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Maserati 3200GT (1998 - 2002)

MODENA ROMANCE (some text hidden) --NONE--


Introductionword count: 101

Buying a used Maserati was traditionally viewed as an activity which, on a scale of financial risk, was about on par with ploughing all your cash into Millennium Dome tickets hoping to be the king of all touts. Lining themselves up for a merciless financial battering isn't what most used car buyers have in mind when trying to make an informed choice, and Maseratis have changed to reflect this. With the 3200GT, Maserati has at last built a car which stands objective comparison with the best cars in its class, new or used, and has a charisma that none can match.

Modelsword count: 7

Models Covered: (2 dr coupe 3.2 petrol)

Historyword count: 370

Those acquainted with the history of the Modena marque will go dewy-eyed at memories of the Birdcage and the Bora, but will probably prefer to forget the Biturbo era. Maserati's reputation for building astonishingly beautiful, mid-engined supercars seemed to count for nothing as it developed successive generations of cars which resembled Hyundai Stellars with an interior that looked like a Land Of Leather clearance sale. Signs that Maserati was starting to regain the plot came with the launch of the Ghibli models, but it wasn't until late 1998 that a truly desirable Maserati reappeared, the 3200GT. The car was originally to have been named 'Mistral' but having discovered that the VW Group now owned this trademark, it was designated the 3200GT in homage to the 3500GT of 1957. It also broke with Marcello Gandini's styling work on the 'square' Maseratis, instead being styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign company. As the first Maserati to be built under the auspices of new owners Ferrari, the 3200GT had to have instant visual impact, and the fortunate few who witnessed its unveiling knew that it had unequivocally ticked that particular box. In June 1999 the standard six-speed manual version of the 3200GT was joined by a 4-speed automatic option, which helped see UK sales reach a record 352 during 2000, a 72% increase over 1999, itself a previous best-ever year for the marque from Via Ciro Menotti. One of the key complaints of Maserati owners was the length of warranty, and in September 2000 the warranty was extended from two to three years or 60,000 miles. The 2001 model year car saw a number of detailed changes aiming at making it easier to drive. This 3200GT boasted a massively improved steering system, with a re-geared rack to combat the nervousness of the earlier cars with just the right amount of heft and feel. The engine management system was also radically overhauled. Turbo lag, that pregnant pause when the turbochargers spool up to speed, was still present, but the throttle became something that could be modulated, making the 3200GT a far more fluid performer. In 2002 the 3200GT was replaced by the 4200 Coupe, a car that looked superficially similar but was almost entirely different.

What You Getword count: 403

The Maserati's performance, like the price, is almost identical to that of the 3200GT's two natural rivals - Porsche's 911 Carrera and Jaguar's XKR. In character, the Maserati falls somewhere between the two, less of a Grand Tourer than the Jaguar but nothing like as raw as the Porsche. Certainly, it's more exclusive than either: Just nine cars leave the factory each day and little more than 350 examples will reach these shores every year. Visually, the car looks even better in the metal than it does in the pictures. It's a softer shape than anything Ferrari has ever produced - and intentionally so, but it gives the distinct impression that all the power is bulging from the rear, like a cartoon rocket about to explode. The owner of this car will want to make a less aggressive statement. And since he or she is likely to be spending a lot more time at the wheel, the cabin's a lot more practical too. For a start, you really can seat two full-sized adults comfortably in the back (try doing that in an XKR or a 911). You can carry most of their luggage too. At the front, the driving position is near perfect and the driving environment more desirable than anything Maserati has yet produced. Leather has been applied to almost every conceivable surface: the seats, the door pulls, the dashboard, the centre console - everything's covered in it. If news that a 3200GT can lap Ferrari's Fiorano test track quicker than a 550 Maranello is any guide, most owners should find this Maserati a devastating cross-country tool. Some owners may find the traction control system a little too eager to assist, even in the optional 'Sport' mode (selectable at a switch of a button). Just as well then, that you can turn it off completely and take for yourself the responsibility of controlling all that power. So, a Ferrari for less than half the price that you can use almost every day? Pretty much. Maserati reckon that 3200GT owners will do nearly three and a half times the mileage of their Ferrari counterparts - and they'll enjoy every moment. Even the Ferrari President likes to use one at weekends. Which, given that his company car is a 550 Maranello, probably tells you all you need to know. In 2002 the 3200GT was replaced by the normally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 and Spyder models.

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Category: Sporting Cars

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This is an excerpt from our full review.
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