2011 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible – First Drive Review
We’d like to be able to tell you that the new Maserati GranTurismo convertible is great with the top up or down, but we can only confirm the former. Our test drive, originating in Rome, coincided with the heaviest snowstorm that city has seen since 1986. We sat in our hotel, looking out at the flakes accumulating on the Fiat Cinquecentos and Smart Fortwos that crammed themselves onto both sides of the black-pavered streets like impacted molars. Maserati’s PR chief paced nervously. He knows the destruction journalists are capable of in dry weather, and there was no way he was letting us out in his $139,700 droptops on Pirelli summer tires in that kind of meteorological dandruff.
So we waited, and waited some more, until the snow stopped and we could make a break for it, shooting out of Rome down the E80 autostrada in a 220-km/h (137-mph) convoy.
Outfitted as a one-powertrain model, the GranTurismo convertible is blessed with the top-hole GranTurismo S automatic coupe’s 433-hp, 4.7-liter V-8 and ZF six-speed manumatic. It also maintains its sibling’s great lines. Maserati traded the elegant sweep of the GT’s C-pillars for the trim greenhouse of an Aston or a Bentley, and the softtop—available in six colors, weighing just 143 pounds in all, and retracting in 20 seconds—is a three-layer job that steals just two inches of rear headroom from the coupe and leaves enough room in the trunk for at least one golf bag.
The GT convertible has the longest wheelbase in a class that ranges from the Mercedes-Benz SL and BMW 6-series to the Bentley Continental GTC. Maserati engineers didn’t even have to change the rear-seatback angle to accommodate 62.5-percentile humans—a rarity in a segment whose cars force their unfortunate rear-seat passengers into the straitjacketed position popularized by Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs.
In the absence of a roof, Maserati reinforced the A-pillar inners and trussed the floor with an aero-optimized aluminum undertray, a ’70s Formula 1 touch we can’t help but admire. Static stiffness still can’t match the coupe’s, but dynamic bending is just as good, according to the company.
We did notice some shuddering through the steering column on the rough old Roman roads and some side-to-side creaking of the body over sunken SPQR manhole covers. But on the E80, the car felt solidly overbuilt, tracking true through corners with beautifully weighted steering, its powerful pump giving instant feedback in high-speed lane-change maneuvers. The engine’s torque delivery is very smooth, and throttle response gets gutsier with speed to keep the engine reactive at lower revs. Think of the throttle-response curve as S-shaped.
There’s a sport button on the dash that condenses throttle mapping, stiffens the suspension, and opens a bypass valve in the exhaust system above 3000 rpm. We had to kill sport mode at high speeds because the high-frequency drone was too grating. But hearing this open Italian exhaust caroming off the tunnel that runs under the Vatican is the closest this writer has come to a religious experience.
We made it down to the coast for a quick charge up and down a hill, but we kept the top up because it was still drizzling. The road’s lowered coefficient of friction invited all sorts of throttle-guided cornering, during which something incredible happened: The chassis reacted before its electronics did. The Maser’s long wheelbase makes the car easy to catch, as does steering that stays sensitive as the car loses traction. But the A-pillars, as thick as a sprinter’s thighs, make it almost impossible to execute tight left-hand turns with any confidence.
That said, this top-up experience with the GranTurismo convertible reminded us why we like the coupe so much. Both cars are lively and fluid—big, comfy GTs that mask their size with direct controls and tons of power. We would happily fly back to Rome and do the whole thing again, this time with the top down.