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Friday, September 23, 2011

Maserati Gran Cabrio, 2011


Maserati Gran Cabrio, 2011

The Maserati Gran Cabrio - 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 Gran Cabrio'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.

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 Gran Cabrio 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 coach builders, 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 Gran Cabrio 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 Maserati Gran Cabrio'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 8-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.

On board the Maserati Gran Cabrio
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.

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 Gran Cabrio'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 Gran Cabrio 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 Gran Cabrio 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.

Integrated systems
Twenty five degrees centigrade and dehumidified air: this is what the experts reckon is the ideal situation for the well being 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 Gran Cabrio 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 Gran Cabrio 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 Gran Cabrio can also speak: it can read SMS messages and provide traffic information so that there is no need to even glance at the display.

The Maserati Gran Cabrio's Interior
The Maserati Gran Cabrio 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.

Maserati open-top Heritage
The Maserati Gran Cabrio 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.

Maserati Gran Cabrio: from coupé to convertible
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.

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 Gran Cabrio, 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.

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 Gran Cabrio.

At the wheel of the Maserati Gran Cabrio
Getting close to the Maserati Gran Cabrio 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.

The cabin, the natural environment for anyone who loves driving, reminds of the Maserati Gran Turismo, 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 Gran Turismo 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 Gran Cabrio 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.

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