Made up for a final performance
1 February 2005

I wonder how many people will notice. Not many, I suspect. The changes Maserati has made to its Coupé and Spyder as they enter their final year of production ahead of the launch of new models next year are very subtle.

So subtle, in fact, that even ardent Maserati fans may have trouble spotting them. Up front, there’s a larger bumper housing a more prominent chrome grille. Set inside the new grille is larger interpretation of the classic Trident badge, a smaller version of which now also appears on the Coupé’s C-pillars.

At the rear, the valance has been modified with a mesh insert for a tidier appearance. Inside, Maserati has finally bowed to calls in the all-important US market for the inclusion of a cup holder, which nestles between the seats. The controls for the exterior mirrors are now grouped there, too. Customers can also order a new two-tone leather finish for the dashboard along with aluminium trim for the centre console.

Mechanically, the Coupé and Spyder remain unchanged. Sitting up front is Maserati’s melodious 4.2-litre V8, delivering 385bhp at 7000rpm along with 333lb ft of torque at 4500rpm – a good more than rivals like the BMW 645 Ci, Mercedes-Benz SL500 and Porsche 911 Carrera, no less. Extraordinarily responsive, it is the sort of engine you make excuses to get behind and drive simply for the sound it makes.

Sadly, though, the engine’s true potential is masked by the inability of the six-speed Cambiocorsa gearbox to provide smooth changes, in either manual or automatic modes. Despite tweaks to make its operation easier and a new electronic package, the transaxle arrangement can be annoyingly slow to react, while its operation is nowhere near as slick as the latest torque converter automatics or dual-clutch arrangements – either of which would undoubtedly prove a better alternative.

On the up side, the stability control is now much more intuitive, making the cars a much better proposition on ice- or snow-covered roads.

 

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