x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Maserati convertible is cut from the same cloth as the Ferrari California

The convertible version of the ultra successful GranTurismo V8 coupe makes its global debut at this week's Frankfurt International Motor Show.

The GranCabrio, Maserati's first four-seater convertible.
The GranCabrio, Maserati's first four-seater convertible.

Maserati has lifted the lid on one of the most desirable convertibles in the car world. The convertible version of the ultra successful GranTurismo V8 coupe makes its global debut at this week's Frankfurt International Motor Show before going on sale around the world in March next year. Built on the critically acclaimed and commercially successful GranTurismo V8 coupe, the GranCabrio, as Maserati is calling the car, fills the missing link in a Maserati line up dripping with stunning looks, crisp handling and emotional engine notes.

The GranCabrio V8 carries a much longer wheelbase than originally planned, which is good news for people needing four seats. With the GranTurismo coupe tipping the scales at 1,880kg, the GranCabrio is likely to be much closer to two tonnes once it adds the folding roof and additional bracing beneath the bodywork. Instead of a folding metal roof, the GranCabrio will have a more-traditional folding cloth roof, with five layers to insulate against wind, weather and noise.

Maserati will initially sell the GranCabrio exclusively with the GranTurismo S's larger, more powerful 4.7L V8, rather than the standard GranTurismo's 4.2. That means the slinky convertible will have 440hp and 490Nm of torque at 4,750rpm from the engine, which is designed by Maserati (but built 20km away at Ferrari's Maranello factory) and also powers the Alfa 8C Competizione. The interior is likely to be more or less identical to the four-seat layout of the GranTurismo, and Maserati suggests it has the longest wheelbase of any convertible on the market. That should make the GranCabrio as comfortable in the rear as it is exciting in the front.

Maserati refuses to be drawn on the costs of the new convertible, with sources suggesting only that it might be around 15 per cent more expensive than the GranTurismo. The GranCabrio will be Maserati's first ever four-seat convertible, and with good reason. For starters, four-seat convertibles are much more difficult to engineer than two seat ones. The larger holes where the roof should be makes the cars more prone to flexing and they are also much more difficult to reinforce.

But the key here is the hidden story of the GranCabrio's development. In Maserati's darkest days, there was not even going to be a GranTurismo, much less a convertible version of it. Then things changed. Not only did the engineering team prove the viability of the coupe, but they engineered a folding metal roof version as well. They had more or less settled on a short-wheelbase, two-door version, but then things changed.

Maserati was owned by Ferrari at the time and, when it reverted to Fiat's ownership in 2005, Ferrari liked the convertible design so much they kept all the paperwork and designs associated with it. With a lot of changes and a lot of unique engineering, that car went on to become the California. All of which left Maserati with a massive hole to fill and not much time in which to fill it, but the engineering boys in Viale Ciro Menotti are nothing if not resilient. That's why the GranCabrio has become a four-seater. It was faster and cheaper to do it that way.

It's also why the mechanism to raise and lower the roof will be identical to the California's system, even though the roof is cloth and not metal. For some reason, the California's roof system was designed from the ground up to suit both cloth and metal applications. motoring@thenational.ae