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First Drive: Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.

First Drive: Maserati GranCabrio Sport
In Sport guise the GranCabrio is irresistably gorgeous. Nothing more to see here.

 



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| First Drive | Trieste, Italy | Maserati GranCabrio Sport |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

Say you have just over one hundred grand to blow on a new set of wheels and the car needs to be an open-top grand tourer. So what's on the shopping list? A Mercedes-Benz SL? What about an Audi R8 Spyder? An Aston could be squeezed out of the budget, as could a new BMW 6 Series Convertible, with plenty of change leftover. What about the new Maserati GranCabrio Sport? It's not the most obvious choice, but should it also be considered as a credible candidate?

Key Facts

Model driven: Maserati GranCabrio Sport
Pricing: £102,165
Engine: 4.7-litre V8
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door convertible
Rivals: Audi R8 Spyder, Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 6 Series Convertible
CO2 emissions: 337g/km
Combined economy: 19.4mpg
Top speed: 177mph
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Power: 450bhp at 7000rpm
Torque: 376lb.ft at 4750rpm

In the Metal: 5 5 5 5 5

In fear of making this part of my test report just one cliché followed by another, let's begin by getting some of them out of the way right now:

Bite-the-back-of-your-hand-gorgeous
Sinuous flowing lines
Italian styling infused with a bucket load of passion
When did God start designing cars?
Blah, blah, blah. Cliché, cliché, cliché...

So, by now, you've probably figured out the Sport has not come out of the box marked 'ugly'. Not that there's anything wrong with the model it was derived from, the regular GranCabrio, except where that is beautiful, the Sport is handsome and more masculine. And that's odd, because the body differences between the two are minimal at best, yet the extra adornments Maserati has subtly added to the Sport elevates it from the league we like to call "automotive handbag" to "I want one".

And take a gander at those 20-inch 'Astro' wheels, too. If you look really carefully you'll notice they have the Maserati trident incorporated into the rims - master stroke, or what?

It's when you start to look beyond the Pininfarina styling and cast a critical eye further than the swathes of super soft leather covering the interior that things get a little, well, disappointing. The buttons and switchgear have come straight out of the Fiat stock bin. While it could be argued that Audi performs exactly the same trick with the R8, the VW knobs are tactile and work with a sense of purpose while the Maserati's are horrible blobs of plastic that feel as though they will stop working after three days of usage. I'm not being pernickety here, just realistic. The type of buyer the Sport is aimed at will expect the devil to be in every detail. It is an unnecessary disappointment. I got the sense of "Oh, that'll do. No one will ever notice we've used Panda switches". I did and yes they will.

Driving it: 3 3 3 3 3

You turn the key and; Holy Moly! It sounds as if the 4.7-litre V8 is sitting in your lap. I knew it would make a noise, maybe a loud shout or a deep muffled growl but I just wasn't expecting what was expelled out of its twin exhaust pipes. I kid you not here; its voice piece is bigger than its exterior beauty.

Apart from having a louder exhaust note the Sport also boasts10bhp more than the standard model. Bigger brakes, too, while the chassis is forty per cent stiffer. There's a Sport button on the dashboard (supplied by Fiat, obviously) and when it's pressed it sharpens up things like the steering and the suspension. It makes the engine even noisier and tells the automatic gearbox that no cog can be changed unless the driver instructs it to do so. This will be joyous news if you've bought the Sport with the intention of perhaps ragging it around the odd race circuit or two.

A word of warning before you do: don't even think about it. The clue to the reasons why is in the name - GranCabrio (with or without the Sport appellation) - which translates into: this car was built to go from Monte Carlo to Cannes, quite quickly and with a lot of style. And it has little problem performing that particular task; however, try driving it on the edge of its limits and everything goes a bit awry. It's too heavy for a start; the steering is vague to say the least; and even at motorway speeds it requires corrections to keep it in a straight line. Then there's the stiffer chassis; it is still too woolly and the smallest road blemish throws it completely off balance.

The all-important 0-62mph is covered in 5.2 seconds, which isn't exactly lightning fast but then, on the other hand, it's not a slouch either. In a sprint race, then, its market rivals will outrun it and those very same cars will probably out manoeuvre it too. Yet despite the Sport's blatant inadequacies you can't help but shower it with the sort of unconditional love a parent gives a child. You make excuses for it.

What you get for your Money: 4 4 4 4 4

When the Sport goes on sale in October 2011 there will not be too much more to add to the basic package, as it comes complete with a plethora of safety features and acres of leather. That said, Maserati will upgrade the base model to the MC Sport Line package, which includes a bit more in the carbon fibre features department and those 20-inch wheels. Prices have yet to be confirmed for this trim level.

Worth Noting

The seats in the rear are usable although two full-sized humanoids will find a long journey a cramped affair. Also, with the roof folded down the boot space is limited to a couple of M&S sandwiches and a Kit Kat chunky.

Summary

I just wish Maserati had thought of another name other than 'Sport'. It immediately implies this is going to be a really precise driving tool and it's not. If it had called it Trilby or Sausage or Magnolia then it would have been really, really easy to forgive it for so many of its failings. I'd have written, 'Ah yes, the Trilby, I dare you not to fall in love it..." Nonetheless, drive the GranCabrio Sport just once and I still dare you not to fall in love it, warts and all. Damn you Maserati.


Danny Cobbs - 27 Jul 2011









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2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.



2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.
 

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.
 

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.
 

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.
 

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.
 

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.
 

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.
 

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Sport. Image by Maserati.
 






 

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