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Click for more pictures“If James Bond had
  been born an Italian,
  this would have been
  his kind of car”

ZERO TO 60mph in 4.9 seconds is fast. But add to that a rock-solid top speed of 177mph, a lithe Grand Tourer body penned by Giugiaro and an evocative, thoroughbred racing heritage immortalised by the likes of Nuvolari and you have Maserati's charismatic 4.2 Coupé GT.

For many the Maserati name is as heady as that of Ferrari, long associated with motor racing and redolent with passion, power and glory. And Maserati's star is on the rise. Under Ferrari's ownership, Maserati now fields an impressive three-car range: Spyder, Coupé and the new four-door Quattroporte, which will shortly be joined by a fabulous fourth new model, the 205mph MC12 road-racer supercar.
All of them classy, extremely quick and as roadworthy as a Maserati should be.

There's a beautifully understated look to the Maserati 4.2 Coupé GT that defies definition. You have to see one in the metal to fully appreciate its svelte lines and on-road presence. When you do, what strikes you is the quality of its finish, especially inside and — rare these days — under the bonnet, where you'll find an aluminium V8 delightfully finished in a red and gold crackle finish.

Swing open the door and the first thing you see is a tasteful, polished aluminium 'Maserati' engraved kickplate. Slip inside and, as you would expect, the Coupé's leather-rich cabin is inviting —
with a sumptuous ambience that oozes money and good taste. Both front seats have all-electric adjustment, including lumbar support. The comfortable seats have integral head restraints, with very efficient electric seat heating as standard. And it's all put together well from fine materials. Space is commendably good, with ample room in the footwells and a well-placed left-foot rest.

Visibility is fine from behind the three-spoke leather-rimmed steering wheel, which adjusts for both reach and height. The driver's seat also adjusts electrically for height, and a perfect driving position is easily obtained. A two-setting memory facility is provided for seat and mirror settings —
assuming the owner could be persuaded to let someone else drive their Maserati! Reversing the Coupé is not a problem, but at just £447 extra the optional rear parking sensors are worth having.

Standard equipment also includes front and side airbags, efficient air-conditioning and a 5.8-inch colour screen for the multi-function display located in the centre console. The built-in unit serves as an information panel and controls the stereo system, trip computer and adjustment of the automatic climate control system. It also incorporates the GPS SatNav system (a £1,700 option) which is easy to use if a little lazy when initially powering up.

Switchgear is satisfyingly sturdy and well ordered, and instrumentation good with analogue dials positioned under a hooded main binnacle.
Four small dials
for water, oil, volts and fuel are arranged around the larger, stylish and easy-to-read speedometer and rev-counter — both of which have smart, crisp graphics that are easily understood at a glance. Nice touches include the trademark oval Maserati clock, pop-out coat hangers, rear reading lights, tailored overmats and mirrors that dip for reversing.

Wide doors provide easy access to the two sculpted rear seats. Both front seats slide electrically forward when their backrests are tilted, and both return to their previous position afterwards. There's actually more room in this Maserati than in a number of other sporting coupés, and two adults can travel in comfort in the rear.

There's also plenty of oddments space in the cabin and the 315-litre boot, which is also home to a 5-CD autochanger and a tyre repair kit, will swallow two golf bags.

Back-to-back with the Coupé we also briefly tested a Spyder fitted with Maserati's Cambiocorsa paddle-shift gearbox which is a £3,000 option. Based on Ferrari's racing experience, the Cambiocorsa dispenses with the clutch pedal and gear selection, managing gear-changes by electronically controlling the clutch, gearbox and engine torque directly.

Two paddle-shifts behind the steering wheel, integral with the steering column, allow up and down changes faster than Michael Schumacher could make them. Reverse is a small flick switch on the centre tunnel and drivers can select from four driving modes: normal, sport, automatic and low grip. The engaged gear is displayed directly ahead of the driver on the instrument panel. Having tried both, we were equally happy using either system.

Power is the name of the game for this new breed of Maserati. The Coupé's glorious-sounding all-new 4.2-litre normally-aspirated quad-cam
V8 is a 390bhp masterpiece. Bar-room know-alls take note: that's 70bhp more than a Porsche 911. With 330lb ft of torque driving the rear wheels through a rear-mounted 6-speed manual 'box, the Coupé GT is ultra-responsive and as enjoyably driveable as it is breathtakingly quick. The 390bhp arrives smoothly, metered out by a beautifully consistent throttle response and a precise gear change.

