2011 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible - Mare e Monti

Paul Barshon

In the lofty niche of high-end four-seat convertibles, few stars shine brighter than the new Maserati GranTurismo. With the heater on high, the bum warmers on max, and the polished twenty-inch wheels shod with go-anywhere Pirelli SottoZero tires, it was a real pleasure to thumb a nose at winter from behind the wheel of this drop-dead gorgeous Maserati. There's no doubt about it: Maserati made the right decision when it halted the production-ready retractable hardtop in favor of this roomier, prettier, and more involving softtop.

The GranTurismo convertible (which will be known elsewhere as the GranCabrio) is the third and final iteration of the Quattroporte platform that was first unveiled in 2003. Although this component set was originally not meant to go topless, Maserati is now claiming best-in-class torsional rigidity as well as unrivaled rear leg- and headroom. The latter is an important asset: after all, 72 percent of convertible buyers order cars with more than two seats. Predictably, the numerous reinforcement measures required increased the weight to 4365 pounds. That's 220 pounds heavier than the GranTurismo coupe and almost 300 more than a Jaguar XKR convertible but about 30 pounds less than a BMW M6 softtop. Despite strengthening efforts, cowl shake is an issue when driving on undulating surfaces.

Italian motorways are no longer what they used to be. In the past, all one needed to do before dropping the hammer on such arrow-straight stretches as the three-lane A1 between Milan and Bologna was to memorize the often-inoperative stationary radar traps. More recently, however, a system called Tutor, which times your average speed over longer sections of ten or twenty kilometers, was introduced. At the end of the zone, you can actually see the flash go off as the speed camera takes a picture, but since our preproduction test car had no front license plate, assigning the penalty points might be a bit trickier than usual.

Located about midway between the touristy seaside town of Rimini and the vast estuary of the river Po, the city of Ravenna became the capital of the Western Roman Empire in 402 ad, just prior to the Visigoths' sack of Rome, but it was not until the fifth and sixth centuries that the region started to flourish. Like all historically important Italian cities, the center of Ravenna is strictly cordoned off from traffic - which is bad news when you want to photograph a beautiful new Maserati in an equally pretty urban environment. Enter Luigi and Carlo, who circumnavigated the surveillance cameras in their police car, led the way to the breathtaking Piazza del Populo, and didn't leave until we had all the pictures in the can. Grazie mille, ragazzi! Tiptoeing past buildings that are more than 1400 years old was indeed a very special experience. Elsewhere, pedestrians and cyclists might have objected to the outspoken V-8-engined intruder, but in the heart of Ferrari and Maserati country, the GranTurismo convertible attracted admiring crowds.

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