With a gorgeous cabin and good performance, the Maserati GranCabrio is something special...
It'd take a lot more than a rare snowfall to hold up Maserati's GranCabrio launch. After all, the car's electronic braking and stability systems were tested at New Zealand's snow farm last winter.
But what nearly stopped it for this writer was getting lost in Rome; thank goodness for satnav and a detailed route book. And for reckless Roman drivers' reluctance to damage such an expensive car, for we soon carved through the mayhem to get back on track, relax and enjoy the drive - when conditions allowed.
Our route took us over snow-choked hills before swooping down onto the flat, where savage lumps and potholes tested the car's stiffness as we speared for the coast, cruising top-down past chilly Mediterranean beaches.
Maserati aimed for the same performance as the GranTurismo on which this vehicle is based, and there's the same 323kW/490Nm 4.7-litre V8 under the bonnet mated to the same ZF transmission, albeit with modified software.
Slicing the roof off mandated extra bracing, and beefier sills, a torsion wall behind the rear seats, a solid compartment for the folding roof and braces across the engine bay stiffen the car - and add around 100kg to its weight.
This Maserati tips the scales at 1980kg, which impacts performance. Claimed fuel economy is 15.4l/100km while acceleration is rapid, rather than shocking. Mind you, the 5.3-second 0-100 sprint is dispatched with such drama you don't really care.
Tap the sport button to sharpen response and divert the exhaust for a full-throated testosterone-soaked roar; wonderful.
The histrionics are all in the soundtrack, though. Ride was surprisingly compliant thanks to the continuously adaptive Skyhook suspension, the body well controlled, and impressively stiff over all but the most cavernous potholes.
The three-layer fabric roof doesn't compromise the car's handsome lines up or down. When raised the cabin's quiet, even at speed, and when lowered the front seats remain an oasis of calm - sufficient to leave my below-the-shoulder-length hair loose.
I couldn't say the same for the rear seats, though they're not likely to get regular use. They sit inboard and higher than the GranTurismo equivalent for a better view out, but that compromises headroom, and anyone over 1.6 metres wouldn't want to sit there for long. Mind you most buyers will use those pews for luggage, as at 173 litres the boot space is severely limited. And they can do so with the top down - the specially designed bags strap in, and the security system activates as soon as a hand enters the cabin space.
That cabin is gorgeous, and designed to remind you this Maserati is special.
The GranCabrio competes with the BMW 6 Series cabrio, Jaguar XKR cabrio and Aston Martin DB9 Volante - plus the Bentley GTC. It's sexier than the latter two and more exclusive than the former, which gives it an edge in a market that's still down on last year. Maserati expects seven NZ sales this year, at $338,000 each.