MANHATTAN BEACH, California — About a decade ago during a tech demo event put on by ZF in South Carolina, I slid behind the wheel of a sexy new Maserati GranTurismo, which is forever etched in my memory as my first experience with an exotic car. I had no expectation of ever driving one again, but here I was all these years later with the key fob to a 2018 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible MC—its dressed up, drop-top sibling with a decidedly more mature flair.
In another era, this review may very well have been rife with cliché metaphors about aging beauties, references to “MILFs,” and maybe even some stale jokes about cougars. But with spokes models all but banished from autoshows not called SEMA and grid girls departing the grid, all that would do is make for several hundred words of low-effort, out-of-touch trope.
It’s for the best, really. The point is made much better if I simply tell you to look at the photos of convertible GranTurismo. Go ahead, look at it. Sure, the car made its debut in 2007 and has gone largely unchanged since, but you’d be hard pressed to notice that by just gazing upon it. There isn’t much “timeless design” in the world of cars these days, but the GranTurismo convertible—and its coupe sibling—are a rare exception.
Beyond its looks, another key to the GranTurismo’s timeless appeal is its glorious, naturally aspirated 4.7-liter V-8, which Maserati jointly developed with Ferrari. Maserati’s version utilizes a cross-plane crankshaft design as opposed to the Ferrari’s flat-plane setup, though its siren song isn’t any less appealing. And the GranTurismo is the only engine bay where you can still find one new, as Ferrari retired its version of the free breathing V-8 when the 458 was put out to pasture. Expect Maserati to do the same when the new GranTurismo bows around 2020, as the inefficient engine is now 16 years old and it’s unlikely to be spared from an inevitable sacrifice to the altar of turbocharging and/or electrification. Alas.
In its current—and likely final—iteration, the Maserati mill makes 454 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. No flat torque curve from barely above idle here—power peaks at 7,000 rpm while peak torque hits at 4,750 rpm. Shifting duties are handled by the same ZF six-speed automatic that the GranTurismo was showing off all of those years ago. One of the most advanced automatics when it first hit the market, the box has been technologically superseded by modern gearboxes with more cogs, including ZF’s own eight-speed. Still, the fittingly anachronistic six speed remains a good soldier, and it’s refreshingly free of the shifty behaviors that sometimes plague today’s transmissions, which are often programmed to eke out every last drop of fuel economy possible.
As the coupe’s name implies, this is a GT, not a supercar. While there are sporting pretenses, this Maserati is best enjoyed cruising down Pacific Coast Highway or Rodeo Drive than charging up Angeles Crest Highway. The engine’s soundtrack is far more satisfying than its driving dynamics, the same goes for its curvaceous Italian sheetmetal. Although a 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds is no longer as respectable as it once was, it’s still plenty quick for everyday use. Top speed sits at 179 mph.
Then again, you’ll be hard-pressed not to smile cruising through the canyons in a lower gear while the V-8 screams near its 7,500-rpm redline and the fresh mountain air blows through your hair. The GranTurismo’s handling may not win it any podiums, but the old-school engine is also accompanied by old-school hydraulic power assist steering, which is well-weighted and will delight you with a level of feel that’s all but disappeared among the cars in its class.
Aside from the 8.4-inch touchscreen that runs a Maserati-skinned version of Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment software (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added for 2018), the technology suite is as advanced as the powertrain. Active safety features? A 360-degree camera? Full sensor suite? Not here. You don’t even get push-button start. Climate controls, situated below the screen, consist of simple plastic buttons surrounding a basic LED screen. The old-school simplicity continues into the gauge cluster, which has a basic display in the middle, but otherwise consists entirely of analog gauges. You do get a Harman Kardon audio system, though—one that shouldn’t get too much use given that the engine invariably provides a superior soundtrack.
While the inside of the GranTurismo hasn’t aged as well as the outside, it suits the car’s character. For an additional $1,800, Maserati lines the cabin with Alcantara, which makes for a plainer-looking interior, but one that better suits the convertible’s character. Black leather and sunny days aren’t the greatest of friends in the best of times, let alone when the top is dropped.
Some will find it galling that Maserati charges $162,830 to start for this GranTurismo. And on paper at least, that negative reaction is well founded. A similar amount will get you into a much-more advanced Mercedes-AMG GT, for example, which brings a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 good for 550 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque and a full suite of active safety systems. If you must have four seats—though the Maserati’s are far from full-size and there’s not even remotely enough trunk space for four people’s worth of bags—there’s always the Porsche 911. A 911 GTS Cabriolet—the drop-top version of our 2018 All-Star—runs nearly $30,000 cheaper and hits 60 mph about a second faster thanks to the 450 hp and 405 lb-ft made by its twin-turbo flat-six.
Others, however, will appreciate the Maserati’s technological simplicity and old-school cool. Despite its age, the GranTurismo still gets a primo curbside spot at the Fashion Island valet ten times out of ten. It may not be the best bang for your buck when it comes for performance or technology, but with the end of the naturally aspirated engine seemingly nigh (and hydraulic-assist steering all but extinct), especially in exotic echelon, the 2018 Maserati GranTurismo is delightful throwback with a level of character and personality no longer found elsewhere. Did I mention the how good the engine sounds?
2018 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible MC Specifications
|ENGINE||4.7L DOHC 32-valve V-8/454 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 384 lb-ft @ 4,750 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD convertible|
|EPA MILEAGE||13/20 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||171.9 x 75.4 x 53.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.8 sec|
|TOP SPEED||179 mph|