Our time behind the wheel of the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible was spent entirely with the top down, moving from suburban Beverly Hills through urban intersections, up narrow canyon streets and along Mulholland Drive, a winding skyline road sometimes favored by street racers. From there, we took a quick blast down the I-405 freeway and back to Beverly Hills, along Sunset Blvd, rolling past the practice fields of UCLA and the exclusive neighborhood of Bel Air.
Our time behind the wheel did not include any super high speed performance driving, but it was enough to get a feel for the engine and transmission, the suspension, and interior accommodations when the top is down. We were able to confirm that the GranTurismo Convertible is many things at once.
For starters, the GranTurismo Convertible is an easy car to drive. There is nothing intimidating about it. It makes few demands in ordinary driving, easily holding the road and providing a smooth ride.
That said, time spent driving the Maserati is likely to be memorable. Full-throttle bursts on to the highway are impressive and exhilarating, and braking is remarkable. At one point we tested stopping power from 55 mph. We found the brakes are very powerful under medium pressure, but not too sensitive at the top, so short, smooth stops from higher speeds are not hard to achieve. Maserati specs tell us the car is capable of stopping from 60 mph in less than 115 feet. The front brakes are 14.2-inch cross-drilled Brembo discs, with six-piston calipers; the rear brakes have similar components but are 13 inches in diameter. They feel great.
Ride quality on choppy Mulholland Drive was impressive. The pavement is smooth in the middle, broken on the passenger side, so it was not uncommon to have one wheel on a smooth surface, and the other wheel dealing with harsh bumps and poorly repaired wear spots. This mixed surface would give a lot of cars problems, with both ride and handling, but the GranTurismo Convertible felt solid, sure-footed, and graciously serene, damping out the chop without giving up grip. It seemed to be immune to changes in road surfaces.
Steering is not especially quick, but solid, progressive and entirely predictable. This we attribute to a weight balance of 49/51, front to rear. With the engine positioned just behind the front axle, most of the weight is inside of the wheels. A limited slip differential smoothly proportions the power from wheel to wheel according to surface characteristics and driver demand. With each wheel able to move independently, a wide mixture of surfaces are readily dealt with.
The ZF electronic transmission permits driving as an automatic, an electronically controlled manual, or by means of paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel. Driven as an automatic, the transmission makes good use of available torque, but on the roads we drove, Sport mode and manual shifting seemed more appropriate. In Manual mode, the transmission doesn't kick down in response to throttle, but there is no need to thrash the gearbox; good torque is available under 2000 rpm in the lower gears. Because speeds were variable, and slow traffic came up quickly, we found ourselves downshifting from third to second, plus an occasional downshift into first. First is a very low, 4.1 ratio, designed for fast starts but not smooth downshifts, so it's a big step that slows the car rapidly. Looking for smoother control of the lower gears, we tried the paddle shifters. These turned out to be a surprisingly intuitive, playful way to shift: easy up, easy down. We have a feeling we would use the paddle shifters often if we owned the car.
Sport mode also allowed us to hold on to a gear longer, and seemed to shift the powerband slightly lower for better acceleration. Most notable was the change in exhaust sound. The quiet burble of a luxury car was replaced by the stirring sound of a V8 engine at full throttle, starting at 3000 rpm. We later learned that the exhaust is altered by a pneumatic valve that opens in Sport mode. We can't say that it makes more power, but the sound is truly satisfying, especially with the top down. And the car drives quite differently, by virtue of the change in transmission programming and more sportive damper programming. Most of the time, cars with sport programming offer only a subtle shift in performance. In the Maserati, the difference is very apparent.
The engine is a modern V8 in every way, with variable intake valve timing, four valves per cylinder and Bosch injection. It's built with a wide bore and short stroke, making it quick to rev to 5000 rpm and beyond. Peak horsepower comes along at 7000 rpm, just short of the 7200 rpm redline. Compression is set at 11.25:1, so the Maserati V8 requires Premium fuel. With this engine, the GranTurismo Convertible is maybe not a supercar, but more than a sporty couch. We let it rip when we came to a highway on-ramp, winding out a few gears from a dead stop. We found it plenty powerful enough for spirited driving and high speed cruising. This is a car we would love to drive on a long, sparsely patrolled superhighway, say, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
Even with the top down, wind buffeting is minimal. We were able to drive at moderate speeds with the front windows down, top open, without noticing too much turbulence. On the highway, rolling up the door windows cleans up front-seat air flow appreciably.
It is difficult not to be noticed in a Maserati. Even in Los Angeles, even in Beverly Hills, chances of pulling up next to another one at a stoplight are zero. Most people, after seeing our test car, will probably not see another Maserati for a month, so you get used to people taking in the color, the lines and the iconic grille. On top of an understanding of exclusivity, there is a tangible sense of well-being that comes from occupying the car, and a sense of remorse when the key is turned off.
In the end, this is a car that will happily go along with whatever you want. The personality is changeable but not volatile, provocative but forgiving, and ready to rock any time you feel the urge. The car provides comfort without demanding attention, and exhilaration without wearing you out. She is beautiful, smart, and talented.