Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Maserati Coupe… is it a $30k Ferrari?

Last week I had a chance to drive a 2008 very low mileage Ferrari F430 Spyder for a full afternoon and evening. Needless to say, I was grinning from ear to ear the entire time. I picked the car up from eCarOne and drove it home to show my 2-year-old boy who already knows most of the cars on the road. The smile on his face was priceless as he kept pointing and saying RARI RARI. I too enjoyed the car very much. There is nothing to dislike… the engine, transmission, exhaust, excellent seats, looks, you name it. It’s a truly magical experience but unfortunately I would need to be a magician to afford it. Hence, what options do I have if I loved the feel of driving a Ferrari and the attention of owning one?

Well, there is Porsche, Jag, Mercedes, Audi… many respectable names out there but with all due respect, none of them give you the pure experience of driving an Italian sports car. However, there is one that I did not mention… Maserati. Huh, they still make those? Isn’t that a Fiat? The answers are yes, and no, respectively.

While Maserati was very prominent in the 60s and 70s, it went away by the late 80s and was all but dead until it was revived in the late 90s by Ferrari. In 2002, Maseratis were reintroduced in the United States once again. So why am I talking about Maserati? Well, all Maseratis today sold in the US are powered by either a 4.2L or a 4.7L Ferrari derived engine and most are mated to a Ferrari derived F1 transmission. It just so happens that eCarOne had a 2003 Maserati Coupe Cambiocorsa with an F1 transmission, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to drive it and see how it felt vs. the Ferrari F430 I drove earlier.
Now, this is where I need to disclose that I am not going to compare a $30,000 Maserati touring coupe to a $175,000 Ferrari supercar, but I will say that if you are interested in the passion of driving an Italian machine and a six figure price tag is a little out of your comfort zone, then I urge you to drive a Maserati and see for yourself. I think eCarOne usually carries 3 or 4 so it shouldn’t be difficult to drive one.
I picked the Coupe up from eCarOne on Friday around noon and dropped off my 7-series. If there was a moment of disappointment, it would be the first minute I got in and turned on the audio system, but who wants to listen to music when you have that V8 & exhaust.
I got on the highway right away and opened it up. The car pulled very strongly and although the shifts were not lightning fast (like the F430), they were still quick and sharp... no complaints. The ride was softer than my 7-series with H&R springs but was very compliant and controlled. It took a little time to get used to the feel but once I did, I was completely comfortable with the car and felt right at home with it. I found that turning off the radio and listening to the beautiful exhaust was much more satisfying so for the last 48 hours my soundtrack has been the V8 revving from 4k to 7k!

Once I got off the highway and cruised into town, I immediately started noticing people giving me looks at traffic lights… and I live in a city where Porsche Panameras and AMG Mercedes are more common than Accords and Camrys. I think I was getting more looks because people were curious of what this car was…. I did not get these looks of curiosity in the F430. The only other time I got stop and stare looks was in a GT-R that I picked up from eCarOne a few months ago. I guess the Maser being yellow probably had something to do with it. I got back to my office, parked it, and a few minutes later one of my salespeople walks by my office and says nice car!

Even though it was not mine, getting all these compliments felt good. Took it home later and the look on my boy's face was priceless... and he's two years old! Took him for a ride and he did not want to get out... he just kept saying Rati Rati. And by the way, his toddler seat was securely anchored with the LATCH system which was a nice surprise. Took it to my local coffee shop early Saturday morning, and upon parking it, immediately a couple of guys start asking me questions... is it new? No, it's used I say. What year is it, '09 '10? No, it's an '03... wow, they say. Again, not my car but it's nice to hear compliments. Later it felt that the tires were a little low. Took it to a local car wash / service center and got the air pressure adjusted. Then the car wash guys asks would you like a hand wash? Hey, I get my Bimmer washed there almost weekly and he never asked to hand wash the Bimmer! Go figure.

Are there things that worry me? Sure. Maintenance is a little higher than usual but not out of the ordinary. Repairs can be very costly but buying it from a reputable dealer and staying on top of maintenance should address this issue. Other than the audio system not being exactly what I would have (and that’s an easy fix), I truly enjoyed this car. If I had the money, I would get the Ferrari… but even then I wouldn’t have the comfortable back seat with a LATCH system for my kiddo. For the money, this is truly one of the best bargains out there. At $30k, I can get an ’03 nicely optioned Coupe. At $45k I can get an ’05 or ’06 Gransport, which is the Coupe that is more tuned (sort of like the M3 of the 3-series). I couldn’t even touch a low mileage Porsche 911 for under $50k so the Maserati is even more of a bargain once you start comparing it. And I can’t honestly make the following statement for most cars…. And that is…
The more I drove this car, the more I wanted to drive it. I'm sold.

Good luck and happy test driving.

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