2011 Maserati GranTurismo Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Exceptionally refined, open-top grand touring car.
The Maserati GranTurismo Convertible combines a spacious, finely executed interior with an engaging powertrain to create a fast, stylish and comfortable four-seat touring car. The GranTurismo Convertible is new to the North American market for 2011, and it's the first four-seat convertible in Maserati history.
Sun-loving buyers will appreciate a comfortable open-air experience, relatively free of wind buffeting, excessive noise, or compromised amenities.
The combined demands of high-performance, luxury, and open-top operation are notoriously difficult to reconcile. In the case of the GranTurismo Convertible, every effort has been made to overcome those conflicting priorities, so the car can offer the best of all three personalities.
The performance part of the design envelope is based on a high-revving, 433-horsepower V8 engine, mated to an adaptive six-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shift capability. The suspension consists of a four-link, coil-strut arrangement with active, electronically controlled damping on both ends. Powerful drilled-disc brakes supply confident braking control behind 20-inch wheels shod with low-profile Pirelli tires. A substantial 4365 pounds in weight, the Maserati can still do 0-60 in 5.2 seconds, and has a top speed of 178 mph.
Luxury and comfort considerations are built around a custom-crafted Pininfarina-styled coach that incorporates fine leather, rare wood, and uncommon consideration for the rear seat passengers. In the rear there is ample legroom and shoulder room for full-size adults, surround sound audio, and separate climate control. Interior detail is evident, including fine chrome rings around buttons and switches, and hand-sewn exposed stitching. The interior is available in 10 different colors with three choices of wood.
As with any ultra-luxury car, all adjustments are power controlled, including seats, folding mirrors and steering wheel. Features like navigation, high-end audio and iPod compatibility are built in. The dash and center console are simple and elegant.
The convertible top adds a final element of style and luxury to the Maserati. To keep the chassis from flexing without a roof, reinforcing steel has been used in the A-pillar, B-pillar, through the rocker panels and around the doors. These pieces add about 220 pounds to the convertible compared to the coupe version, a relatively modest increase for a convertible of this size and class. The convertible top is designed with a triple-layer fabric that does not balloon at high speeds. It can be redeployed in 28 seconds should the threat of rain approach.
Addressing the needs for greater security in a convertible are five anti-theft high-frequency sensors. The audio system is also adapted to open-top use, with an auto pilot noise sensor that adjusts volume depending on ambient sound levels.
Rollover protection is enhanced by two electronically controlled ejectable roll bars that can pop up in less than 190 milliseconds, whether the top is up or down. These roll bars, located behind the rear seats, plus the reinforced A-pillar, provide a survival area should the car overturn.
On the move, the Maserati has a wonderful dynamic quality. Accelerative performance is there when you want it, but the car does not have to be driven hard to be enjoyed. It rides smoothly on all kinds of surfaces and changes direction easily, without effort. The Sport mode noticeably stiffens the suspension, allows for firmer shifts, and opens up the exhaust. It all happens at the touch of a button, and back again. Driven in Sport mode, the car can be encouraging and forgiving at the same time, with fluid steering, strong-but-not-touchy brakes and an exhilarating exhaust note that builds above 3000 rpm.
Top-down air flow is well controlled and the driving is easy, with all four occupants sharing the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside. All this in a substantial four-door car capable of easy cruising at high speeds, top down or up.
A rare bird indeed, the Maserati GranTurismo will never exist in large numbers. The capacity at the Modena factory is roughly 800 units a year, but a rough estimate of production for 2011 is more like 600.
The 2011 Maserati GranTurismo comes in coupe and convertible body styles. The GranTurismo coupe is available with a 405-hp 4.2-liter V8 ($118,000) or a 433-hp 4.7-liter V8 ($122,000). The GranTurismo Convertible ($135,800) comes exclusively with the 4.7-liter V8.
Most cars are personalized at the time of purchase, then built on a flexible production line over a period of 4 to 6 months. Since each is built on order, with 14 exterior colors, choices of top color, wheel and caliper colors, there are over 2000 total exterior combinations.
The Maserati GranTurismo Convertible has the look of a dynamic, modern and elegant cabriolet, finely detailed but not overwrought. The lines mimic the hard top Maserati GranTurismo, with a soft-top roof designed with a false C-pillar that preserves the shape of a coupe. Long and low, with a long sloping hood, the GranTurismo Convertible has 20-inch wheels with three trapezoidal side ports. Rounded fender bulges impart a feline quality. At the rear are large, twin oval chrome tailpipes.
