Driving the Maserati GranCabrio and Three Other Delectable Droptops

There's no denying Lady Luck was smiling on me recently when she handed me the keys to a 2011 Maserati GranCabrio and three other gorgeous droptops - while even helping me get out of a speeding ticket.

Let me explain who she came to smile on me recently. The annual New England Motor Press Association Ragtop Ramble, a gathering where members drive convertibles and other sport cars north from Boston to Kennebunkport, Maine, commences with the selection of keys from a lockbox to determine what your first car of the day is going to be.

In the past, some horrible selections have come my way, including the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible. Then again, last year I was able to get the keys to the Rolls Royce but only because everybody else had selected first and it was just sitting there. I just couldn’t let it sit there.

So, into the box my hand goes and pulls out the keys to a Toyota Sienna minivan. As much as I want to drive this (I am a family man after all), this is neither the time nor the place to drive one.

My hand recoils back into the box and blindly snags the keys to a 2011 Maserati GranCabrio (pictured below). Lady Luck has shone on me. It would continue to shine on me with the opportunity to drive later in the day the 2010 BMW Z4 sDrive 35is, the 2010 Chevrolet Corvette GS and the 2009 Porsche Boxster S.

2011 Maserati GranCabrio
As if it’s not just lucky enough to be driving one, Lady Luck continues with me as I pull out of the driveway of the Larz Anderson Museum of Transportation in Brookline. The Maserati PR person in the co-pilot’s seat demonstrates the sport mode. Get it up above 3000 rpm, he advises, to hear the exhaust note.

Which is how I end up meeting one of Boston P.D.’s finest. He is standing beneath a shade tree with a radar gun that nails me doing 41 in a 25 mph zone (and it wasn’t a school zone). He kindly lets me off with a written warning. A closer inspection of the ticket reveals he has written me up for driving a Ferrari but that honor has gone to somebody else in the fleet.

The GranCabrio, with a MSRP of $135,800, is a four-seat convertible that can hold four adults – at least that’s what Maserati claims. A 5’5” PR representative (not from Maserati) was behind me, which meant I couldn’t politely put my seat all the way back. It made things a little uncomfortable after two hours behind the wheel.

However, nothing else was uncomfortable. The 433 horsepower 4.7-liter V8 engine just effortlessly took me wherever I wanted to go. Handling was precise. Plus, it’s a beautiful car to behold in keeping with the Maserati tradition. I only enjoy its company for about two hours, but it’s not a convertible I will soon forget.

2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is
There’s nothing unlucky about driving a 335-horsepower convertible that can go from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds – unless you’re stuck in traffic along Hampton Beach roads in New Hampshire. I seriously doubt I ever got the six-speed manual transmission out of third gear. That’s a shame because the Z4 has an electronically-controlled overboost function to briefly increase torque under full load by another 37 lb-ft. – or more than 10 percent from its 332 lb. ft.

Its inline six-cylinder engine features a combination of twin low-mass turbochargers and high precision direct injection. You’re not going to get this combination of power in a normally aspirated engine without more cylinders and displacement. Of course, I mostly enjoyed it at speeds up to 25 mph. I did get it up to 50 mph once when I was able to pass somebody.

To top things off, the Z4 had the M Sport upgrade, which includes things like the adaptive M Suspension that combines a ride-height reduction of almost 0.4” with electronically controlled shock absorbers (Dynamic Damping Control) to improve the vehicle’s agility without compromising ride comfort. The last sentence is almost verbatim from BMW because it’s nothing I got to experience. Pricing starts at $61,925 for the Z4 I drove.

2010 Corvette GS
This was the only non-convertible of the bunch but it had the openness of a T-top. Again, Lady Luck smiled on me with a nice sunny day. Traffic was up and down with the Corvette Grand Sport, or GS for short.

Maybe it’s just as well I was never able to get some highway time with it because of the powerful LS3 6.2L engine that is rated at 430 horsepower and 424 lb.-ft. of torque. It has a combination of 0-60 performance of four seconds and skid pad adhesion of 1 g – neither of which I got to try.

The GS I drove had the six-speed manual transmission. That means it was outfitted for race track competition with a dry-sump oiling system, differential cooler and a rear-mounted battery. About the only thing I did was race it to lunch because we were 90 minutes late.

It is an effortless car to drive in spite of its power. It has smooth acceleration in stop-and-go traffic, which would make it an excellent daily driver. That’s something Corvette does that a lot of other sports car manufacturers don’t. It prices out around $59,350.

2009 Porsche Boxster S
When it came time to drive home, after a morning of sports cars, I would have settled for a Mini convertible. Instead, Lady Luck continued to shine with the keys to the 2009 Porsche Boxster S. By this time I was feeling a little sunburned, so I popped the top up and drove home 200 miles back to Connecticut in air conditioned comfort.

Fortunately it comes with cruise control because this little Boxster likes to run fast. The 3.4-liter engine in the Boxster S, with direct fuel injection, delivers 310 horsepower at 7200 rpm and 266 lb-ft at 4750 rpm. With the standard six-speed manual, it accelerates to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds.

It’s a fun little vehicle to zip around corners with and it has great 50 to 75 mph acceleration. (I don’t want to push Lady Luck any more than I need to.) It prices out around $66,500.

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