Few car brands in the world have as much heritage associated with its name as Maserati. Founded by the Maserati brothers – Alfieri, Ettore, Ernesto and Bindo (Carlo passed away in 1911) – Officine Alfieri Maserati S.p.A. opened in Bologna, Italy on December 1, 1914.

A dominant force in motorsports during the early 1930s, even Enzo Ferrari himself saw the firm as one of his fiercest competitors. Like Ferrari, Maserati too had to make road-going cars to fund its involvement in motor racing, and the first was the A6 1500 (1947). This was the firm’s first gran turismo (grand tourer), a car that was penned by Pininfarina, and pays respect to Alfieri, who died in 1932. Designed for daily use and not racing, it would be one of several grand tourers to be produced by the trident brand.

Next came the tre mila cinquecento (3500) GT in 1957, which unlike the A6, was designed from the ground-up and was made in larger numbers as well. The Mistral, Sebring, Ghibli, 3200 GT and many more followed, until we arrive at the car most of you will be familiar with, the GranTurismo.

First introduced in 2007, the model was quite the stunner when it was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. However, many things have changed since that time, and to ensure its halo car remains relevant, Maserati have updated both the GranTurismo and GranCabrio for the 2018 model year. What is it like? We find out on the roads of northern Italy.

We start with something that is of significance to the Italians, styling. As we spent most of our time with the GranCabrio Sport, we’ll focus on the cabriolet first, beginning with its uplifted face.

The most obvious revision is the new front bumper and accompanying splitter, which is joined by a new front grille inspired by the Alfieri Concept. Look a little closer, and you’ll spot a new headlight finish that proudly brandishes the ‘Maserati’ nameplate.

As for the rear, it too is fitted with a redesigned bumper and diffuser, along with the addition of a rear view camera. That last bit might sound a bit odd, but it is an important safety-related item for Maserati’s biggest market, the United States.

Of course, the familiar Maserati cues are retained here, including the Saetta on the rear pillar (first seen on the first-generation Quattroporte), the triple side gills from the A6 1500, and the trident logo on the grille that is based on the Fountain of Neptune in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore.

The new styling applies to Sport variants of not only the GranCabrio, but also the GranTurismo coupe. It is also worth nothing the entire model line-up has been streamlined, whereby convertible and coupe models will be offered in both Sport and MC trims (no more S variants) from now on.

For the curious, differentiating the Sport from the MC is simple (aside from the new grille), with the latter featuring a prominent intake on its bonnet. The MC also comes with a different front bumper where the lower air ducts are now further separated from the front splitter, plus there is now a lightly tweaked rear extractor.

Though these updates might seem a little trivial to some, they do help to rejuvenate a car that was already very pretty to begin with. This beggars the question: do the modifications enhance or ruin original beauty?

Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say, but to this writer, it does make for a more aggressive-looking car that speaks well to the current generation. Also, you can park this in the glitziest part of town, and it’ll still stand out among the “common” exotics.

Although the exterior changes are a source of debate, there’s no denying the interior was in dire need of an update. Thankfully, the new 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment unit (from the Levante) is packed with all the features you’d expect, including smartphone connectivity, navigation, plenty of inputs and a rotary dial controller.

As a result, you’ll have plenty of options to keep you entertained on your journey, all played back through a 10-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system. The new setup required a rethink of the centre console, which now has to accommodate a few extra buttons for the car’s driving modes (Comfort, Sport and Ice).

The interior enrichments are certainly welcomed, and as you’d expect, there’s plenty of customisation options available – five interior trims, 13 upholstery colours, 9 brake caliper colours, 14 20-inch wheel designs and 16 exterior body colours.

At this point, you’re probably expecting some performance enhancements on both models, and there are. All variants continue to employ a Ferrari-sourced 4.7 litre naturally-aspirated V8 engine that churns out 460 hp at 7,000 rpm and 520 Nm of torque at 4,750 rpm.

