You could almost feel a little sorry for the designers tasked with updating Maserati's GranTurismo, and convertible GranCabrio variant.
Not only were they trying to improve on the Italian car maker's best-selling sports car ever, with 37,000 units shifted since its arrival in 2007, but they had to do so without fundamentally changing the car. And all while Maserati likened this "evolution not revolution" to the gradual changes in design language of timeless standard-setters such as the iPod and the Coca-Cola bottle. No pressure, then.
But in refreshing and not revamping, they have managed to achieve more than a corner smoothed here and an air intake fiddled with there, even if Maserati itself uses words such as "barely perceptible" when describing some of the alterations. There is, for example, a new infotainment system that does away with the outdated, undersized previous version to drag the car into the 21st century, while we are flown firmly into the future by the 3-D Maserati logos projected within the headlamps' beams.
It is a GT that desperately wants to break the leash and run headlong into being a full-on sports car, not least because the seats and ride are quite firm for a grand tourer. The naturally aspirated, Ferrari-built, 4.7L V8 gives your right foot the benefit of 460hp and 520Nm of torque – and it sounds better than just about any other car that money can buy, blaring through an exhaust that is fine-tuned for your own personal listening pleasure. Abbey Road Studios couldn't have done a better job.
The model range has been streamlined to two versions of each car. The labels arguably sound more like selectable driving modes than trim levels: Sport and MC (an abbreviation of Maserati Corse – that’s “racing” in Italian). Beyond that, with five new paint colours (16 in total), leather and Alcantara interior options, plus a choice of brake-caliper colours, there are apparently 400,000 individual combinations available to customise your Maserati. Unfortunately, one of those alternatives isn’t “better brakes”, because the existing ones aren’t quite as convincing as you might like – it’s the only real complaint here, albeit a somewhat major one.
There are subtle styling differences between the Sport and slightly more-angular MC – the former gets new front/rear fascias and front grille; the latter instead has an updated front splitter. It more or less comes down to personal taste: the Sport has classier, cleaner lines to the MC’s angrier outline.
While testing the duo of Gran updates in rural northern Italy in the midst of glorious 30°C weather, it is hard to imagine how anybody could take the Turismo over the Cabrio.
If you're some kind of heathen and want to drown out that lush, raspy exhaust note, then the drop-top even gets a better stereo system, with an extra speaker (11 in total) and 75 watts more (825 watts overall) than the coupé. But should the mercury climb another 15°C or 20°C – hello there, UAE summer – then the tin-top Turismo is probably a better bet.
As Ferrari celebrates seven decades in the game this year, it's also 70 years since Maserati introduced its first coupé, the A6 1500. A lot has changed since then – and you could broadly say the same about the decade lifespan to date of the GranTurismo/Cabrio. It wasn't broke, for now, so there was no need to fix it, per se, but after such a timespan leading Maserati's growth, you sense the time for something all-new is fast approaching. Until then, this remains a fabulously aurally rewarding drive, with top up or down.