Maserati GranCabrio

Maserati GranCabrio - four proper seats, comfortable, inviting and all-enveloping. Never before had an open-top Maserati offered so much. Never before had a car with the Trident badge allowed an entire family or four friends to enjoy a journey in the open air. The Maserati GranCabrio's magical chemistry starts when you look at it: it is shockingly beautiful, with the soft top up or down. Indeed it features a sophisticated canvas top, for very precise reasons, which can be summed up in three words: «centre of gravity». Fabric, ultra-high tech fabric, weighs very little, infinitely less than metal and helps the car's road-holding: the overall system weight is just 65 kg. And then fabric is pliant, it complements the palette of the car's exterior colours six times over, the number of shades in which it is available, from a solid black to a high-tech titanium grey, to a warm chocolate colour.

Twenty eight seconds, that's the time it takes for the Maserati GranCabrio to go back to being a secure cocoon. A flying one too, thanks to a Cx of 0.35 with the roof up, which increases by a mere trifle, to 0.39, with the top down.

2011 Maserati GranCabrio Front Angle

Design is at the service of comfort. The times when anyone travelling in the back of a sports car were resigned to suffering physical discomfort are well and truly over: rear passengers in the Maserati GranCabrio are not supporting actors, but co-stars of the journey. The legs, even for those who are more than six feet tall, are no longer crammed in, the spine is no longer forced into an unnatural erect position, but comfortably and physiologically supported on backrests designed so that sportiness does not need to compromise on comfort.

The Maserati GranCabrio's Design

Dynamism, sensuality and passion have always been the features that transform Pininfarina's creative genius into masterpieces to be admired on roads the world over. The latest work of art to leave the Maserati factory, the Maserati GranCabrio, has the design of a dream car, but it is a real masterpiece that's just asking to be driven by lovers of beautiful cars who want to travel cocooned in a refined and comfortable ambience.

The challenge for Pininfarina was an intriguing one: never before had a proper four-seater convertible, capable of accommodating four adults comfortably without stealing even the tiniest bit of the incomparable pleasure of travel, been produced by Maserati. Now that the craftsmen have completed their work, it all seems obvious: the Maserati GranCabrio could only ever have been like this. An expert eye, however, understands how much power lies behind the front, imposing and dynamic at the same time, the sinuous and feline flanks and a rear that speaks a high-tech language with a wide aerodynamic diffuser tested in a wind tunnel, crowned by large, twin oval-section chrome tailpipes.

A sculpture that speaks to connoisseurs the ancient language of the great Italian coachbuilders, a beautiful car to admire when it is open, but also when it is moving with its roof up, something that isn't always the case for cars of this type. The canvas soft top was chosen over a rigid folding roof as, with its complicated closing system, would have imposed on engineers and designers unacceptable constraints for anyone seeking beauty in its purest form. And so the "all-clear" was given to supremequality materials and state of the art engineering, to a structure with a backbone consisting of five steel and aluminium spokes and covered with a triple-layer canvas available in six colours, meeting every single customer's requirement. The whole system weighs only 65 kg but, at the same time, guarantees maximum aero-acoustic efficiency and allows the Maserati GranCabrio to be enjoyed in all seasons, thanks to the most stringent tests conducted at 30 degrees below zero and at 40 degrees in the shade.

When the soft top is up the drag coefficient is 0.35, while with the soft top down 0.39. Extraordinary figures, the mark of a perfect chemistry between aesthetics and functionality. Without forgetting another absolute imperative, the comfort of those travelling in this open-top granturismo. The optional wind stop was designed precisely to fulfil this purpose, to provide passengers with excellent protection, even at high speed. So, with the wind stop on, the volume of air from outside falls by 70%, whilst the air speed inside the cabin is down 50%.

The attention paid to comfort lies also in the details which might appear, on the surface, to be secondary, such as the device that, on command, starts the soft top opening cycle when the key is inserted in the door lock. This means that the car can be entered when the soft top is already down and the heat that has built up when parked in the sun has already disappeared. And should a storm threaten to break out during the trip, the Maserati GranCabrio's reaction time is only 28 seconds, the time needed to close its soft top.