As before, power continues to be directed to the rear wheels via a familiar ZF six-speed automatic gearbox. On the GranTurismo Sport, the 0-100 km/h sprint will be dispatched in 4.8 seconds, while the MC version does the same one tenth of a second quicker due to its lighter weight (1,873 kg vs 1,880 kg).

The GranCabrio Sport on the other hand, does the same sprint in five seconds (Sport at 1,980 kg) and 4.9 seconds (MC at 1,973 kg). All variants also see a single-digit gain (not more than 3 km/h) in terms of top speed, largely thanks to the lower drag coefficient (0.33 from 0.35 for the cabriolet; 0.32 from 0.33 for the coupe) courtesy of the more aerodynamic bodywork.

Okay, it may sound a little lackluster, but remember that this isn’t meant to set new records at the Nurburgring. Instead, it is meant to get you across long distances relatively quickly, and in that aspect, the 4.7 litre V8 is the perfect heart for this Italian GT car.

The throttle response here is quick, and without any form of forced induction to encumber it, the V8 barks to life the moment you depress the right pedal even slightly. While it may be happy to potter about at low speeds, the engine really comes alive when you rev it to its 7,200 rpm limiter, at which point the splendour of the engine’s soundtrack is clear for all to hear.

It sounds great in Comfort mode, but it sounds even better in Sport, when the bypass valves open in the exhaust to deliver a deeper and throatier aural experience. The MC variants take it a step further by completely bypassing the exhaust’s silencers. While there are plenty plus points, the powertrain’s main drawback is the aging ZF six-speed automatic, which lacks the urgency of more modern transmissions, but otherwise does its job as told.

On a more pleasant note, the steering is nicely weighted and offers lots of feedback, partly because it is still a hydraulic setup. Turn-ins are quick and there’s a fair bit of accuracy, although a slightly quicker steering ratio would have been preferred. The counter arguement to that last bit is, this being a GT; a slower steering is preferred on highways, so there’s that.

The GranCabrio Sport comes equipped with the Skyhook system as standard (also on the GranTurismo Sport), offering two-stage damping to suit different needs. In Comfort mode, the suspension does well to absorb bumps and road imperfections, making driving around towns and villages a pleasant experience.

It is the total opposite in Sport mode, where everything stiffens up, and the car becomes a little twitchier as it transmits every undulation to your spine. Unless you’re planning to participate in a hill climb or track day, best to just leave it in Comfort.

Unfortunately, this poses a problem, as there isn’t an individual driving mode that you can preset. Therefore, if you’re in Comfort mode and would like to hear the exhaust a little more, you’re going to have to put it in Sport mode, which makes everything stiff and bumpy.

On our drive, we went along Lake Iseo before proceeding through the various hilly provinces of Bergamo. Throughout the journey, the GranCabrio Sport we were in proved to be a delight when cruising within the legal speed limits. It is only when the driving got a little more spirited were we met with body roll, a tendency to understeer, and a realisation that the brakes may be overworked to stop the 1,980 kg car.

Thanks to the organisers, we were given a chance to try out the lighter GranTurismo MC (1,873 kg) on a closed bit of road, where things did feel a little sharper, but the end experience wasn’t that far off from the car I just climbed out of. As a side note, the MC comes with single-rate damping, although it felt a a bit like the Skyhook system (optional) set in Sport mode.

At the end of the day, these cars should be driven at seventh-tenths, as pushing it to the limit can make things a little gnarly; a reminder that this is a grand tourer, not an out-and-out street racer.

Even so, the overall package is something that should be thoroughly appreciated, a last hurrah to one of Maserati’s most celebrated models before a long-awaited replacement comes along. If you’re judging these cars based on outright performance and lap times, don’t bother.

However, if you look at how they enhance the experience of the journey and the way they make you feel, there’s nothing else quite like it. Look at Andrea Pirlo: he may be slower than the newer boys on the pitch, but he’s still regarded as a top class footballer. Remind you of a popular line?

The 2018 Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio will be launched in Malaysia, although an official date has yet to be confirmed.