1 Mar 1999
MASERATI once made cars that were true competition to arch-rivals and compatriots Ferrari and Lamborghini.
But in the 1980s it lost its design direction on three-box BMW 3 Series-like sedans it called the Biturbo. Popular at first, this car eventually morphed into an ungainly creation that excited few.
Ferrari swallowed up Maserati in the late 1990s, where it was shutdown and re-booted to produce cars that once again exhibited Italian flair and passion. The sub-Ferrari-priced 3200 GT was the first of these.
Pitched as a grand touring alternative to the Porsche 911, the 3200 boasted extreme levels of comfort and luxury in a relatively affordable as well as roomy four-seater package.
Power to the rear wheels was delivered via a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transaxle attached to a turbocharged 3.2-litre V8 offering 271kW and 491Nm.
But there were hiccups.
The peaky turbo V8 was difficult to drive confidently, handling was more grand touring than sporty, the seats were too high and minor quality glitches took the shine off what could have been the most serious threat yet to Germany’s supercar dominance.
The Assetto Corsa from July ’01 was a limited edition model with racier looks and sportier suspension.
Yet the 3200 GT did find an audience for Maserati at last – no doubt helped by its gorgeous Giorgio Giugiaro penned styling… although rumour has it that Ferrari’s boss intervened by styling the impossibly beautiful boomerang tail-lights himself.
A convertible version of the 3200 GT coupe was also offered, known as the Spyder GT.
In fact, launched in November 2001, it introduced the 281kW/451Nm Ferrari 4.2-litre V8 powerplant and other wide-ranging chassis modifications that were to eventually be implemented as the 2003 Coupe GT, the 3200 GT’s successor.