It is, as Maserati's marketing manager Andrea Soriani described it, a name with huge brand awareness and little in the way of brand familiarity. Mention 'Maserati' in polite conversation, and more will recall its product placement on 'The Sopranos' (it played, we think, the 'trunk') than the storied track history with Fangio and Moss. For those remembering Maserati's sales history in the U.S., memories of the Mistral and oh-so-gorgeous Ghibli in the '60s are colored by the company's misadventures with an 'affordable' Maserati in the '80s. And Maserati's most recent relaunch in the U.S. was slowed by transmission technology - the infamous Cambiocorsa, referenced by one outlet as "up shift creek" - only the Italians could conjure. That, of course, was then. The GranTurismo convertible, happily, is now.

With the recent introduction of Maserati's GranTurismo S at the New York Auto Show ? a tuned tweak of the standard GranTurismo ? we wondered just what the standard GT might be lacking. And, just as we asked the question, a Maserati rep was on the phone, wondering if we would enjoy piloting their GranTurismo convertible on and around the Pelican Hill resort in Newport Coast, Calif.

Maserati's GranTurismo convertible, or GrandCabrio, is the drop-top variant of its coupe sibling. Notably, both are built atop a platform shared with the Quattroporte 4-door sedan. To that end, both coupe and convertible enjoy and/or suffer a rather largish footprint, sitting on a 115.8 inch wheelbase and stretching some sixteen feet! When seated behind the wheel, however, you feel much lighter than the reality of the convertible's 4,300 pounds.

But first, of course, is the walkaround. And if Michelangelo were working in Maserati's design studio, he could not have created a more sensual shape. From its aggressive grille to the curvature of the front fender and gradual swelling at its rear, the overall impression is a classic, albeit contemporary, take on the Grand Touring form. And the convertible, with cloth top raised or lowered, loses absolutely nothing in the conversion from coupe to cabriolet.

Inside, the four-seat cockpit is neither enormously spacious nor conspicuously confining. Mr. Soriani made quite the show in gracefully folding his 6'4" frame into the backseat; my own entrance (at 5'7") wasn't nearly as dramatic. And once in the backseat you may be more impacted by the car's backdraft at freeway speeds, but there's little to worry about, and so much to absorb. Up front, driver and passenger enjoy an amount of space appropriate for the GranTurismo's sixteen feet, and all of the visual pleasure appropriate to something designed and constructed by passionate personnel.

The centerpiece of the experience, of course, is the Ferrari-sourced 4.7 liter V8. It is a thing of beauty to look at, and absolutely rapturous at full tilt. On the roads around Pelican Hill we didn't have the time or space for a high-speed run, but initial impressions confirmed Maserati's published figures: 0-60 in just over five seconds, and a top end of 176 mph. The upcoming 'S', of course, will be faster, but you could take delivery now and simply leave a second earlier?

You can configure your convertible any number of ways, and elevate its $135K proportionally. With a comfortable ride, composed handling, and oh-so-direct steering, we're impressed by the potential of the upcoming ?S', but think it might be akin to putting a tattoo on Michelangelo's David.

author photo

David Boldt began his automotive career in BMW and Saab showrooms in the 1980s, and he moved to automotive journallismin 1993. David has written for a varity of regional and national publications, and prior to joining AutoTrader, he managed media relations for a Japanese OEM.

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