Motoring | Test Drives

Out and about in Dubai in a drop-top Maserati

It’s getting hotter and a convertible is probably the last thing you want to drive under the beating sun. Unless it’s the Gran Cabrio Sport

  • By Imran Malik, wheels
  • Published: 17:30 April 7, 2013
  • Wheels

Maserati Gran Cabrio Sport
  • Image Credit: Dennis B Mallari/ANM
  • The Gran Cabrio can now sprint from 0-100kph in just 5.0 seconds — two-tenths of a second faster than before.
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Sip a cold drink. Turn the AC up to full blast. Go for a dip in a pool. There are many ways to help combat the heat and to keep you cool in the upcoming hotter months. But none are as effective as plonking yourself behind the wheel of the painfully pretty Gran Cabrio Sport and cruising around town in the maddened-up beauty. There, now you’re really cool...

The Gran Cabrio, based on the Gran Turismo, has looked the part since it was launched in 2010, but it was missing something. And that something was brute power. Not that it wasn’t fast. It was. And it had all the ingredients to make it one of the greats; gorgeous looks, a massive V8 and enough room for four adults to enjoy the ride. But, it wasn’t as angry as it could have been and most owners limited its use to Sunset Strip and stayed as far away as possible from the drag strip.

Now, Maserati has turned its convertible up a considerable notch. The layout is the same; front-mid-engine, rear-drive with the same seating capacity and the same 4.7-litre all-alloy V8 under the sloping bonnet. But when it comes to output, it’s a very different story. Suitably poked and prodded, the V8 now produces a total of 460bhp at an ear-splitting 7,000rpm whereas the Gran Cabrio had to make do with ‘just’ 434bhp.

And it can now sprint from 0-100kph in just 5.0 seconds — two-tenths of a second faster than before. It shifts faster too, thanks to the six-speed ZF MC Auto Shift transmission. It drives harder and is more aggressive than before and, as a result, it sits far happier with the rest of the potent Trident family. It’s a heck of a transformation; a bit like Dr Banner turning into the rampaging Hulk.

But who really wants to push this to its 285kph speed limit? With the pedal to metal, you would fly past others, meaning they wouldn’t have a hope in hell of getting a look at this beauty. Which defies the point, really. You buy this car because you are an extrovert and want to be seen by everyone — not leave them for dead when you hit the loud pedal. And boy, is it loud.

When the bypass valves open up at 2,500rpm, neighbouring countries are going to know about it. Nothing sounds better than the raucous note emanating from the new black oval exhaust tips. They stay open when you’re driving in Manual-Sport mode (there are five modes in total) and rather than treat the Maser
like a sportscar, you’ll be playing with it as if it were a musical instrument, flicking the long Trofeo-inspired steering-mounted paddles up to hear this thing crackle and pop. It’s addictive stuff and you also won’t be able to get enough of those exotic looks.

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The upgrades are relatively minor, but they’ve done wonders for the already smooth exterior. The grille gets a new black finish, while the Trident features the red accents that Maserati keeps for its really fast cars. There’s black mascara around the headlights while the front corner splitters and the redesigned side skirts (developed in the wind tunnel and which add to the car’s aerodynamic efficiency) are body coloured.

Speaking of which, our test car was painted Bianco Fuji — a fabulous pearlescent white which brought out all of its curves and character lines. Completing the refresh is a new set of 20in Astro-design wheels finished in Anthracite Grey. Inside, the Gran Cabrio Sport’s rich Poltrona Frau leather trim is finished in a new shade, Bianco Pregiato.

It also boasts a new seat-face design and stitching, Active Shifting paddles and drilled aluminium pedals. All nice touches, but the real talking point of the Sport is
its engine. Taken straight from the Gran Turismo MC Stradale, the 4,691cc naturally aspirated V8 is a torque monster that produces 520Nm at 4,750rpm, while 80 per cent of that is available at just 2,500rpm. It’s up 20Nm from the Gran Cabrio and you can feel the difference when you hammer it.

How has it gotten the extra motivation, you wonder? Well, the performance has improved thanks to Maserati’s Friction Reduction Programme. This makes the motor more reactive to the inputs of your big toe and it includes a revision of the oil sump’s fluid dynamics, not to mention the application of Diamond-Like Coating to the tappets and the super-finished camshaft lobes. But it hasn’t just given the V8 more oomph; the Sport’s fuel consumption has been lowered by six per cent too. It now sips 14.5 litres-per-100km. Still quite thirsty, but worth every penny; this car is much more fun now.

Handling has been sharpened up thanks to the Skyhook active suspension system which monitors your driving style and the road surface to regulate the dampers, while the upgraded springs and anti-roll bars keep the Sport nice and tight in the corners. However, it tips the scales at a whopping 1,980kg — push it too hard, and you can feel the lard when you are tackling the corners.

The Brembos are much stronger and bring things to a reassuring halt; the adoption of grooved and drilled dual-cast discs was a smart move as when you step on the anchors at 100kph, the Sport comes to a rest in just 35 metres.
There really is only one way to enjoy the Gran Cabrio Sport; find a busy boulevard, hit the Sport button and start fiddling with the paddles. The grin on your face will rival that of the Joker’s.

It doesn’t matter that everyone else will call you a poser as you roar past because, well, you won’t hear them. Yep, this car makes you cool and there’s no better way of beating the heat.

Specs and ratings

Model: Gran Cabrio Sport

Engine: 4.7-litre V8

Transmission: Six-speed auto, RWD

Max power: 460bhp @ 7,000rpm

Max torque: 520Nm @ 4,750rpm

Top speed: 285kph

0-100kph: 5.0sec

Price: Dh550,000

Plus: Great looks, performance and exhaust note

Minus: People will hate you

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