14 May 2004

Maserati is planning a radical shake-up of its Coupé/Spyder twins for the next generation, due in 2006, with the arrival of a folding hard-top and more powerful V8 engines. In place of the old Spyder’s rag-top comes a folding steel roof that brings the cabriolet into line with the successful Mercedes SL and Lexus SC430. The roof is visible beneath the heavy disguise in our exclusive photos. But the adoption of an all-seasons roof for the convertible hasn’t stopped the Italians from developing a direct replacement for the fixed-head coupé, too. Both models will share the same body forward of the windscreen, but will have different seating arrangements. The Spyder will remain a two-seater, while the Coupé continues its role as a serious two-plus-two, with improved accommodation for four average-sized adults.

By building both on the same (much longer) wheelbase, Maserati has found space for the folding metal roof and storage room behind the front seats on the Spyder to meet customer expectations. On the Coupé, the same area is devoted to the rear seats. Maserati originally planned to launch the new models, styled by Italdesign-Giugiaro, in early 2005. However, the arrival of in-house designer Frank Stephenson in July 2002 led to a review and, ultimately, the rejection of the Giugiaro proposals as too conservative and derivative of the existing models. Instead Pininfarina, then finishing the Quattroporte, was given the task, delaying the project by around 18 months. Both cars are built on the same shortened Quattroporte platform with a 4.5-litre, 450bhp-plus V8 mounted behind the front axle, with a rear transaxle. The saloon’s double wishbone suspension with adaptive damping has been tweaked for more agile handling in the new sports cars. Before the new models are unveiled in 2006, Maserati plans to launch facelifts of the current Spyder and Coupé at the Paris show in September.

To bring the new models into line with the Quattroporte, there are sheet-metal changes and they inherit essentially the same transmission software, planned to coincide with the Quattroporte’s launch in the USA.

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