I still remember how I felt the first time I saw a Maserati GranTurismo. I was wandering through a Maserati dealership while my dad got his Jaguar XJ8 serviced on the adjacent lot. It was then, at the ripe young age of 15, that I first laid eyes on what is still—in my humble opinion—one of the most beautiful automobiles of the last 20 years, perhaps ever. After circling it a few times, I let myself inside; the dealer had, perhaps unwisely, left the showroom model unlocked.
That Alcantara-clad bucket seat, the fine leather almost everywhere, and the expansive view over a never-ending hood swept me off my size-9 slip-on Vans. It was love at first sight, and I silently swore to myself one day I would, at the very least, drive this very Maserati. At the time, the goal seemed rather lofty. I was merely 15 years old, and this bona-fide supercar—with its supercar price tag—seemed genuinely out of reach.
Luckily, the day came sooner than expected and also just in time. The entire Maserati GranTurismo range is now dead. The last example rolled off the production line in November of last year, and a replacement is already well underway. But before it’s all gone away for good, I was given the keys to this Modenese masterpiece for one last hurrah.
It is true that all wonder dies with age, but in this very rare case, I was struck with the same feelings of love and adoration I had as a teenager. Walking up to it, I was transported back to that dealership. Sitting in the warm light of a June afternoon, it was just as beautiful as I had remembered. The single shoulder line that runs the length of the entire car, the perfectly sculpted rear haunch, and the mile-long hood were all just as gorgeous as I had remembered. Perhaps it was even better than I had remembered in this example’s ($10,500) Rosso Magma paint and Cuoio (literally “leather” in Italian, in this case suggesting a natural leather hue) interior specification.
Once I snapped out of my nostalgia-induced drooling, I finally hopped in and turned the key; yes, a key, it’s that old. The Ferrari-sourced 4.7-liter V-8 fired into a wild, naturally aspirated roar. Suddenly, this car made even more sense than before. I mean, really: How could anyone live without hearing that sound every morning? The sport button opens up the exhaust, and I’m officially behind the wheel of a $168,925 thunderstorm.
Buckled up and top lowered, off I went. Even the smallest throttle inputs result in huge bellows from the back of the car, and the fact that there isn’t a roof to muffle any of the gorgeous V-8 noise only makes it better. I giggled like a little kid who’s just done something naughty every time I opened the throttle. In my opinion, the Maserati GranTursimo Convertible is one of the most beautiful, best-sounding, wonderfully vain cars to have existed on this side of Y2K; I can say that much with confidence.
But … there was always going to be a “but,” wasn’t there? On the surface of it, everything about the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible is great. Better than great. Fantastic, even. But after its sparkling first impression, the cracks in the façade started to show, and they continually poked holes in a love story I wrote for myself when I first laid eyes on the car all those years ago.
For starters, there’s that transmission. The six-speed automatic is well over a decade old, but it feels like it could be older. That sport button that gives that glorious exhaust note at full roar also “sharpens” the shift quality—if “sharpens” means “lurch the car forward every time you try to come to a comfortable stop” around town.
Taking control of the gearbox using the massive paddles behind the wheel doesn’t solve the problem, either. Downshifts are difficult to execute smoothly. Ask for one at the wrong time, and the whole car screams in protest as the engine repeatedly rages against its rev limiter. In short, if you’re driving the GranTurismo around town, it’s best to leave the sport button off and pray that gentle driving will convince the transmission to play nice.
But it is an old gearbox, and I was more than happy to put the lack of smoothness out of my mind for the sake of my little love story. I was in one of my dream cars after all; it was never going to be perfect. I knew that going in, and I wanted to have the full Maserati experience. And what better way to experience a GranTurismo than with a grand-ish tour of my own.
Because California happily offers up more than 600 miles of gorgeous coastline to cruise up and down on, I thought it would be a shame not to explore some of it in the GT. Route 101 is a near perfect drive. You get a good, long look at places like Pismo Beach, the farmland that makes up so much of the middle of California, and the rocky shores of NorCal. But despite the breathtaking scenery, I couldn’t help but notice the way the car rode over California’s poorly finished tarmac. I thought this 16-foot long barge would iron out all the bumps in the road and make the trip easy. Uh, no. Instead, the car regularly shimmies and vibrates; on anything but the smoothest of roads, you might as well be driving over a washboard.
There isn’t enough rubber in the big Maser’s suspension for something this heavy and roofless, and that stiffness only exaggerates the way the chassis flexes underneath you. Occasionally, the car is well-sorted and easy to drive like a good GT should be, but more often than not you’re concentrating too hard on managing the way it handles to enjoy yourself, especially if that trip up the coast takes you all the way from Los Angeles to Big Sur, and you’re on the road for six straight hours.
Piloting the scarlet grand tourer was a fantastic experience from an emotional point of view—the wind in my hair, the sun on my skin, and the wonderful engine note behind me made that drive one to remember. But even though my dopamine receptors were satisfied, my body was not. By the time my journey was over, I felt battered and my back was extremely unhappy with me. Spending a quarter of the day driving could do that in any car, but I thought the big GT would do more to counter the effects of fatigue.
Again, I was proven wrong. After a while, the GranTurismo transforms from a joyous cruiser into a massive amount of work, and that’s just not what a GT should be. I also had more than enough time to notice all of the plastic littered throughout the cabin and the positively anachronistic display that sits between the blue tachometer and speedometer.
In the end, the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible is one hell of a mixed bag. It wouldn’t look out of place if you were to install it as a permanent exhibit in the Uffizi. But on the road, it fell well short of my initially lofty expectations. An ages-old chassis, a poorly tuned transmission, and an interior that doesn’t befit a $160,000 price tag all keep it an arm’s reach away from real greatness. Even so, I can’t wait for its replacement.
|2019 Maserati GranTurismo C Sport Convertible|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door convertible|
|ENGINE||4.7L/454-hp/384-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,400 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||193.3 x 75.4 x 54.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.7 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||13/20/16 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||259/169 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.26 lb/mile|
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