Maserati GranCabrio

NOTHING LIFTS ONE’S SPIRITS like some top-down driving on a beautiful, sunny Hawaiian day, with the burble of a powerful V-8 and music from a great stereo in a shapely convertible. And so it is with this brand new for 2010 Maserati exotic.

By taking the GranTurismo coupe, chopping the top and reinforcing the chassis, Maserati has clearly provided a practical four-seater for the 2010 high-end automotive season.

With the now classic Maserati semi-oval grill, the hiked-up fenders, low stance and clean lines, this striking vehicle received a number of favorable comments and questions when cruising Honolulu byways.

And by the way, the performance formula for Italian exotics has not been forgotten: A Ferrari-derived V-8 displacing 4.7 liters throws out 440 horses of power. The sound alone of this multivalve, dual overhead cam engine is worth the price of admission.

The powerplant is connected to a ZF six-speed automatic. But this automatic is not typical of that genre. Large paddles behind the steering wheel let the driver maintain absolute instant shifting control, with the gear selection being shown in the dash pod.

Amazingly, the ride is truly grand. First, the body is rock solid, with no hint of shake over rough pavement. And for a car with a clear ability to handle any corner or curve, the capacity to absorb impact on nearly every pothole-filled street is a great combo. If the driver desires greater speed and even tighter control, that is provided with a push of the “sport” button on the dash. Instantly, the suspension tightens up, engine valves open wider and shifts are at higher rpms.

The interior is a mix of beautiful wood inlays in a sea of soft leather. Four taut, cushioned seats with high supports on both the bottom and back are provided. Every luxury feature is standard, including a 6-inch video screen with Honolulu navigation and other information. Bluetooth, USB port or iPod connections and a dual climate control system are likewise found.

Although the top is canvas on the exterior, inside with the top up, you would never know it was a convertible. Made with multiple layers of material, the final layer matches the coloring of the rest of the interior, making it look like a coupe on the inside. And because of the insulation built into the top, there is generally silence. For open air, push a button on the console and the top is down in 20 seconds or so. When the top is down, it is completely hidden under a body panel.

In the back, two can be seated in reasonable comfort, but legroom and headroom may be tight for those of larger stature. Because of the room necessary for the top enclosure, the trunk, though nicely carpeted, is on the small side.

But the real pleasure is the driving experience, with all the benefits of good looks, both inside and out, and the sound of horsepower when you need it. Oh, those Italians sure can design a car.

Maserati Grancabrio
Engine: 4.7-liter V-8, 440 horsepower
Acceleration: 0-60: 5.2 seconds
Braking: Brembo system with 13-inch discs
Sound system: AM/FM/CD Bose surround sound system; USB and iPod connections with 11 speakers.
Price: $135,800; as tested $142,325

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