04 model year cars benefit from a recalibrated Skyhook system fitted as standard. Skyhook is Maserati's electronic variable-rate damping system, and provides optimal body control and outstanding comfort by adjusting suspension response — up to ten times faster than any other system available to date. And the driver can, at any time by pressing
a button, select different performance parameters. The Coupé's progress over bumps is admirably fluid. Ride quality is particularly impressive, treading a balanced line between insulating you from the worst road surfaces while continuously telling you what's going on between the tyres and the tarmac.

Yet however much of a hooligan you're being the Coupé stays flat, well controlled and seemingly glued to the road, and never stops sending you clear signs of just how much grip the chassis has left. The responsive steering is equally informative, and as commendably slack-free as the other major controls. Fast curves and even hairpins can be taken with little more than a flick of the wrists. Hard-edged drivers will like to know that they can switch off the Maserati Stability Program —
fitted as standard on all models — which integrates the ABS, ASR, MSR and EBD functions by acting on the brakes and the engine to help the driver control the vehicle even in the most extreme conditions.

Work the V8 and it growls with pleasure as it races eagerly all the way up to its 7,600 redline, but ease off the muscular pace on the more mundane roads and progress is hushed and luxurious, making three-figure touring in this Maserati equally pleasurable. Despite the fat tyres —
Michelin Pilot Sport 265/35 ZR 18 rear and 235/40 ZR 18 front, mounted on smart 7-spoke light alloy wheels — road noise is well contained.

Even in 6th gear the V8 is happy to pull hard from around 2,000rpm and there's rarely any need to change down on motorways. Slower drivers are effortlessly dismissed with a mere whiff of the throttle as you nail it from around 80mph at 3,000rpm in sixth. Drop down to 4th or even 3rd and the response is satisfying and immediate: the power coming in with neck-snapping urgency.

You'd naturally expect a car capable of a genuine 177mph to have first class brakes and the Coupé's Brembo braking system is completely reassuring. Meaty ventilated cross-drilled large diameter discs (330mm front/310mm rear) combined with Ferodo HP1000 high-performance brake pads will cope with the stresses of both road and track. The ABS system features electronic brake distribution between the front and rear axles and features MSR logic which helps to prevent the rear wheels locking during down shifts. Pedal feel and modulation sensitivity is good, with real stopping power available for minimum effort. And the aluminium pedals look great too.

Fuel consumption is certainly not going to be a critical factor, at least from a cost viewpoint, for any Maserati owner. From a convenience angle, however, the Coupé's official touring figure of 21.7mpg is worth noting, as combined with a 19.4-gallon fuel tank it means a potential 400 miles between fill-ups. Overall we recorded 16.9mpg — significantly better than we expected for mixed driving conditions.

The optional paddle-shift electronic gearbox swaps ratios smoothly enough although the full-auto mode is not as slick as a true auto. Not that there's anything wrong with the semi-automatic Cambiocorsa (Italian for 'racing gearbox') that a few day's acclimatisation won't rectify and certainly other road-testers seemed to prefer it. However, the Coupé is fast enough so shaving fractions of seconds off the changes is not critical. And for many keen drivers a conventional gearchange provides a tactile involvement that electronics never quite make up for. It's all down to personal choice. Having driven both, we enjoyed the buzz of using the gears to their full capacity.

A 'peace of mind' support package includes a three year/unlimited mileage manufacturer's warranty, specific Maserati insurance cover available through the Marsh Private Clients company and a range of purchase and leasing funding options available through Maranello Financial Services. There is also a personalisation programme offering owners the opportunity to create a completely personalised Maserati with over three million possible colour combinations.

The Coupé comes with bags of character at no extra cost and offers all the pleasures of a great GT with a unique charm that you won't find in its more mainstream rivals. The one thing you can bet your shirt on is that every time you twist the key and fire up that wonderfully snarly V8 you'll find a smile on your face. And just consider this: you could pay another £100,000 for some similarly potent sporting GTs. Which makes this spirited £57,000 Maserati something of a bargain!

Owners wishing to improve their sporting driving skills can take a Master GT Maserati driving course at the
Paletti Circuit at Varano de' Melegari, 20 kilometres south of Parma. Open both to aspiring and existing Maserati owners, these specialised Master Maserati driving courses, run by a staff of highly-professional drivers, are a perfect blend of theory and practice supervised by expert instructors — and provide an unforgettable experience for participants.

Email Master Maserati info@mastergt.it. Alternatively you can tele-phone +39 0525 551138 or fax +39 0525 551140.

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Maserati Coupé GT
| £56,650
Maximum speed: 177mph | 0-60mph: 4.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 16.9mpg | Power: 390bhp | Torque: 330lb ft
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