The Maserati GranCabrio's Voice

The voice of the Maserati GranCabrio, the musical notes of its V8 are powerful but subdued when travelling at a modest pace, but they can reach the strength of a tenor's high tones when the driver demands the maximum. The secret of such flexibility lies with the pneumatic control valves that manage the exhaust: normally they remain closed, to ensure that the car travels within the bounds of discretion, but if the Sport mode is selected, they open above 3000 rpm and the sound becomes a powerful roar, especially with the roof down.

The eight-cylinder orchestra is a chorus that sings about the pleasure of driving, harmoniously conducted by the 6-speed automatic gearbox. This transmission is the result of a close working relationship between Maserati and ZF, which has successfully interpreted the exciting combination between the 323 kW (440 HP) of the V8 engine and the fluidity of the automatic gearbox. And if the driver wants to feel even more like an orchestra conductor, all he has to do is select the Manual mode, and modulate the sound of the engine to the rhythm of the manual shifts, better still when using the steering wheel paddles.

The Maserati GranCabrio demands to be heard, also through the voice of its hi-fi system, developed by Maserati and Bose. Keeping even the most demanding audiophiles satisfied was not an easy task: without the roof to act as a resonating chamber the layout of the speakers had to be completely redesigned. In the end 12 were fitted: one speaker in the middle of the dashboard, two tweeters and two woofers set into each door, one front bass box under the front passenger seat, two tweeters and two woofers on both rear panels and a rear-mounted bass box containing two woofers. It is the woofers, speakers which reproduce the lowest tones and give the right depth to an orchestral crescendo or the rhythmic base of a jazz trio, the keystones behind the perfection of the "GranCabrio concert hall". The rear bass box, for example, has an unusual shape, extending behind the backrest and under the rear armrest so that it can perform at its best.

To avoid endless manual adjustments which could turn into potentially dangerous driving distractions, the system automatically tweaks the volume and sound equalisation depending on whether the car is travelling with the soft top up or down: but the listener doesn't notice any difference and perceives the same audio quality in both configurations.

All this is completed by the AudioPilot® system which, through a small microphone mounted on the dashboard, monitors the noise level inside the cabin and adjusts the equalisation accordingly. This is useful particularly at high speeds, when aerodynamic swishes intensify and ensures sound quality that is always excellent.

All the driver has to do is to choose the most suitable music CD for the journey he's about to make and the Maserati GranCabrio can turn into the most dynamic of auditoriums.

The Maserati GranCabrio's Dynamics A must-have feature for a car that is as much fun to drive as the GranCabrio is a great sense of balance, achieved with a well thought out weight distribution. The latest Trident creation is unrivalled on this level as well: with the soft top up 49% of the weight is over the front axle and 51% over the rear, whilst the rates with the soft top down become 48 and 52% respectively.

In everyday driving these figures turn into reliable and predictable behaviour in all situations, breathtaking acceleration even on irregular surfaces and exceptional stability even in emergency manoeuvres. This has been achieved by positioning the engine mounted in unit with the automatic transmission, behind the front axle. Drive is transmitted to the wheels by a 2-piece shaft assisted by a limited-slip differential (the locking ratios are 25% in traction and 45% in release).

It has taken thousands of hours of calculations and as many hours again to develop the chassis on the prototypes. This effort was essential to achieve maximum structural rigidity even in the absence of a roof.

The Skyhook suspension system features continuously adjustable gas dampers which adapt to the ever changing road conditions. In practical terms, this means that every irregularity is "concealed" to the driver, who can then enjoy an incredibly smooth driving experience in true comfort.

But Maserati is also acutely aware that no two drivers are alike: this is why the Maserati GranCabrio's dynamic performance can be cut to size to match personal preference just as if it were an elegant tailor-made suit. By pressing the Sport button, in a split second, the car stiffens on the suspensions quickens the gearchange and its exhaust note becomes deeper and more aggressive. Then, just as suddenly, it can revert back to Normal mode at the touch of a button, offering those on board all the comforts of a top of the range granturismo.

