadholding and ride comfort that is provided by the GranTurismo.
In addition to the hood, other features have been carefully and selectively changed or enhanced for the GranCabrio to provide the optimum roof down experience. These include a ventilation system that adapts to the different requirements of roof up or roof down motoring and a unique audio system that alters the sound balance depending on the position of the roof. A new security system maximises personal security at all times and Maserati has even provided a bespoke fitted luggage system for the boot and rear seat of the GranCabrio.
One thing that hasn't changed is the drivetrain of the GranCabrio, an engine and gearbox combination that has quickly become a benchmark performance in the luxury coupe, saloon and now, with the GranCabrio, convertible sectors. The 90 degree V8 fitted to the GranCabrio has a capacity of 4.7 litres and develops 323 kW at a breathtaking 7,000 rpm. Attached to this technical tour de force is a six speed automatic gearbox designed and developed specifically for Maserati's requirements, one of which was to fully utilise the high revving nature of the engine, something that is normally an athema to auto-boxes.
But these figures do not do justice to how this performance is provided. Matching the lusty, sports car performance of dispatching the dash to 100 kmh in 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 283 kmh where the law permits, is an aural soundtrack worthy of an orchestra with its deep growls, throaty rasps and crackling high notes. As countless writers have enthused, it makes the driver want to change gear just to hear the magnificent engine.
The chassis in which this drivetrain is enveloped is no less entertaining, encouraging to deft driving or safe and responsive when difficult driving conditions demand. With Skyhook suspension, Maserati's acclaimed continuously variable damping, as standard, fitted to advanced suspensions systems and backed by latest electronic accident avoidance systems with a dictionary of acronyms - MSP, ASR, ABS and EBD just to name four - the Maserati GranCabrio ensures maximum control under all conditions.
Maserati has built its reputation on not just performance and style, but also exclusivity and the ability to personalise each car to match the character of each owner. Maserati already offers a possible nine million combinations of trim and colour. To this the GranCabrio adds six different hood colours, two new leather interiors (Pearl Beige and Blu Profondita) and three new dashboard trims, Dark Chrome, Moonwood, and Carbalho. These combine to produce a level and depth of luxury that is unmatched in its category.
"The array of abilities provided by the GranCabrio covers the full spectrum," says Mr Sealey. "Four people can travel in comfort, across the city or a continent, under conditions that demand the roof be down, or with security and peace of mind when conditions mean roof down motoring could not be further from consideration. It can be flung up a mountain pass or cruise down a freeway with equal aplomb, but wherever and however it is being driven; the Maserati GranCabrio is always a car that is equally captivating to drive or to see on the road."
The Maserati GranCabrio officially goes on sale on 1 July 2010, but such is the anticipation for this new Maserati that more than 60 per cent of the cars allocated for Australia and New Zealand already have owners. The recommended retail price excluding statutory charges and on road costs is $338,000 in both Australia and New Zealand.