The history of IL Borro Resort, Spa and Winery in Tuscany begins in 1039 AD. Located in the heart of Italy, this tiny medieval village gets its name from the nearby riverbed and ravine. Small in stature, it has been at the centre of many skirmishes as its hilltop location and the surrounding ideal wine-growing climate have ensnared many a would-be conqueror for more than a millennia.
It is fitting we arrive at the estate, now under the stewardship of Ferruccio Ferragamo, in a 2013 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible Sport. Like IL Borro, Maserati is small of stature, but historically significant. It may not have enjoyed a storied past stretching over one thousand years, but since its beginning in 1914, the Italian automaker has accomplished something only a relative few automobile companies have been able to achieve — success.
Of the six original Maserati brothers, all but Mario were involved in the making of engines and automobiles when the company began. He was a painter by trade and so designed the trident logo still used by Maserati to this day. Inspiration for the design is said to have come from the statue of Neptune in the city center of Bologna, Italy. Its regal presence is a must-see stop in the stately Italian city located 50 kilometres from the factory in Modena.
The newly styled 2013 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible Sport carries the storied nameplate to new heights. Open-top sports cars (convertible or cabriolet, depending on where you live) have been a tradition at Maserati for more than 60 years. Designed as a true four-seater, this is, in my opinion, the truest expression of sportiness and the most enjoyable version of the GranTurismo. Everything about it feels right, from the comfortable interior, to the exterior shape and dynamic engine note, this a dream drive from all angles.
Power comes in the precise form of a 90˚ 4.7-litre DOHC 32-valve V8 all-alloy engine. Ferrari builds the motor on behalf of Maserati to their exacting standards. Performance numbers indicate 454 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 384 lb-ft of torque at 4,750 rpm. Spec sheets only go so far as to pique the imagination; real driving requires continuous throttle action and a certain level of machismo.
Equipped with an Automatic MC Auto Shift transmission, 0-100 km/h takes 5.0 seconds in the GranTurismo Convertible Sport. This is 0.2 seconds longer than the coupe, but the joy you experience with top-down driving is well worth the minor difference, just take it in your stride and use the added time to bask in the glorious gaze of envious passer-bys. Top speed is 285 km/h, also slightly less than the coupe's 300 km/h limit.
A total of five unique operating modes are available in the six-speed ZF-built automatic transmission. This includes Auto-Normal, Auto-Sport, Manual-Normal, Manual-Sport and Ice Modes. Driving in manual mode, shifts are crisp using the steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters.
In Manual-Normal, shifts hold until redline. When driving in Manual-Sport, the transmission will hold each gear until actuated by the paddle-shifter even if that means bouncing off the redline. To further enhance performance, I drive the GranTurismo Convertible Sport in ‘Sport' mode as much as possible. Shift times are improved by an additional 50 percent and the engine exhaust note is pure bliss, especially with the ragtop stowed and the sun shining.
Double wishbone front and rear suspension, steel springs, anti-roll bars (rear is increased by 12 percent) and Sport Skyhook continuously variable dampers make easy work of any twisty road surfaces. In fact, I go looking for them at every opportunity and in Tuscany, the opportunities are endless. While in ‘Sport' mode, vertical stiffness increases by 10 percent, further improving the opportunity for sheer fun.
Stopping power is superb with dual-cast, cross-drilled, grooved and ventilated disc brakes. Brembo six-piston calipers actuate the front, four-piston the back. Maserati's unique cast iron brake system with aluminum hats reduces unsprung weight by 15 percent. With a curb weight of 1,880 kg (4,155 lbs), the GranTurismo Convertible brakes like a skilled attacker on the pitch, stopping on a dime when needed or allowing for subtle weight transfers at corner entry points.
Inside, sport seats are now sportier as they have been optimised for comfort and support. Long drives are anything but tiring in this convertible. Integrated headrests add elegance as well as function to all four seats. A new steering wheel features accentuated grips for thumb and fingers. The perforated leather feels comfortable in my hands, daring me to release the crackle of a Maserati V8 on an unsuspecting public.
It would be impossible to find a more idyllic setting than Tuscany and the surrounding hill country in which to fully explore the capabilities of the 2013 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible Sport. I grab hold of every opportunity to drive through a tunnel or mountainous roadway, drop down a few gears while in ‘Sport' mode and let the crackle and whoop make melodious sounds.
Intoxication takes many forms, especially here in Chianti. For me, it starts with the twist of a key and the sweet sounds of unbridled horsepower. Driving a sports car this well-crafted lingers in your mind and palette long after the last drop of petrol has been consumed.
2013 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible Sport
Body: Two-door convertible
Configuration: front engine/rear-wheel drive
Engine: 4.7L V8
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Max Power: 454 bhp
Max Torque: 384 lb.-ft.
Max Speed: 285 km/h
0-100mph: Five sec
Fuel: Premium unleaded (86L)
Fuel Economy Rating: 13 L/100km (city); 20L/100km (hwy)