GranCabrio maintains Maserati momentum

MASERATI’S first new convertible in almost a decade – and its first open-top four-seater ever – will be released Down Under on July 1, but has already given the historic Italian brand a significant shot in the arm with 60 per cent of Australia’s GranCabrio production already spoken for.

As high-priced, low-volume sportscars go, however, they don’t get much more exorbitant or exclusive than the GranCabrio, just 45 of which will come to Australia, priced at $338,000 – about $20,000 more than the two-door GranTurismo S automatic coupe upon which it is based.

The first of at least 27 examples already spoken for will go to loyal customers of the boutique luxury marque, mostly in the Maserati strongholds of New South Wales and Victoria, where more than 65 per cent of Maserati owners traditionally reside.

The general manager of Maserati Australia and New Zealand, Glen Sealey, says the GranCabrio has also attracted strong interest from the sunshine state, but a wide variety of customers from all over Australia will represent valuable incremental sales alongside the four-door Quattroporte sedan and the supply-constrained GranTurismo.

Maserati’s hitherto two-model line-up has found just 59 new homes so far in 2010, which equates to a 9.3 per cent year-to-date sales increase that, nonetheless falls short of the overall new-car industry’s 19.9 per cent lift this year.

902016408 GranCabrio maintains Maserati momentumStill, the GranCabrio – just 2000 of which will be built globally each year – should account for more than a quarter of the 165 or so Maseratis expected to be sold in total in Australia this year. That’s fewer buyers than direct rivals such as the BMW 6 Series or Mercedes-Benz SL attract on their own in a good year.

“We’re up 10 per cent in a market that craves new product and we look to an even stronger second half with GranCabrio,” said Mr Sealey, who conceded that timing and details remain unknown for Maserati’s next two new models: an all-new compact four-seater and the next-generation Quattroporte.

“The Maserati GranCabrio is much more than a convertible version of an existing model in the range,” he said. “Its broad range of attributes as well its ability to excel in all the traditional requirements of a convertible mean that its sales will not only be predominantly to new customers for Maserati, it will also further enhance the image and reputation of the Maserati brand as a whole.

“For these reasons we expect the GranCabrio to substantially add to Maserati’s sales total in both Australia and New Zealand.”

Apart from strictly limited supplies (Mercedes will sell more versions of its $464,000 SLS AMG Gullwing coupe this year in Australia), also helping maintain the GranCabrio’s exclusivity is the $338K pricetag – just $7900 short of being the most expensive Maserati available here.

That honour goes to the GranTurismo S MC Shift ($345,900), although the GranCabrio is almost $10,000 less affordable than the top-shelf Quattroporte Sport GT S ($328,900) and at least $100,000 costlier than the model it belatedly replaces, the Maserati Spyder sold here between November 2001 and February 2006.

For almost $60,000 more than Jaguar’s bellowing XKR convertible ($278,300), $25,000 more than BMW’s banshee-like M6 convertible ($313,316) and $11,000 more than the SL500 ($327,000), the GranCabrio is claimed to bring the longest wheelbase in its class – longer even than that of the Bentley Continental GTC ($419,749).

As we’ve reported, the GranCabrio makes do without the GranTurismo’s MC Shift automated manual transmission, instead mating a conventional six-speed automatic transmission to the same 4.7-litre V8 that powers the GranTurismo S ($318,500).

Hence, the GranCabrio’s 90-degree Ferrari-derived 4.7-litre V8 offers the same 323kW at 7000rpm – along with 490Nm of torque at 4750rpm – as the 1880kg GT S.

As with all convertibles, however, the rear-drive GranCabrio is heavier than the vehicle upon which it is based due to body reinforcements, but despite offering four seats and class-leading rear legroom Maserati says it has limited the GranCabrio’s weight gain to just 100kg rather than the traditional 150kg.

Described as a fully fledged slimming-down process than mere tinkering, the GranCabrio features an optimised under-frame design and its body parts play a structural role.

The result is a kerb weight of 1980kg – split 49/51 per cent front/rear with the roof closed and 48/52 per cent front/rear with the roof open – and 0-100km/h acceleration in a claimed 5.3 seconds – four-tenths slower than the GranTurismo S.

The soft-top roof itself weighs 65kg and incorporates five crossbars and three layers to reduce noise, ballooning and flapping at speed. It stows fully automatically in a rapid-fire 20 seconds from both inside and outside the vehicle, and can also be erected (in 28 seconds) at speeds of up to 30km/h.

Maserati says cold and wet weather testing of the GranCabrio’s roof was done on New Zealand’s south island, where snow and ice calibration of the car’s electronic stability control system was also completed.

The aerodynamic drag coefficient of Maserati’s newest convertible is listed at 0.35Cd with the roof up, increasing to 0.39Cd with the top down.

Claimed top speed is 283km/h (274km/h with the roof down) and combined average fuel consumption is a thirsty 15.4 litres per 100km, with average CO2 emissions topping 350 grams per kilometre.

Maserati’s Skyhook continuously variable damping system heads a host of standard features but, on top of Maserati’s claimed nine million colour and trim combinations, the GranCabrio adds six different hood colour options, two new leather interiors (Pearl Beige and Blu Profondit) and three new dashboard trims – Dark Chrome, Moonwood and Carbalho.

Complementing the new roof system are a number of unique additions, including a ventilation system that adapts to roof up or down motoring, a specific sound system that varies its volume according to roof position and even a bespoke fitted luggage system for the boot and rear seat of the GranCabrio.

Standard features include fitted to advanced suspensions systems and backed by latest electronic accident avoidance systems with a dictionary of acronyms – MSP, ASR, ABS and EBD just to name four – the Maserati GranCabrio ensures maximum control under all conditions.

For the record, the GranCabrio measures a Commodore-like 4881mm long, 1915mm wide and 1353mm high and while the front overhang is relatively long at 873mm, overhang at the rear is even lengthier at 1066mm to accommodate boot capacity of just 173 litres.

“Maserati has a long history of open-top sports cars but the GranCabrio is the first Maserati to extend this experience to four people,” said Mr Sealey. “But the fact that this car offers four seats does not mean that it is any less a Maserati.

“Not only do the four occupants in a GranCabrio travel in the same luxury, comfort and exclusivity for which the GranTurismo and Quattroporte have become bywords, the GranCabrio offers the performance expected of a Maserati and, with the roof down, even more opportunities to enjoy orchestral sound track provided by the Maserati V8 engine.”

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color="#ff0000" size="4">Maserati GranCabrio
GranCabrio (automatic) $338,000

1747008464 GranCabrio maintains Maserati momentum

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