Wouldn’t the Maserati GranSport Spyder be an Italian life ode?
Who never turns when a pretty Maserati passed? Probably no one, even those who aren’t really interested in cars admire Maseratis. There is something magical about this brand, something noble, something admirable. I’m sure if Neptune, latin god of sea, had his driver’s license, he would have driven a Maserati.
Today, I’m trying a 2006 Maserati GranSport Cabriolet. If you follow the prices of these early millennium cars, you probably have to be itching to sign a check right now. Who can throw the stone at you? The problem is that we all have a friend (who usually drives a Porsche) who’s going to tell you it’s the worst idea of your life. It’s funny because generally they’ve never driven a Maserati before. So, put on your sunglasses and let’s take a ride onboard a Maserati Gran Sport Cabriolet.
Rebirth of Maserati GT Coupé
After many financial crisis, Fiat chose in 1997 to mix Ferrari and Maserati, historical neighbors and competitors on tracks and then on the roads. A chance for Maserati who was (still) about to go down. Quite honestly, I think that’s the best thing that could have happened to the trident brand. Who wouldn’t want to benefit from the know-how of the best car engineers in the world?
In 1998, Maserati made something new with something old. They presented their very first car under the Ferrari area by composing with home parts from the 80s and 90s but adapted to a new philosophy (and the new time). Back to basics: a very nice GT 2+2 coupe is leaving the Modena port and goes to sea. It’s the Maserati 3200 GT! Everyone knows it, everyone loves it, nobody collects it (mmm). Anyway, what everyone remembers about this car is the extremely elegant design and the icing on the cake, these slimy boomerang rear lights. Thank you Giugiaro for this very nautical design which is clearly a masterpiece.
A few years later, Maserati changed his tack and launched the 4200 Coupé. Important mechanical evolution, the 3.2L twinturbo engine, based on Maserati Shamal engineering, is replaced by a 4.2L naturally aspirated V8 from Ferrari. Purists tear their hair out (but not as much as with the new turbocharged engines of the Ghibli and Levante).
Actually, everyone thinks it’s cool. First, it’s much more reliable. Second, it seems to be a fantastic engine. It’s like setting an orchestra on a Riva. By the way, the bodywork is a little modernized and … It loses its boomerangs taillights. Infinite sadness!!! Urban legend says that North American standards imposed this change. Maybe, maybe not, who really knows?
Between 2002 and 2007, Maserati sold 10 338 Maserati 4200 of any version. Before turning the page on this model, Maserati had a last surprise. Yep, italians are used to end everything with a party. So they took the 4200 and made it the most powerful and brutal road-going Maserati we’ve ever known! It looks like a Riva but it’s a powerboat inside: that’s how the Maserati GranSport was born.
Elbow at the door and hand clinging to the wheel of the Maserati GranSport Spyder
As soon as I press “start” (because yes, this car has an automatic gearbox), the hot breath of the V8 rumbles. It’s a cold start that is both very melodious and restrained. It’s like your first dive of the year. Fresh but you already love it. After a few turns of the wheel, I notice two things. The suspensions seem to be hard and the front axle heavy. That’s perfect!
When cold, the steering shakes at the engine vibrations and gives the impression that it’s literally in contact with the engine. You can feel everything through this modern direction but with a rather vintage feeling.
A few kilometers later, everything goes back to normal and it becomes much more civilized, like the time to get used to the temperature of the sea. I feel then a more GT direction than I thought. It’s finally pretty light, straightforward and rather precise, despite a front axle still weighted by the engine.
When hot, the exhaust is freed. I drive with the roof open under an autumn sunny day and the small exhaust flaps make the addictive vocals of the V8 resonate between the trees. Yes, I pressed the “Sport” button… I couldn’t resist. To be honest, you can’t expect a radical change, we aren’t yet in the 2010´s, but these are the beginnings of what we all know today.
When I push the beast, I feel a very flexible engine and a lot of pleasure from 2000 to 8000 RPM. Indeed, I get into the RPM and that’s even better. The engine seems full, I have power everywhere, it’s a real pleasure! And that pleasure is multiplied tenfold when I downshift : the sights and vibrations of the 4.2L V8 roar all the way to my forearm hair. I get goose bumps!
The overall behaviour of the car is frankly satisfactory. 0 to 100 km/h in 4,8 secondes, 451 Nm from 4500 RPM: yes, we feel a little that Maserati wanted to show big muscles while keeping what they already had on hand. The ferocity of the engine contrasts a little bit with the GT side of the chassis and the steering, especially when you go up in RPM and speed on twisting roads. The hard suspensions of the GranSport version don’t really help since the stiffness seems to come from this assumed choice. Sometimes, it feels like you see a Riva in a storm. At first it’s surprising, then you get caught up in the game and it’s very addictive.
Anyway, it’s okay, this GranSport is a GT. A real GT okay, but a furious GT!
A subtle design (something we’ll never have again)
Maserati GranSport is all about design. The exterior is pretty, subtle, elegant, with just a touch of sportiness. We notice the sublime specific trident 19’’ rims. We also love the larger-than-average grille prefiguring the GranTurismo. We are dazzled by the slightly prominent underbody and the small front and rear air intakes that only the most attentive petrolhead notice. Finally, the great Giugiaro design has not been disfigured over the years and the special editions, on the contrary, this version is probably the most balanced Coupé model (excluding 3200 GT of course), especially with this metallic blue paint.
Inside, that’s the same. Almost everything is decorated with leather that smells like Italy. I’m a big fan of beige leather, now I’m delighted with this splendid two-tone camel and marine seats. The dashboard is designed with great taste (trident shaped with a point in the middle of the cabin). The seats have a minimalist bucket design with nautical topstitching. They are simply beautiful and hold quite well. Finally, the whole is enhanced by carbon fibre tips (just what you need) and Ferrari plastics (mmmm). By the way, look at the car radio. You’ll have a little surprise.
Everything exudes refinement, while fury hides under the hood! The combination of elegance and Italian style sportsmanship is total. Especially with this cabriolet version and the hoops behind the head to enjoy stereo sound. Then I challenge you to find a modern car as elegant, with such a sporty temperament and with such a pleasant engine for such a wide range of prices. Come on, come on, I’m waiting for your proposals in comment.
By the way, Maserati produced only 472 GranSport Spyder… Well, well.
Maserati GranSport, a beautiful body and a furious engine
One small regret: the gearbox. It comes from the Maserati catalogue, contrary to what everyone thinks. It’s not a Ferrari 360 Modena F1 gearbox, it’s a Selespeed, but it’s as slow as one. Anyway, it’s not a big deal, it’s even pretty funny today. Indeed, it forces you to take a little more time, to release the accelerator and avoid violent jolts…
I really wrote that? In truth, it’s like a big refreshing wave. Pedal to the metal, you rush under the roar of that furious V8 with the gearbox that kicks you in the ass at every shift, hair in the wind!
Honnestly, it’s not very efficient, but it gives a lot of pleasure. These are simple sensations: wind on your skin, sound in your ears, vibrations in your hands and speed at the bottom of your belly. That’s a true journey to Italian hedonism and so a future classic. For sure.
What about this particular car? It’s quite simple: it has the right rims, a bodywork of the right colour, a two-tone interior that perfectly matches the bodywork, and leather is as new or almost new. Mechanically, it runs very well. The clutch has been changed, so the gearbox is at the best of its capacity. It’s a beautiful car, completely original, well maintained and with a low mileage (only 37000 km).