Viewed from the front, the distinctive oval Maserati grille with chrome trident dominates. The windshield is large and steeply raked, and with headlights mounted high above the grille, the effect is something like a shark or ray. With the low stance, rear spoiler and long, sloping hood, aerodynamic drag is reduced to 0.35, and just 0.39 with the top down. A continuous band of chrome trim circles the cabin, subtly suggesting an open-top speedboat.
The soft top takes less than 30 seconds to deploy and can be dropped using the key fob. It is made of a substantial three-layered material that sandwiches an insulating layer between an outer canopy layer and inner liner. It is supported by steel and aluminum spokes and designed so that it does not distort to compromise the aerodynamic profile. The top is available in six different colors.
The soft top is more easily packaged than a convertible hard top, with fewer compromises in weight, complexity and space. Even so, the trunk on the GranTurismo Convertible is rather small due to the retractable top.
The Maserati GranTurismo Convertible is designed to offer enough space for four adults, seated in an elegant and luxurious cabin. The interior is comfortable and gracious, with equal attention paid to rear seat passengers, who have unusual access to amenities, roomy seats set at a comfortable angle, and ample legroom. The cabin is divided by a central tunnel that distributes the space between the occupants along the car's length. Front and rear, the GranTurismo Convertible's cabin is attractive, tactile and built for comfort. Plush seats are upholstered in soft Poltrona Frau leather, and a variety of real wood materials are used for the dashboard, door panel and rear flank features, including Carbalho wood from Brazil. Because every piece of real wood has a different grain, each car is unique.
Up front, the dashboard extends horizontally and its upper section features a characteristic V, a distinctive Maserati symbol, with a circular analog clock in the center of the dash. Unlike some ultra-luxury cars, the dash is simple and easily understood, not littered with buttons, switches and dials.
The interior is executed in fine detail. Exposed stitching on the armrest is hand-sewn. The buttons on the steering wheel and dash have a thin chrome surround, and the back of the steering paddles have an Alcantara finish. Even the seat belt fixtures have elegant chrome rings around the belts where they emerge from the seats. A Maserati Trident logo is embossed on the headrests.
Cabin electronics are state-of-the-art luxury car equipment. The GranTurismo Convertible's navigation system consists of a 7-inch, high-resolution color display located in the center of the dashboard, The display houses controls for the CD player, navigation system, radio and on-board computer, which displays average mileage and instant mileage, among other things. The GranTurismo Convertible also has a hard disk that can contain up to 30 GB and can store up to 180 hours of music obtained directly from CDs or downloaded as Mp3 files. A USB port is located in the glovebox compartment, so a computer or other player can be used as an audio source.
The steering wheel has controls for audio and other frequently used functions. In addition, the audio system, navigation system and telephone, where applicable, can be managed using voice commands. The GranTurismo Convertible can also read SMS messages and provide traffic information. An iPod connection is available on request, allowing the owner to control tunes through the Bose audio system.
The Bose sound system was developed with open-top operation in mind. The car is equipped with an AudioPilot system that has a small microphone mounted in the dash. The microphone monitors noise level inside the cabin and adjusts sound equalization accordingly. Sound is automatically adjusted for high-speed wind swish, and readjusts when the car rolls to a complete stop. With no roof to contain the sound, 12 speakers were used to deliver audio to all four seats. Key among them are the two woofers, located on the rear panels, and a rear bass box that extends behind the rear armrest.
On the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible, the air conditioning system has been equipped with dual logic metering to provide desired comfort levels with the top up or down. The system automatically adjusts to maintain the set temperature. With the top down and two on board, buffeting can be practically eliminated by use of a windstop. The windstop was developed specially for the GranTurismo Convertible, and is available as an option.
With the top down, the hidden roll bar mechanism can be seen, located behind the rear headrests. The extendable roll bars work with the top down or up. If the top is down, the roll bars extend through the rear window to protect the occupants.
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.
An unusually accommodating large, fast convertible. Not extreme in any way, but a blend of elegant comfort and high performance. Easy to drive, fast enough to be engaging and at times, exhilarating. At its best in warm, sunny climates.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent John Stewart filed this report after his test drive of the Maserati in Beverly Hills.
Maserati GranTurismo Convertible ($135,800).
Options As Tested
Maserati GranTurismo Convertible ($135,800).
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