Keeping a close eye on driving safety is the MSP (Maserati Stability Programme) system, which deploys an extensive range of sensors to detect any anomaly in the car's behaviour, the slightest deviation from ideal driving trajectory and, if it thinks it necessary, acts on the brakes and engine to stabilise the Maserati GranCabrio and put it back on the right track.

Another acronym, HBA, which stands for Hydraulic Brake Assist, marks a brand-new concept for Maserati. This application recognises when the driver is in a panic situation, analysing a set of parameters such as pressure on the brake servo, wheel speed and activation of the third rear stop light. Once the state of emergency has been declared, the HBA effectively replaces the driver and activates the full power of the brakes to reduce the stopping distance to a minimum. Because an intelligent car knows how to go fast, very fast, but also knows when to bring the speed down, within the driver's full control.

On board the Maserati GranCabrio

Sleek and sporty from the outside, comfortable and cosy from the inside. This formula was refined with the expertise of the designers who were put to the test with the Maserati GranCabrio concept. A concept which envisaged, first of all, two adults being able to use the rear seats even on long journeys, without suffering from cramps or fatigue.

On this car, even travelling in the back is a delight, thanks to an ergonomic seating position which is comfortable and not artificially upright.

The harmoniously shaped tunnel separating the rear seats features two cup holders and a receptacle. At the front all the benefits of the comfort package can be exploited. This feature allows the driver to memorise his ideal driving position and, in the cold weather, heat the seat to three different temperatures because hot and cold are also completely subjective concepts. The driving position is as sporty as it is comfortable, with upper body and legs properly supported when negotiating bends at high speeds. Bends are perfectly tackled by gripping the leather-trim three-spoke steering wheel with an ideal diameter of 37.5 cm.

Active and passive safety

A hundred and ninety milliseconds, less than the bat of an eyelid. That's all the time needed to deploy, in an emergency situation, the heart of the Maserati GranCabrio's safety system: the extendable roll bars positioned behind the rear seats. The air bag control unit asks for their assistance when the car's dynamic situation creates the fear that the car is about to overturn. Or when the Maserati GranCabrio suffers a major side impact or is violently hit from behind, to prevent the roll bars getting damaged and not being able to protect the driver and passengers should the car overturn at a later stage.

The Maserati GranCabrio is very, very protective towards adults and children alike. The special configuration of the roll bars looks after the occupants, even if they are of above-average height. Special Isofix fixings provide a firm hold for child seats. And the new-generation airbag system operates according to the actual "size" of those in the car.

There is no compromise with safety on this car, as no compromise, however insignificant, would be acceptable. But the Maserati GranCabrio also has a second duty: to be beautiful in its minutest detail. This is why the airbag system located on the passenger side required a design aimed at optimiszing the appearance of the top part of the dashboard and blend the safety features perfectly with the interior's overall design.

To sum up, total protection and the knowledge that help will take just 190 milliseconds to arrive in the event of an emergency. A physical barrier and a large number of electronic safety measures stand between the driver and the passengers and the risks of the road.

Integrated systems

Twenty five degrees centigrade and dehumidified air: this is what the experts reckon is the ideal situation for the wellbeing of people at home, in the office or when travelling by car. A rule that is certainly not set in stone, given that each of us has our own ideal temperature and, during car journeys, uses the on-board climate control system to find it.

On the Maserati GranCabrio the driver is just required to set the desired temperature in a range falling between 16 and 32 degrees and the electronics will start to mix the air and meter with micrometric precision the intensity of the flows until the target is quickly reached. The climate control system has been finetuned to offer maximum comfort both with the soft top up and down, adjusting itself accordingly. It knows that it has to perform quite differently on an early summer's evening or on a blisteringly hot day and it is also very well aware that it mustn't be too invasive in acoustic terms so that the engine can be left to sing to its heart's content.

A state of the art navigation system is one of many information systems that the Maserati GranCabrio puts at its owner's service. The interface consists of a 7 inch high-resolution colour display located in the centre of the dashboard which shows the functions of the CD player, navigation system, radio and on-board computer providing constant information on the journey and car performance.

