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Behind the wheel in a bellissimo pair of Maserati Gran Turismos

The booming and growling V8 engine broke the forest stillness, but inside the cockpit of this 2018 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible, I was listening with care to the driving coach seated alongside me. “Lift off the gas,” he said. “Now full power. Hard braking ahead. Now turn right.”

To demonstrate the car’s prowess, Maserati had arranged the closing of a stretch of SP40, a narrow, writhing section of mountainside by-way. If ever the chassis would reveal deficiencies, any flexing or shuddering, it would be on this frost-heaved segment. But the open-top trident — which benefits from revised, more aerodynamic styling touches — was as steady as the men sipping grappa back at Pub la Forcella, the starting point.

Pulling up to the finish line at Restaurant des Alpes, I asked how the 3.7 kilometres could have gone by so quickly. “You were going more than 90 miles (145 kilometres) per hour,” my coach said.

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Really? In trying to find the correct line through it all, I hadn’t looked at the instrument display. Remembering to breathe was the best I could do. If anything, we had just disproved the notion that the best use for either the Maserati GranTurismo or its convertible counterpart is for profiling in the Hamptons.

Emulating the Maserati Alfieri concept car of 2014, the coupe and cabriolet have a more pronounced, shark-like countenance that also happens to increase downforce. The rear has also been revised to elegantly refine the visual impact — subtleties that seemed lost on the grappa-sipping gents. To them, it’s just a timeless automotive design.

What the youngsters in the crowd did notice right away, though, was the new 21.3-centimetre touchscreen infotainment display that includes smartphone mirroring through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And the new Harman Kardon sound system — with 10 speakers in the GranTurismo and 11 speakers in the cabriolet — delivers the con vivace passages with clarity. For the defining embellishment, there’s also a new analogue clock in the dashboard.

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But maybe the best thing is the delicious delivery of the engine’s 338 kW symphony. “It’s one of the last naturally aspirated, high-rev V8s,” said product planner Enrico Billi. “It’s a unique sound, and smooth.”

He's right. What it means is that while the GranTurismo and GranTurismo Convertible may lack a keyless start and some of the other latest features found in competitors, the shapes are perpetually beautiful, the power train and chassis are very well-developed, and both cars are a great pleasure to drive — especially in their home territory.

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