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Making Waves

Howard Walker

   Never has 28 mph in a Maserati been this thrilling. The noise, the wind in the hair, the constant rush of adrenaline, the feeling of raw, undiluted power.
   In my hands, the suede-covered wheel is bucking and writhing with each lump and bump, yet the handling in the wet is just sensational. I guess you could say I’m having a swell time.
Maserati GranTurismo Convertible Sport - supercar - luxury sports-car

   Of course, this isn’t your average Maserati sportster. The one I’m steering is 70 feet long, tips the scales at 10 tons and is powered by a throbby 75-horsepower diesel. It’s not even Italian—it was built in Sweden. But at its crazy-fast top speed of 46 mph, few machines feel this rapid.
   I’m helming Maserati, the Italian sports-car maker’s racing sailboat. In one of those rare, heaven-sent opportunities, I’ve been asked to help crew this waterborne rocket ship from its U.S. home base in Charleston, South Carolina, down to Palm Beach, where it was due to be the star attraction at a Maserati customer event. Three days, hundreds of miles, an experience of a lifetime.
   Prior to leaving Charleston, Maserati and its crew of eight had screamed across the Atlantic, establishing a new speed record for the so-called Columbus route from Cadiz, Spain, to San Salvador in the Bahamas; 3,884 miles in 10 days and 23 hours, averaging more than 16 knots. For a big monohull yacht, that’s fast.
   Most of our trip down was at a more sedate pace, as big winds failed to materialize. But on the second night out, with the yacht’s enormous spinnaker flying and the wind getting fresh and feisty, we saw 25 knots—roughly 28 mph—on the mast-mounted speedo. With two giant rooster tails pluming up from the stern, it felt more like 100.
interior and dash of the new Maserati GT Convertible Sport supercar - luxury sports-car

   Pulling into the Port of Palm Beach would have been an immense anticlimax had I not known what was waiting for me on the quayside. There in its rich Rosso Trionfale paint—that’s cherry red to you and me—was the new pride of Maserati’s land fleet, its 2012 GranTurismo Convertible Sport. Steer the boat, drive the car; life doesn’t get much sweeter.
   The regular GranTurismo Convertible has been around for a few years now. But for the new Sport, they upped the horsepower of the 4.7-liter V-8 from 433 to a nice, roll-off-the-tongue 444. It’s essentially the same engine that powers the hard-edged GranTurismo MC Stradale.
   The upgrade to Sport spec also includes my new favorite feature—a freer-flowing exhaust. While this might not sound like much, anyone who has driven a regular GranTurismo will eulogize over its sensational, basso profundo exhaust roar. Nascar stock cars are hushed by comparison. With this new exhaust, the noise now borders on the obscene.
   Don’t worry, you can cruise around with only muted thunder erupting from the car’s back end. But its party trick is the Sport button, which opens up a valve in the exhaust, essentially bypassing anything that might get in the way of muffling the roar.
Maserati GT Convertible Sport with sailboat MASERATI - Italian-made sports-car

   To enjoy this truly unique feature to the fullest, drop the GT’s multilayer cloth top—a 24-second piece of mechanical ballet—and find yourself a nice city-center canyon of office buildings. Now hold the six-speed ZF auto in second gear, let the revs build to around 3,000 and enjoy. Shop windows will vibrate, household pets will scurry to safety, sidewalk diners will risk neck injury with the speed at which their heads twist.
   For me, this primeval wail, this orgy of octaves, this wall of sound is worth every cent of the GT Convertible Sport’s $148,000 asking price.
   Other upgrades to Sport spec include a few aerodynamic body appendages, plus 20 percent stiffer roll bars and 15 percent stiffer springs to sharpen the car’s cornering. Surprisingly, the stiffer suspension doesn’t affect the quality of the ride, which remains firm but nicely plush.
   And still, the beauty of this truly beautiful Maserati is that it continues to offer seating for four adults in stretch-out comfort, in one of the finest leather-upholstered cabins money can buy.
   Just like the Maserati sailboat, you could say that this new GranTurismo Convertible Sport leaves the opposition in its wake.

MASERATI sailboat - Italian sports-car manufacturer - supercar

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February 2015