Maserati: when driving is a moveable feast Featured

Luxos took part in the Maserati GranCabrio Florence experience: discovering the "dream cabrio" in the perfect setting of the Florentine hills
by 05 July 2010

GranCabrio Florence Experience was the prestige gift offered by Maserati to its highest-fidelity customers, and it was an experience that spoke to both mind and body. A weekend of sensorial delights in the dreamy setting of the Tuscan hills, at the five-star hotel Il Salviatino. We were privileged not only to be able to test the performance of the new "dream cabrio," under the watchful eye of Formula 3 professionals, but also to savour the luxury hospitality of this prestige hotel.

Groomed for the test drive
We arrived on Friday morning, and we immediately found ourselves in another world, in the timeless Tuscan hills kissed by the gentle sun of late spring. The hotel, Il Salviatino, is a superb 16th century villa, with wonderful views over Florence and the surrounding countryside. A personal Ambassador welcomed each of us, ready to take care of our individual requirements, ranging from the heights of hedonism (for example, booking an Ayurvedic scalp massage in the hotel's Devarana Spa) to more practical needs, such as parking our car.
"The Ambassador service", explained Simone Giorgi, the hotel manager, "is so popular with our guests that after their stay, some customers actually contact their Ambassador, and not the reception, to make another booking."

The hotel offers a unique setting, with an eleven-hectare park, frescoed suites, and period furnishings, such as a bathtub converted from an antique marble sarcophagus that was probably originally designed for use outdoors. The interior design combines characteristically Tuscan elements with contemporary luxury, and comfort is guaranteed by state-of-the-art technology.
Some of the guests decided to take a stroll in the city, while the Luxos team – myself, the art director Thomas Cannings, and photographer Paolo Benvenuto – opted for an Italian cooking lesson, and more specifically the creative reinterpretations devised by Saverio Sbaragli, famous Florentine chef. Recipes included specialities such as Ribollita, asparagus raviolo, Parmigiana, and spaghetto with tomato... even apparently simple recipes were transformed into a unique culinary experience by means of the chef's secrets, which will enable us to surprise and delight our guests when we try the recipes at home!

In the driving seat
During the first evening, we talked with Maserati staff about tomorrow's test drive.
"In offering this sort of Driving Experience", explained Giulio Pastore, Maserati's Central South Europe Regional Manager, "our objective is to show our customers how to exploit the potential of the car to the full, in an exclusive location that appeals to all five senses. The GranCabrio has all the qualities needed to take it rapidly to the top of the coupé sector. We felt that it was important to invite not just the prospective owner, but his or her partner as well, in order to demonstrate that the GranCabrio is a real four-seat car, with four comfortable, plush seats that provide maximum pleasure, not just for the driver, but also for his or her family and friends. This is a car that provides an unparalleled appearance and driving pleasure, while also offering a unique experience for the other passengers."

And at last it was Saturday, the day for our test drive under the supervision of professional drivers from the International Racing Drivers association. The streamlined design of the longitudinal profile, and the intriguing front view, were immediately impressive. However the real test would of course be the driving experience. Thomas had the enviable task of taking the wheel, and so it's over to him.

"This GranCabrio is a real weapon, ever-ready to eat up the asphalt! I woke on the morning of the drive test with an acute awareness of the delicacy of my task. I would be handling a four-wheeled thoroughbred capable of exceeding 283 km/h, with an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in less than six seconds. But, as the Maserati pro drivers explained to me, the climate in Tuscany at this time of year is ideal for testing a car uphill and downhill. The roads in the area are narrow and winding, offering the sort of variability that would show me how the car is capable of handling unexpected situations. Entering the car, my first impression was of extreme pleasure. Seats and interiors are upholstered in Frau leather, with up to 3 million possible combinations, considering exterior colour, interiors and hood. The leather has a pleasant and almost imperceptible fragrance, expressing quality and that enticing thrill of something new. I used the control levers to adjust the driving seat to the right position, and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy everything moved smoothly into place.

"I cautiously drove the car out from the Salviatino hotel's car park, well aware of the power and speed concealed under the bonnet. However, very soon the GranCabrio's great handling reassured me, and I enjoyed speeding along the roads winding through the village, revelling in the sun and the feel of the wind in my hair. Every corner opened up a new and increasingly breathtaking view of Florence and the Tuscan countryside, with its characteristic vineyards, exclusive villas, and buildings in warm stone.

"We reached a wider road, and the Maserati test driver encouraged me to put my foot down. I pressed the Sport button, and the engine opened up with a deep, throbbing roar! The professionals told me that this is a feature that Ferrari drivers envy in Maserati cars: the way in which the V-8 engine of the GranCabrio can be a quiet and silky growl when driving at a touring pace, and then a dramatic tenor bellow when the driver asks for maximum performance.

The car took every corner effortlessly, and it was a wonderful experience to glide along the country roads. The GranCabrio is a vehicle with impeccable balance, due to skilful weight distribution. With the hood closed, 49% of the weight is on the front axle and 51% on the rear, and this changes only minimally when the hood is open, becoming respectively 48% and 52%.

"On the way back to the hotel we pulled over and I pressed a button to close the hood. The impression that it gave was of a very solid structure, with nothing of the delicacy that I had imagined. The hood closed in 28 seconds, and the noise from the engine and the outside environment dropped drastically. The air-conditioning rapidly cooled the interior to achieve new levels of comfort. All in all, it is an experience that I won't forget."

To sum up...
The Maserati GranCabrio is not just a style icon designed by Pininfarina. It is a masterpiece that gives all those who drive it the joie de vivre of experiencing the pleasure of fine weather, in absolute comfort. With this jewel built using aerospace engineering materials, Maserati confirm their vocation for looking after those who appreciate the sublime feel of a perfect drive. Combining the "ethics and aesthetics" of a wholly Italian lifestyle brand.