The Maserati GranCabrio is also powerful from the IT standpoint, a field in which gigabytes rather than horsepower take centre-stage: the hard disk provided can contain up to 30 GB and can store up to 180 hours of music obtained directly from CDs or downloaded as Mp3 files. You can also use your own player as an audio source, connecting it to the USB port located in the glovebox compartment. The functions used most frequently can be activated with the controls on the steering wheel, to avoid any driving distractions. In addition, the audio system, navigation system and telephone, where applicable, can be managed using voice commands: being able to "talk" to your car means having maximum safety. But the Maserati GranCabrio can also speak: it can read SMS messages and provide traffic information so that there is no need to even glance at the display.

Finally, an iPod connection is available on request, allowing the owner to enjoy its favourite tunes through a state of the art hi-fi system developed by Maserati and Bose, a system that features no less than 12 speakers to recreate the atmosphere of a concert hall.

The Maserati GranCabrio's Interior

The Maserati GranCabrio embodies the essence of Italian craftsmanship, which has its roots in historic workshops from the Renaissance era and has gradually evolved, without losing sight of its own noble origins. The seats are the first thing one appreciates when getting behind the wheel: upholstered in Poltrona Frau leather, they feel plush, naturally soft and cosy in Winter, fresh and airy in Summer. Leather bound to improve with the passing of time, just like a great vintage wine.

The palette of colours includes no less than 10 shades, which can be blended together for seats, dashboard, tonneau cover, steering wheel and gear knob in an infinite number of combinations to create a tailor-made ambience to suit one's own taste. Each button on the steering wheel and dashboard is embellished with a fine chrome surround, an elegant stamp of an unquestionable superiority of style. The Trident logo is embossed by hand on the headrests and the exposed stitching on the armrest is hand-sewn.

More hands have crafted the precious woods that take pride of place in the Maserati GranCabrio's cabin. These hands have smoothed these woods with infinite patience, removed even the slightest impurities and polished them again to obtain an eye-catching end-result. The Carbalho wood comes from Brazil. Maserati sought it out in its distant lands of origin because it has inimitable credentials: each part of it has a different weave, a sort of fingerprint that guarantees that each car is unique.

And for those wanting to customize their car to the nth degree, two different sets of luggage are available. The first one all-leather set seeps elegance, while the second is made of leather and fabric. The palette of colours is extensive in this case as well, ranging from Black to Blue, passing through Beige and Testa di Moro (very dark brown) and will be completed every year by a shade which inteprets international fashion trends: Grigio (grey) debuts in the 2010 collection. The basic set consists of two wheeled and two vanity cases; a single bag is also available designed to be placed on the rear seats.

Maserati open-top Heritage

The Maserati GranCabrio is the first open-top four-seater Maserati but this doesn't mean that it is without noble ancestors. On the contrary, entire chapters of the history of the motor car have been written by open top Trident cars, although they were strictly two seaters.

The first is the legendary A6G Frua Spyder, produced in a very limited series in the 1950s: it is in the details that the individual cars are distinguished from one another, details, which in the unique Frua, soar to the level of a masterpiece. To have a better understanding, one has to look no further than the front end with the chrome surround and the sunken fog lights, which a few months later, in the A6G 2000, would be transformed into the oval-shaped radiator grille, typical of the Maserati, with the large trident in the middle.

The same blood flowed through the mechanical veins of the A6G Frua Spyder that would then ennoble cars such as the 3500 Gt Spyder by Vignale, a matchless source of inspiration for the great Italian coachbuilders of the 1960s, who made a competition out of dressing them with elegant suits hand-forged by master panel beaters. The 3500 Gt Spyder was so beautiful that it even turned heads in Hollywood: it was used countless times in major studio films, it «acted», for example, with Lee Marvin and John Cassavetes in The Killers and together with Kirk Douglas in Two Weeks in Another Town, in both cases wearing "stage outfits" signed by Vignale.

