This sharply-styled V8 Italian sports car is a steal at current prices. But will you come to regret it?

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Before we begin this used review, we should point out that you can buy a Maserati Gransport coupé with only 30,000 miles on the clock from a reputable dealer for £20,000.

Repeat: twenty thousand pounds for an authentically Italian, rear-wheel-drive, 2+2 sports car trimmed in fine leather and carbonfibre and powered by a near-400bhp 4.2-litre cross-plane Ferrari V8 for 0-62mph in 4.8sec.

Writing about the Gransport Spyder back in 2006, Autocar said: “It is a mightily stirring and fast car. The steering is incredibly quick-witted and in Sport mode it corners flatly, grips strongly and accelerates through the upper rev range with incredible urgency.

"In fact, when the glorious Maranello-made engine is burbling deliciously in your ears, you’re drinking in the classy ambience of the tactile cabin and there’s nothing but smooth, empty mountain asphalt to tear along, few cars make a more persuasive case for themselves.”

Having been given the go-faster Gransport treatment, Maserati’s sleekly styled sports car got a howling V8 knocking out 395bhp at 7000rpm. This made it slightly more than the then Porsche 911 Carrera S, albeit down on the 474bhp churned out by the 6.3-litre V8 Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG.

But never mind that: as was the case when the Coupé got the Gransport treatment, the Spyder was improved in other ways, too.

It got Maserati’s Cambiocorsa paddleshift gearbox, which had been tweaked for faster shifts, as well as an extra helping of leather and carbonfibre lavished on the interior, deeper front and rear valances filled with dazzling chrome grilles, side sill extensions, chromed exhausts and 19in alloy wheels.

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Of course, it is customary at this stage of a buying guide to point out what a grave mistake you would be making by buying such a car. To the usual horrors, high running costs and questionable reliability among them, you can add almost zero availability of certain crucial spare parts. It’s £20,000 for a reason.

Still, park those niggles for a moment and the Gransport is clearly a charismatic car worthy of further investigation. It was launched in 2004 as a sportier version of the already sporty Coupé (commonly known as the 4200 GT, being the successor to the 3200 GT).

Its additional fizz derived from an extra 10bhp, the standard-fit faster-acting version of Ferrari’s Formula 1-style Cambiocorsa six-speed semiautomatic paddle-shift gearbox with a taller sixth gear, Skyhook active suspension that reduced the ride height and brought more composure and an exhaust that sounded growlier, especially in Sport mode.

In addition, it enjoyed a full body makeover: restyled bumpers with chrome mesh grilles, new side skirts,  a rear lip spoiler and Trofeo 19in spoked alloy wheels. Underneath, there was new cladding designed to smooth airflow and reduce lift.

Inside, sumptuous sports seats necessitated a slimmer centre console crafted from carbonfibre, which also covered the dashboard.

A handful of special editions followed, most notably the MC Victory, launched in 2006 to mark the 2005 FIA GT Championship success of the Maserati MC12.

It was no more powerful than the Gransport but had slightly quicker steering, a little more downforce and a lot more carbonfibre. It’s extremely rare, but you can grab several examples with 40,000 miles for a shade under £60,000.

Despite the very positive review extracts quoted earlier, our testers weren’t that impressed with it at the time. Most of the other criticism we made of the Spyder, which measured 229mm shorter than the coupé and thus lacked rear seats, was aimed at poor practicality, refinement and insufficient dynamic polish. 

With the roof in place, there’s more wind noise at motorway speed than you would hear in, say, a Porsche 911 Cabriolet.

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You would get much more luggage into the 911 too, since there are no rear seats and only a modest boot in the Spyder – another factor that blights its effectiveness as a GT.

And when you ride over a sharp expansion joint on the motorway, even in the softer of two suspension settings, you can see the fascia in front of you shudder and feel the steering wheel tremor in your fingertips in a way that just isn’t a problem in the then cloth-topped 911 or Jaguar XK.

But the Spyder remains a mightily stirring and fast car even today. It will hit 62mph in less than 5.0sec and, unchecked by an electronic speed limiter, go on to 177mph.

The steering is incredibly quick-witted – a little too quick, perhaps – and in Sport mode it corners flatly, grips strongly and accelerates through the upper rev range with incredible urgency.

Fortunately, you're likely to be put in the position of choosing one over a coupé, since there are very few of them. Indeed, scarcity is part of the Gransport’s appeal. Buy a cherished example and you will join a very select club.


Engine: Regular oil and filter changes are essential. Check the cam cover for oil leaks. Some cars start fine but others can be cursed, with causes ranging from a failing alternator or temperature sensor to dirty starter motor contacts. Oil pressure at idle should be 2.5 bar when warm and 5.0 bar at 2000rpm.

Transmission: Regular fluid changes are vital. Auto mode is tuned for relaxed driving and even kick-down requires a hefty shove of the accelerator. It’s happier in Sport and, say some, happier still with a drive-by-wire enhancement module from Auto Dynamics. Check that first-to-second gear selection is smooth and the side mirror dips when you select reverse. Listen for the F1 pump whirring into action as you open the door and have a specialist check the life expectancy of the clutch.

Suspension, steering and brakes: The suspension should feel composed and be free of looseness and leaks. A fix is a job for a Skyhook specialist, as parts and knowledge are in short supply. Vibration through the steering wheel could be down to broken front control arms or rear tie-rod bearings. Check that the brake discs and pads have plenty of life and the ABS light goes out. Tyres are very expensive.

Body and wheels: Owners advise checking for damp in the spare wheel housing and inspecting the bootlid, the bottom of the tail-lights and the inner lips of the wheel arches for rust. Inspect the inside wheel rims for hairline cracks. New replacement parts, including light units, are almost non-existent. On a Spyder, check that the soft top operates smoothly and isn’t leaking.


Maserati Gransport front three quarter static

Unfortunately for most of us, mountain-top strops are few and far between, and in most other conditions, several of the Gransport’s rivals will perform better, whether it be in Coupé or Spyder form.

At the time, we found it difficult to justify buying a Gransport Spyder over a Porsche 911 or – we had to mention it – the 420bhp topless Jaguar XKR.

Now that time has done its thing, however, and the gods of depreciation have cast their spell, you can bag yourself one of these from around £20,000 with the lowest-mileage examples having travelled just over 30,000 miles.

So, if you want a sharply styled Italian sports car with quick steering, a charismatic soundtrack, a classy cabin and lashings of leather and carbonfibre, the Gransport should be on your shortlist. Just be prepared to abide by a very strict maintenance schedule.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.