Convertibles are one of the few examples of cars that need to mix three very important ingredients: open-air experience, design and driving experience.
Maserati’s GranCabrio is a prime example of a vehicle that encapsulates all three elements. The GranCabrio offers little in terms of shoulder and hip lines, giving it a rather soft and pleasing side profile. But the same can’t be said of the very aggressively designed front. This has always been the case with the GranCabrio, but Maserati has taken it a step further with the GranCabrio Sport, the model you can see in the pictures above. The shiny front grille has been replaced with a black one and the front bumper now incorporates front corner splitters. Adding to the drama, this dynamic look continues along the side of the car with redesigned side skirts, optional new wheels (called Astro design) and exhaust tips that now feature black endings.
The vital changes can be found underneath the body, though. Engine power has increased by just over 7 kW to 331 kW at a rev-happy 7 000 r/min. Compared to the standard GranCabrio, the Sport now also develops 20 N.m more: 510 N.m at 4 750 N.m.
The increase in output – and a six-per-cent reduction in fuel consumption – is owing to what Maserati calls its friction-reduction programme. It includes changes to the oil sump’s fluid dynamics, a new coating to the tappets and “super-finished” camshaft lobes. Other major changes include an updated Skyhook suspension and braking system.
So, what is it like from behind the steering wheel? As is always the case, the heavens opened up the night before, but fortunately we were able to experience just under half of our test drive with the roof where it is supposed to be; stored away.
Press the button sited on the transmission tunnel and the roof is neatly stowed behind the rear passengers. The driver and front passenger are still protected from the wind since the front windscreen is steeply sloped towards the rear and the windscreen frame is almost above you, rather than in front of you.
The sport button is the key to improving the experience from behind the wheel, and for the lucky passengers. This button changes a couple of electronic settings, but the most notable one is the exhaust sound. From as low as 2 500 r/min, the exhaust note becomes louder and more intense. It is also immediate, so you don’t need to go above a certain amount of revs before it takes effect. Even at speeds, which the car was made to achieve, wind buffeting is kept at bay, partly due to the two-piece wind deflector closing off the rear passenger area.
The road surface of the launch route included some of the best asphalt in the Western Cape, and here the GranCarbio Sport kept its composure, but, where the road was not that smooth, scuttle shake was quite noticeable. Keep in mind, though, that you can fit two small to normal sized adults in the back.
Heading over a mountain pass, I appreciated the improved soundtrack and use of the paddles to chase the redline. In full automatic mode, the six-speed transmission – taken from the Quattroporte Sport GT S – shifts seamlessly through the gears.
At R1,8 million, the GranCabrio Sport is priced next to some of the most expensive convertibles on our market. It has the badge, design and flair to match the price and is also one of the most practical four-seater convertibles. This is proven by a Viglietti spokesperson admitting that many Ferrari owners opt for a Maserati as their daily drive, partly for practical reasons.
You could say that the GranCabrio has evolved into a car it could’ve been from the start, but we would like to think that the Sport only enlarges the current offering by Maserati.
Model: Maserati GranCabrio Sport
Engine: 4,7-litre, V8 petrol
Power: 331 kW at 7 000 r/min
Torque: 510 N.m at 4 750 r/min
0-100 km/h: 5,2 seconds
Fuel consumption: 14,5 l/100 km
CO2: 337 g/km
Top speed: 285 km/h
Price: R1 813 000 (basic)
Maintenance plan: 3 year/60 000 km