The legend continues into the 1960s: by which time a new wind was blowing. Which became urgent in 1964, when the Mistral Spyder made its appearance: compared to the aesthetic rules of its time, it was almost minimalist, but anyone having the fortune to own one was driving a pure thoroughbred capable of propelling itself at 255 km/h. The Mistral wind turned into the Ghibli and even enchanted Henry Ford II, who drove around Detroit with his Spyder and to anyone commenting on the betrayal responded: «The Ghibli will disappear from my parking lot only when you've designed me a Ford that is just as beautiful».

As we run through Maserati's general ledger we also meet one of the cars that could be considered to be a direct descendant of the Maserati GranCabrio: the 2001 Spyder, the car that gave rise to the carmaker's renaissance that can be seamlessly linked back to legendary names and denominations such as the A6G 2000 GT, 3500 GT, Mistral and Ghibli. Understatement, passion and elegance. These are the distinctive traits of the new Spyder, which is more than a simple dream car with a great temperament, endowed with a technology adding greater prestige to Maserati. The transmission, for example, is located in the rear axle in unit with the limited-slip differential. The effect is balanced on-road performance, enhanced by an automatic suspension system that adapts to the road with a speed ten times higher than the systems employed to date.

Maserati GranCabrio: from coupé to convertible

Usually, when a convertible is developed on an existing platform, a side effect is a weight increase of an average of 150 kg compared to the coupé\saloon versions. This is due to the need to compensate for the elimination of the upper structural portions (roof, centre pillar closure) with structural reinforcements positioned in the lower part of the under-frame and body.

With the Maserati GranCabrio this weight increase has been kept to only 100 kg thanks to the optimised design of the under-frame and body parts playing a structural role. This isn't merely a tinkering, but rather a fully-fledged "slimming down" treatment. The final solution was reached thanks to the most advanced virtual structural simulation techniques.

As far as the body parts are concerned, the dimensions of the door sill sections have been increased, the structural part of the doors modified and structural functions added to elements that usually make no contribution (for example, the roof stowage compartment, the aerodynamic bases and the services receptacles).

At under-frame level, by contrast, the most significant modifications concern:

  • The complete redesign of the rear structures with the creation of a torsion wall positioned behind the rear seats which has a structural function.
  • The complete development of the structural parts of the centre pillar and rear and front connecting crossmembers located on the floor.
  • The insertion in the engine compartment of the V-ROD reinforcement, two metallic rods which connect the damper domes to the under-screen crossmember thus maintaining the tautness of the body.
  • The creation and housing of different under-body reinforcements tightened to improve the layout and allow the installation of the power train unit, paying particular attention to incorporating the functions for weight reduction.

The front and rear structural bases also incorporate thermo-fluid dynamic functions, thus keeping the increase of Cx under control and conveying the air to cool down the car's mechanics. The combination of these design refinements has enabled a car with such generous dimensions as the Maserati GranCabrio, which has a 2,942 mm wheelbase, to have outstanding dynamic rigidity values, with a dynamic torsional frequency of the body in white configuration (BIW) of 27.2 Hz and a static torsional stiffness of 75,000 daNm\rad. These figures make the car very taut in structural terms and highly responsive on the road, providing excellent feedback to the driver combined with a high level of responsiveness and absolutely no vibrations.

As far as the active protection of the car's occupants is concerned, the under-frame and body have been designed to offer the highest possible standards, in line with the best amongst our competitors and with the coupé\saloon versions.

When redesigning the new geometry of the door sills and the centre pillar side structures, as well as the rear end of the car, functions have been incorporated, alongside the structural functions, that absorb and dissipate the energy generated in any impact, creating a passenger compartment that remains virtually undeformed.

Particular mention should be made of the fact that an active roll bar system has been installed to the rear of the Maserati GranCabrio body, even though this is not required by any legislation, as well as an innovative structural composite concept (in aluminium and steel) that reinforces the windscreen surround so that the occupants are guaranteed a survival area should the car overturn.

