Though outclassed in certain areas, the Maserati Coupe makes up for it with rarity and Italian-influenced design and flair. Those searching for a luxury performance coupe for below the $100,000 mark will want to give it a look.
A price cut means the Maserati Coupe GT now starts at around $80,000. The Carbon Fiber Interior Trim and Vintage Option packages are revised this year to include a few more features.
Returned to sturdy financial ground thanks to involvement from Ferrari and Fiat, Maserati made a return to the U.S. market in 2002 with the new Coupe and accompanying convertible-top Spyder. Based on the 3200 GT, a model never sold in the U.S., the Coupe offers a premium grand-touring driving experience with Italian flair. It features styling by Giugiaro's ItalDesign studio; a double-wishbone suspension; a Ferrari-designed, normally aspirated V8; and an available electrohydraulic manual transmission named Cambiocorsa. The Cambiocorsa unit is similar in design to Ferrari's "F1" automated-clutch manual transmission. There is no clutch pedal, and it allows gearshifts to be made in the blink of an eye via paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Also available on the Maserati Coupe is a "Skyhook" active suspension. This system automatically adjusts the stiffness of the suspension according to different road and driving conditions for improved ride comfort and more dynamic sports handling.
Because of its approximate $80,000 starting price (and Ferrari's increasingly stratospheric asking prices), the Maserati Coupe strikes us as a surprising bargain. Its interior is cheerfully Italian, especially compared to the effective but somber cabins of many German performance cars. And while the outlook of long-term Maserati durability is still unknown, at least there's a healthy warranty backing the GranSport. The Coupe also delivers more personality and a more exclusive ownership experience than mainstream German coupes such as the BMW 650i and Mercedes-Benz CL500. And even after five years on the market, it is still a rare sight on U.S. roads. The downside to Maserati Coupe ownership is that its design is getting a bit old and it can't be had with some of the more recent safety features and techno-gadgets. But for those desiring an entertaining luxury coupe with an extra amount of Italian flair, this is a car to certainly check out for 2006.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
As its name indicates, this Maserati is a coupe, with a 9-inch-longer wheelbase than its drop-top sibling. Among the standard features are dual power seats with driver memory, automatic climate control and 18-inch alloy wheels. A trio of optional packages is available: "Interior carbon-fiber trim," "Vintage" (which includes 19-inch wheels and chrome grille, side vents and door handles) and "Executive" (which bundles the Skyhook active suspension, rear park assist, xenon headlights, 19-inch wheels and mesh grille). Separate options include xenon HID headlights, a hands-free phone and a five-disc CD changer. Also of some significance is the ability of the Coupe buyer to customize his car with a multitude of interior trim color combinations, as well as being able to choose unique out-of-range exterior paint colors. Providing peace of mind is Maserati's four-year/50,000-mile warranty.
Powertrains and Performance
A 4.2-liter V8 borrowed from Ferrari makes 390 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. All that power is sent to the rear wheels of the Coupe via either a traditional six-speed manual or optional F1-style, automated-clutch six-speed gearbox (called "Cambiocorsa" -- Italian for "racing gearbox") that's shifted via paddles next to the steering wheel. The Cambiocorsa offers four modes: "Normal," "Sport," "Auto" and "Low Grip." In Normal and Sport, the transmission shifts aggressively; more so in Sport mode. In Auto, the car shifts itself automatically. In Low Grip, gentler starts are ensured for driving on low-traction surfaces. According to Maserati, the Coupe will hit 60 mph in less than 5 seconds while top speed is 177 mph.
In addition to government-mandated features, the Coupe comes with antilock brakes, traction control, side airbags and stability control as standard equipment.
Interior Design and Special Features
Beautiful leather work is as Italian as cannoli. The Coupe shows off its heritage with fine hides and impeccable craftsmanship. A dip in the center of the dash echoes the signature Maserati grille, and the various controls are much easier to use compared with past Masers. More than a 2+2 with "occasional" rear seats best left to small children, the Maserati Coupe accommodates four adults with those in back enjoying sculpted and supportive seats. A variety of custom trim options, such as contrasting piping on the seats and carbon-fiber accents for the dash and console, are available.
The combination of 390 horsepower, a lightning-quick F1 shifter, active suspension components and a satisfying V8 rumble prove nothing short of magical. It may sound gauche to call it a Mazda Miata on steroids, but that was the impression after running hard through our favorite set of twisties. Unlike so many exotics that impress you with their size almost as much as their performance, the easily managed Maserati doesn't intimidate you while you're driving it. Though the Coupe can't match the outright pace of the top BMW M or Mercedes-Benz AMG machines, flinging the Coupe through corners is an absolute joy, with throttle, brakes and steering inputs working with each other to slingshot the car between apexes.