Advertisement2012 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible Sport - First Drive ReviewTopping off Maserati's topless lineup with the delightful Sport.BY JENS MEINERS
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It was a peaceful and elegant scene, the bright sunlight glinting off the top-down Maserati GranTurismo convertibles parked on the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia in Trieste. Passersby admired the gorgeous cars, one of Pininfarina’s masterpieces. Then a legion of uprated 4.7-liter V-8s ignited with a snarl, and peace and elegance were the last things on our minds.
About that wonderful engine, fitted in the top-spec GranTurismo Convertible Sport: Purists still lament the fact that Maseratis, which were long defined by powerplants that developed peak power at low rpm, are now equipped with high-revving buzz saws bought from its former arch rival, Ferrari. But the GranTurismo Convertible Sport's 444-hp variation of the 4.7-liter V-8 is sure to create a few converts.
It’s an evolution of the regular GranTurismo convertible’s 433-horse 4.7-liter with less internal friction, thanks to a revised oil sump and slipperier coatings for the valve tappets and cam lobes. This upgraded version also powers the GranTurismo MC Stradale coupe. Compared with its lesser sibling, the droptop Sport exhales through a freer-flowing exhaust, the main purpose of which seems to be to create as much beautiful noise as is legally allowed. It’s aided in that pursuit by active valves that open at 2500 rpm when the transmission is in its automatic-sport mode. We predict the V-8 will haul the 4600-pound droptop to 60 in 4.8 seconds.
As in the U.S.-market MC Stradale and the Quattroporte Sport GT S, power flows through a six-speed, torque-converter automatic supplied by ZF. But don’t lament the fact that there’s no hard-core gearbox. The automatic has been extensively reworked for duty here and offers normal and manual-sport modes in addition to the aforementioned automatic sport, as well as launch control. Gearshift times are improved by up to 50 percent, it blips the throttle for downshifts, and in manual-sport mode, it doesn’t downshift when you hit the kickdown switch or upshift unless you tell it to. There’s more: You can call for a lower gear if there’s any leeway whatsoever before redline (most transmissions won’t let you downshift unless the resulting engine speed is farther down the tach from redline), and the exhaust flaps are always open in manual sport. This automatic is so good you'll hardly miss a dual-clutch transmission—or the Euro-market MC’s single-clutch automated manual. Of course, you might miss a proper clutch-pedal manual gearbox, but Maserati doesn't offer one anymore.
Chassis Changes, Too
Underneath, the front and rear springs and anti-roll bars are stiffer on this derivative, the dampers are modified, and the ZF Sachs–sourced Skyhook damping system has been retuned. On twisting roads, the Sport handles well and generally does what you ask of it, but there’s simply no masking the car’s two-ton-plus weight or somewhat uncommunicative steering. The body flexes more than it should, too. To be sure, the GranTurismo Convertible Sport is an enjoyable companion in nearly every situation, but it’s less full-bore sporty than its sinister looks and capital-S “Sport” badge might let on. So when a well-driven Audi R8 spyder closes in on you from behind, our advice is to just let it pass. Take solace in the fact that the Audi will never sound as glorious as the Maserati or seat four as comfortably (or at all).
There are a number of competitors: BMW's new 6-series droptop, the soon-to-be-new Mercedes-Benz SL, the Porsche 911 cabriolet, the Audi R8 spyder, and, of course, the Jaguar XK and its distant cousin, the Aston Martin V-8 Vantage roadster. The Maserati acquits itself well by informal comparison. It’s more spacious than most others (even if the trunk is tiny), it’s not outrageously expensive by the standards of the segment, it offers incredibly luxurious accommodations, and it just might have more character than the whole bunch combined. Those qualities ought to satisfy almost anyone—trident purists included.Specifications
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door convertible
BASE PRICE: $146,300
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 286 cu in, 4691 cc
Power (SAE net): 444 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 376 lb-ft @ 4750 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 115.8 in Length: 192.2 in
Width: 75.4 in Height: 53.3 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 4600 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 4.8 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 13.4 sec
Top speed (mfr’s claim): 177 mph
FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):
EPA city/highway driving: 12/21 mpg
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