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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
March 29, 2002
Vehicle Overview Maserati has been out of the U.S. market for a decade, but the Italian builder of exotic sports cars is preparing its return to the United States with a brand-new Spyder GT convertible. Officially introduced at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2002 after an earlier appearance at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany the Spyder GT goes on sale in May 2002.
With a heritage that dates back to 1926, Maserati was one of the prime Italian sports-car makers of the 1950s, 1960s and beyond. Notable models of the past include the Biturbo, Bora, Khamsin, Kyalami, Merak and, most recently, the Spyder of the early 1990s. Maserati also marketed sedans in the United States in the past. In the late 1980s, the Italian company teamed with Chrysler Corp. to produce the short-lived Chrysler TC by Maserati.
The Spyder GT will be the first Maserati model sold in the United States since 1992. Developed to reflect what the automaker says is emerging as the new Maserati, the revived Spyder project began after the company fell under the control of Ferrari at the end of 1997. A principal goal since that acquisition, according to Luca di Montezemolo, chairman of Ferrari S.p.A., has been a return of the Maserati badge to the United States. The styling of the compact, open two-seater is credited to Italdesign-Giugiaro, one of the top Italian design firms, while Ferrari will handle the vehicles marketing and promotion in the United States.
Not only did the new model have to be quick and fast, di Montezemolo noted, but it also had to be easy enough to drive every day and suitable for ordinary motoring applications. A week after the debut of the Spyder GT in Los Angeles, Maserati turned up in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show. It was there that Maserati announced the world premiere of the Coupe GT, which will join the Spyder GT in the United States as a 2003 model.
Maserati considers the Spyder GT convertible and Coupe GT to be entirely separate models. The Spyder GT is not merely a coupe with its top snipped off; instead, it was specifically designed to be a two-seat convertible. The Coupe GT, on the other hand, seats four occupants.
For its first year back in the U.S. market, Maserati intends to supply no more than 1,400 Spyder GT convertibles. The Jaguar XK8 and Porsche 911 Carrera/Turbo are considered its top competitors. Maserati developers are also working on a four-door sedan, designed by Pininfarina, for release in the 2003 model year.
Traditional sports-car styling is joined by a selection of modern touches. The two-seater rides on new, 15-spoke, 18-inch wheels. A contemporary version of the historic oval Maserati shield appears on the hood and is positioned above a Maserati trident on the grille. Upholstered, body-colored, arch-type roll bars are installed for safety, and a power top is operated electrohydraulically.
The Spyder GT rides a 96.1-inch wheelbase and measures 169.4 inches long overall, 71.7 inches wide and 51.4 inches tall. With a 53/47 percent front/rear weight distribution, the convertible weighs 3,792 pounds. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are optional.
A new Skyhook automatic-suspension-control system, claimed to be a first, was developed with Mannesmann-Sachs. Sensors constantly monitor the movement of the wheels and body, and a computer adapts damping according to driving and road-surface conditions.
Maserati promises lavish equipment levels for life on-board the Spyder GT. Ten shades of leather upholstery are available in the handcrafted interior. Each seat has an integral head restraint, and power seats include driver memory.
An information center in the console holds a 5.8-inch color display for the music system, trip computer and climate controls. Cruise control and electronic rear-parking sensors are standard. Options include a GPS navigation system, hands-free telephone and five-CD changer.
Under the Hood
A new 4.2-liter V-8 engine develops 390 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and teams with a Cambiocorsa gearbox borrowed from F1 racing. A rigid link connects the engine and gearbox, which contains a self-locking differential.
The electronically actuated six-speed-manual transmission with its computerized speed selection operates in four modes: Normal, Sport, Automatic and Low Grip. Mode programs are selected via buttons on the center console. The Spyder GT can operate in fully automatic mode, or the driver can manipulate Up and Down paddles behind the steering wheel to change gears.
Maserati claims the Spyders top speed is above 175 mph. The Cambiocorsa gearbox can control the variable-suspension option in Normal or Sport modes.
Standard safety features include front and side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and traction control. The Spyder GTs all-disc brakes were developed with the Brembo company.