Maserati GranTurismo Convertible

If there’s any image sexier than a topless Maserati, call Scottsdale Ferrari/Maserati with your svelte candidate.

Chances are Gary Simon and his sales crew will still choose the new magic from Modena.

The Penske Automotive Group dealership, 6825 E. McDowell Road, has a 2010 GranTurismo convertible demonstrator, so stop down and see it. After taking a drive top up or down, take a long look, from all sides, at a beauty that the Roman gods would have been happy to take to the foot of Olympus.

Designed by Pininfarina, the all-new Maserati droptop has arrived, and, if you’ve arrived, too, you can drive one.

“The car has just gone into production, so they are available on an ‘order only’ basis,” says Gary, sales manager for the dealership. He notes that the car, sans options, is $139,700. That’s great value for such a vibrant car, combining the great racing tradition and street panache of the marque as well as top-down attractiveness.

“What makes this car special is that it offers Maserati speed and handling plus four seats,” he explains. “No one else offers sports car performance in an open car and the capacity to seat four people.”

Four people, comfortably — for jaunts a few miles to the restaurant or shopping or journeys of hundreds of miles. A tunnel separates the rear seats; this includes two cup holders and a receptacle for electronics equipment. Up front, the driver can set his or her optimum driving configuration as well as the heating level for the cold weather even the desert offers.

“Passengers in the GranTurismo convertible are not supporting actors but co-stars in the journey,” the Maserati people say in their collateral material. To continue the metaphor a little farther down the road to automotive Oz: This is a car scripted for every scene, from individual joy to family outings. You decide, you direct.

Even when you choose top down — and here in Arizona, that’s an almost year-round option — the top goes up in just 28 seconds, should mood or monsoon indicate. Maserati offers you a choice of six colors on the double-lined canvas.

Vehicle aerodynamics are only slightly affected, top up to top down, as the drag coefficient is just 0.35 with the top up and slightly more at 0.39 with it down. For convenience, you can select that the top begin its drop cycle when you insert the key into the lock, thereby allowing heat build-up to dissipate before you are ready to move stylishly on. An option further delivers an additional convenience: The wind stop reduces outside air volume by 70 percent and the inside air speed by 50 percent.

And, because of Maserati’s commitment to reducing weight, but not at the expense of stability and safety, the overall weight differential between the convertible and hardtop GranTurismo is much less than that traditionally experienced with such similar-body comparisons: just around 100 pounds.

Beauty is not just skin deep here, although the exterior, from the upward-sloping hood to what Maserati calls “sinuous and feline flanks,” the new GranTurismo celebrates your discrimination for visual excellence. A wide rear diffuser has been extensively tested to ensure aerodynamic performance, and drivers following you will also see two twin-oval chrome tailpipes that put neat end-stops on your automotive statement.

Maserati has a distinguished history of famous two-seater convertibles: the ABG Frua Spyder, the 3500 GT Spyder by Vignale (which starred in a few motion pictures) and the Mistral and Ghibli Spyders. Henry Ford II had a Mistral Ghibli and brazenly drove one in Detroit, saying, “The Ghibli will disappear from my parking lot when you’ve designed me a Ford that is just as beautiful.”

There’s beast in this new GranTurismo beauty, of course. Power derives from a 4.7-liter V-8, outputting 440 horses with the 6-speed ZF automatic transmission geared for performance as well as day-to-day driving. You’ll enjoy the purr of power at normal operating rpms, but if you want the GranTurismo open-top to express itself with more eloquence, just select the Sport mode, and the exhaust hydraulic control valves open up for the kind of resonance that will let them know you’re coming, and going. Optional Trofeo Paddle Shifters put gear selection, and automotive ecstasy, at your fingertips.

This is a car with outstanding front to rear balance: 51 percent to 49 percent with the top up and 53 percent and 48 percent with it down. In normal driving conditions, the GranTurismo Convertible balances ride comfort with the road feel you’d expect from a Maserati. Still, by engaging the Sport button, the suspension is stiffened and gear changes are quicker. Switch back to the Normal mode, and the everyday ride returns.

In addition, the Maserati Stability Program system detects any anomalies and adjusts the brakes and the engine for stability. Similarly, the Hydraulic Brake Assist application recognizes panic situations and activates the brakes to minimize stopping distance. The standard Skyhook Suspension System actually conceals many road irregularities and adjusts to them for an optimal driving experience by means of continuously adjusting gas dampers.

Safety is key to this car, too. The automatic extending rollbar system deploys in 190 milliseconds to protect you and your loved ones. “The system works from the air bag system,” Gary explains. “If it senses that the car is about to overturn or if the car is hit from the side or from behind, it sends a signal for immediate engagement.” He adds that the system also intensifies its hold on the rear child seats, should impact occur. Even more, the new airbag design operates according to the actual size of those traveling with you.

With the top down, you’ll be able to showcase the multi-sensuous components of the luxurious interior such as a Poltrona Frau leather three-spoke steering wheel and walnut briarwood, rosewood or wenge interior trims. Options include a variety of trims such as high- gloss wood; a dual-colored interior; matching-wood steering wheel and aluminum racing pedals.

The audio system has been tweaked for a car that will be spending at least some of its time open to the sky. Maserati and Bose have placed 12 speakers for optimum performance — two tweeters and two woofers in each door, a front bass box under the front passenger seat, two tweeters and two woofers on the rear panels and a large rear-mounted bass box with two woofers. Another standard, AudioPilot, adjusts the volume automatically, based on whether the top is up or down, to adjust to ambient noises without distracting you from the joys of driving. Standard, too, is IPOD connectivity and a Sirius satellite radio.

For the exterior, you can choose rear and front parking sensors; 20-inch wheels in Birdcage, Neptune and Trident designs in grigio mercury or silver — all available with red brake calipers; and Chromeline exterior trim. Brake calipers are also available in aluminum, black, blue, titanium and yellow.

If you’d like, select from the color palette or specify optional out-of-range colors such as the very special Bianco Fuji pearl white, which will require five months lead time — but will have people talking for some time, too.

“The GranTurismo convertible is a first-of-its-kind Maserati,” Gary says, “but it celebrates the Trident pedigree with outstanding performance and Italian lines that will turn heads anywhere you take it.”