Car Test   R0238
 
May 2002
First Drive Maserati Coupé
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 4200 Cambiocorsa
SO IT's ARRIVIDERCI TO THE 3200GT THAT BEGAN THE rejuvenation of the Maserati brand two years ago. Its place is taken by the new 4.2-litre Coupé, which joins the recently introduced two-seater Spyder with which it shares a lot of technology.
   These are the first Maseratis to be developed entirely by parent company Ferrari, and it shows. Beneath Italdesign - Giugiaro's subtle changes to the bodywork's "soft aggressiveness", all the most important mechanical components are completely new.
   This includes the beautifully smooth and flexible V8 powerhouse (the term "engine" seems inadequate in this context), whose prodigious power and awesome torque catapult the car from 0 to 62mph in under 5sec on its way to a maximum speed of nearly 180mph (allegedly). This, says the company, gives it best-in-class performance. It sounds gorgeous, as well.
   We haven’t driven the manual Coupé, only the £3000-extra Cambiocorsa (racing gearchange) version with its column-mounted shift paddles. They work very well and in theory it’s a clever system. In practice, though, the actual shifts are often crude and snatchy, and even those in fully auto mode lack the smoothness and refinement of a conventional automatic transmission. The transaxle sounds rattly at low speeds, too, and manoeuvring in confined spaces causes some alarming “what’s cooking?” smells.
   No complaints about the suspension, however, in this case with optional "Skyhook" electronically variable damping. This reads the road and adapts the suspension settings accordingly. The result is potentially a very good ride. Pity, therefore, that it’s spoilt by hard thuds and thumps on potholes and transverse ridges from the unyielding ultra low-profile tyres.
   That said, these offenders give tremendous grip and, in conjunction with roll-free cornering and alert steering, give the Maser a reassuring, “planted” feel that bestows rhythm and flow through fast corners. The brakes are superb – so much better without the former disconcertingly long pedal travel.
   Comfort within the opulent, leather-trimmed, climate-controlled cabin is aided by fully adjustable steering and electrically adjusted front seats that give a well-tailored driving position. Vision is good, although the pillars are substantial.
   There are, however, several items on the options list that should be provided as standard: an alarm, xenon headlamps, parking sensors and cruise control, for example.
   If they’re agile enough and not too lanky, two adults can sit in relative comfort in the shapely back seats. There’s only enough room in the boot for two people’s luggage, though, but apparently, two sets of golf clubs will fit in sideways.
  
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • high quality fit and finish
  • mirrors tilt down when reverse selected
  • comfortably angled passenger toeboard
  • damped action glovebox lid
  • Maserati exclusivity
and GRIPES
  • tiny tell-tales in console switches
  • short visors (when swung to side)
  • map light for driver only
  • no spare wheel, just an aerosol inflator
  • only 15 UK dealers
VERDICT
Ferrari has cleverly smoothed away most of the old 3200GT’s rough edges to present us with this much improved Coupé. It’s elegant, searingly fast and a motorway mile-eater in gran turismo style, with the added appeal of Maserati exclusivity. Keep working on that Cambiocorsa shift, though, guys – we wouldn’t let a learner get away with gear changes like that.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine normally aspirated 4244cc V8; 390bhp/330 lbft with chain-driven double overhead camshafts per bank and 32 valves. 88-litre fuel tank
drive 6-speed manual or 6-speed Cambiocorsa with electronic automatic or paddle-shift manual control; traction control
suspension front and rear: double wishbones with coil spring/damper units, anti-roll bar. "Skyhook" adaptive damping optional
wheels/tyres front: 8in alloy with 235/40Z18 tyres; rear: 9.5in alloy with 265/35Z18 tyres. Spare wheel optional
brakes front and rear: ventilated, cross-drilled discs with electronic ABS and brake force distribution (EBD)
CO2 emissions 430g/km
0-62mph 4.9sec*
official mpg 15.2*
* maker's figure
© The Automobile Association Limited 2014