Britons have a legendary love affair with sports cars and few are as all-consuming as that for the Maserati GranCabrio Sport.
The head-turning 2+2 GranCabrio is the open-topped version of the GranTurismo Coupe and the Sport is the more powerful of the available engines.
The UK is the leading European market for Maserati and third worldwide behind the biggest, the USA, and growing Chinese registrations. Britain comfortably outpaces the native Italian market. In the UK, 199 Maserati Coupe and 97 Convertibles were registered in 2012 as well as 13 Quattroporte saloons. Over 90%, or 267, were sport models.
The Maserati GranCabrio Sport is a big, traditionally engineered Italian sports car with a beefy V8 normally aspirated petrol lump up-front and driving the rear wheels through a highly sophisticated automatic transmission and all clothed in an elegantly sweeping, curvaceous body topped with an electrically folding fabric hood.
The size of the GranCabrio immediately impresses and few cars are as intimidating when its bared-teeth grille appears in a mirror moments before it overtakes. The 4.7-litre, V8 with 450bhp has a distinctive engine note when started, a deep rumble which gradually develops into a roar as the revs are raised. Fire up and you just know the fireworks are about to begin.
The sophisticated 6-speed auto transmission is seamless in operation no matter how hard you push-on and for added refinement you can use the paddle selectors on the column to move up or down the box with the change points selectable for dynamic or winter modes as well. It is impressively simple and simply impressive.
Power delivery is immediate, strong and smooth, the GranCabrio accelerating very rapidly and purposefully from rest or at intermediate speeds and its motorway cruising ability is effectively a dawdle. Top speed is a heart-stopping180mph and zero to 62mph takes 5.0-seconds.
The size of the engine and the gearing make it a very tractable, even docile, car if you wish to drive it in such a manner and its flexibility and smoothness were revealed in a surprisingly good 19mpg overall during test. It is one of the very few cars that actually returned the ‘stated’ combined fuel figure.
Whether you are driving slowly in town or more enthusiastically touring through countryside, you cannot fail to be impressed by the weighted but precise steering and its agility and feedback, and the immensely powerful but beautifully balanced massive disc-brakes which haul it down from speed with little effort but a lot of effect. The electronic parking brake held it on the steepest slope we could find.
Secondary controls around the column or spread over the fascia really seem ideally placed for immediate location and use and the big but clear instruments permit instant feedback.
For an open topped car the climate control is very effective bathing the cabin in warm air while your hair is ruffled by the wind. Close the roof in a few seconds and the interior becomes very cosy. The powered windows operated quickly and quietly.
The hood when closed does restrict what you can see over your shoulder or when reversing but parking sensors are standard and necessary. Drop the hood and it folds away under a tonneau cover to give a flat surface and visibility to the sides and front is good. The big wipers and very powerful, far reaching headlights are excellent in bad weather and we had a lot of this on our test.
Sliding into the GranCabrio is very easy. If a child or teenager needs to sit in the back, touching the front seat release moves it forward to give a few more inches access space and in the back the headroom is fair even if the legroom is tight.
Driver and passenger get excellent access and have a lot of adjustment room and settings on their seats. Head and legroom is very good. All the seats are deeply shaped, supportive and very comfortable. It’s a car you really could use for a long trip or grand tour on holiday.
You might have to carefully think about your luggage though. The hood compartment does cut into the boot space and its maximum is 173-litres, which is about one large case or two smaller ones and some soft bags.
Noise levels are surprisingly low. There is a rumble from the big wheels and tyres and that wonderful engine note intrudes in a delightful way unless you hold down the gears and its sound hits a crescendo.
The more you drive the Maserati GranCabrio, the more you appreciate a surprising element of its engineering. For a car weighing nearly 2,000kg it handles with surprising agility and responsiveness so it can be accurately and repeatedly placed through a series of sweeping curves and it sticks to the tarmac irrespective of the bumps and dips underneath.
Shocks are soaked up and you never feel the car is unsettled or put off line. There is a natural tendency for the nose to run wide on winding roads but it’s all very well contained and controllable with very high levels of grip and throttle response.
For sheer presence on the road, there is little to touch the Maserati GranCabrio. It looks and behaves very impressively, it’s performance is truly outstanding in so many ways and its rarity value cannot be undervalued. No wonder so many British enthusiasts love their Italian automotive affair.
MILESTONES. Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Price: £103,875.
Mechanical: 4.7-litre, V8 petrol, normally aspirated 450bhp engine, 376lb ft of torque at 4,750rpm, 6-speed automatic, rear wheel drive. Performance: 177mph, 0-62mph: 5.0- seconds, Combined Cycle: 19 mpg, CO2 377gkm, VED road tax £1,065 First Year rate then £490 second year onwards, BIK company car tax 35%. Insurance group: 50. Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles.
For: Looks-at-me looks, thrusting macho performance, smooth handling & ride, rarity value. Against: Running and tax costs, rear visibility, boot space. Robin Roberts Miles Better News Agency