This complex integrated development of under-frame and body, which means that the highest levels of structural and safety targets can be achieved, was made possible by a systematic development process using virtual simulations and correlations between physical (prototypes) and virtual models during the numerous test sessions.

Chassis and weight distribution

Optimising weight distribution between front and rear so that the centre of gravity is positioned in the precise point to ensure maximum stability for the car: this is the key point on which engineers worked when developing the Maserati GranCabrio.

In layout terms, this objective is reflected in the continuous improvement of the layout of the mechanics and individual body components. In fact, the engine is positioned well behind the front axle and particular care has been taken with the roof system layout, which weighs a fair amount for vehicle dynamics purposes. The 6-speed automatic gearbox is installed at the front in unit with the engine, whilst the limited slip differential is rear-mounted with locking rates of 25% in traction and 45% in release which limits and manages individual driving wheel adhesion losses so that the maximum available traction is always provided.

Drive and power are transmitted between engine/gearbox and differential by a crankshaft articulated with a central constant velocity joint bearing designed to reduce vibrations to a minimum.

The result of so much design expertise is that 49% of the overall weight is distributed at the front and 51% at the rear and this remains almost the same even when the roof is folded (48% front, 52% rear). Numbers that translate into superb dynamic performance to the full advantage of driveability, optimum traction in all road surface conditions, great road holding and cornering capability, reaching stabilised lateral acceleration values of more than 1g.

In other words the characteristics that have always been imprinted in a Maserati's DNA.

At the wheel of the Maserati GranCabrio

Getting close to the Maserati GranCabrio is a unique experience that never fails to excite and thrill. Getting behind the wheel is truly exhilarating: sitting in the driving seat gives a real feel for the car's sinuous grace combined with the unfettered attitude typical of a coupé, both with the top up and down.

All of which is given further emphasis by the pleasure of driving in open air and by the elegant lines designed by Pininfarina, marked by the canvas top, a design choice linked to Maserati tradition but also the result of aerodynamic studies. With the top down the car is revealed in all its beauty, stirring the emotions of the driver, but most of all of any outside observer thanks to a generously proportioned, breathtaking side view.

The cabin, the natural environment for anyone who loves driving, reminds of the Maserati GranTurismo, from which it actually gets its roomy features and the driving position with its well-appointed vertical steering wheel, and pronounced sporty layout which doesn't compromise on comfort.

The car is fitted with a 4.7 litre 8-cylinder engine - also offered on the GranTurismo S - which delivers 323 kW, allows flexible, comfortable and fluid driveability in Normal mode and a more sporty and reactive response in Sport mode. The development has led to targeted interventions focused on the mappings of the gearbox, the engine, the management of the throttle and suspension system which have made the car a granturismo with enviable performance. All this is the result of the technicians, engineers and test drivers involved in the project working in synergy. During the numerous test sessions at the different proving grounds involved (Balocco, Vizzola, Nürburgring, Fiorano, but also Sweden and New Zealand) particular attention was paid to the interaction between chassis and suspension to ensure that the handling and comfort targets were reached without reflecting the car's chassis.

The Maserati GranCabrio carries only a small amount of extra weight, but on the road it's unnoticeable thanks to the thrilling performance and ease of driving offered by its excellent weight distribution: 49% on the front axle and 51% on the rear. This weight distribution proves particularly effective when the car is pushed to its limits and allows the driver to appreciate the ever-excellent traction, steering wheel response, predictable reaction to under/oversteering situations and last but not least the car's progressive approach to the transients, which are always manageable using steering and throttle. As it is a car designed for "everyday" use, particular attention was paid to the car stability and traction control systems on all types of surface, whether with low and very low grip (wet, snow and ice) or with medium and high grip (normal road surfaces and track) offering a well balanced, nimble car in "difficult" conditions whilst having available absolute peak power with maximum driving safety.

The Maserati GranCabrio is therefore a highly satisfying performance car, equally at ease in everyday and in sporty driving conditions. At the same time the comfort for which it is renowned ensures that it finds its own dimension even on long road trips.

Source: Maserati

Gallery: Maserati GranCabrio (2011)