The 4200 always looked the part. The Gransport drove like it
By John Howell / Wednesday, January 26, 2022 / Loading comments
What’s happened to Maserati in the last decade or so? The once formidable company, founded by Alfieri Maserati more than a century ago, is one of the true legends of the game. It has the sort of back catalogue that would put George Michael’s to shame – yet some of its more recent offerings (the halo-grade mid-engined MC20 notwithstanding) have failed to cut the mustard. Assuming you want something more than a trident slapped on your bonnet, that is.
Sadly, that shows in the company’s most recent profit and loss ledger. Thankfully, one thing Maserati does know is how to weather a storm; it’s had more ups and downs than Tower Bridge. Around the turn of the millennium, for example, things were definitely on the up. I still melt every time I see the Pininfarina-penned Quattroporte, which was launched in 2004. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most beautiful saloon cars ever produced. That came off the back of the 3200 GT, of course, which Giorgetto Giugiaro made particularly dashing by utilising LED’s for its rear lights. This meant he could bend the clusters around the upper edge of the boot lid, and the boomerang lights, as they became known, were born. Everyone mourned the loss of those when the 4200 arrived in 2002, including me, but other than that, the follow-up was a fantastic improvement.
This was thanks, in no small part, to its F136 V8, which, to dispel a general myth, wasn’t a Ferrari motor as such. It was developed jointly by Maserati and Ferrari, which had taken control its arch rival in 1999. And the F136 made its debut in a Maserati – actually, the convertible Spyder that preceded the launch of the 4200 coupé by a year. Indeed, the F136 engine didn’t appear in a Ferrari until the F430 in 2004 – the Dino V8 from the 360 Modena (in its last iteration designated the Tipo F131) having reached its maximum capacity.
Anyway, back to the 4200. Here the engine was 4.2 litres with a 90-degree vee, a dry sump and a cross-plane crank (the F430’s 4.3-litre used a flat-plane crank). And being naturally aspirated, it was much more responsive and better to listen to than the 3200’s boosty, twin-turbo 3.2. It also loved to rev, and made a magical noise formed from a myriad of notes between idle and 7,000rpm. You could buy a manual, but it wasn’t great ‘box, so many were the Cambiocorsa, which did the clutch and gears for you. I liked this, too. Yes, I know it was slow compared with modern, dual-clutch autos, but that meant you had to interact with it rather than simply keep your foot pinned and ping seamlessly through every change. Interaction is good, isn’t it? And the changes weren’t that slow – they only seemed so because you weren’t doing them yourself. If you were, you’d have struggled to execute them much quicker.
I liked the 4200 a lot – but I liked the Gransport version even more. It had a bit more horsepower (400hp instead of 390hp) and quicker Cambiocorsa software, which is good if you think I was talking twaddling above. It also included bigger, 19-inch alloy wheels, a restyled front bumper with a larger grille, deeper sills and a sportier interior, with seats part-trimmed in technical mesh (at least I think that was what it was called). Most importantly, it had a few suspension tweaks that really sharpened up the Gransport’s handling. The standard 4200 was a proper hoot to drive: very playful, with super-quick steering to catch a slide. The changes to the Gransport made it feel more serious, though, and some even said it was finally a match for the Porsche 911. From what I remember it rode better than a 911 (even in Gransport from) and it certainly had much more space – you could fit four adults in it quite easily and the boot was decent, too.
So this car, looking absolutely bang on in Nero Carbonio, with Nero leather (plus the technical stuff) and red calipers, ought to be a proper blast from the past and, with any luck, a proper blast to drive. I did a lot of miles in various Maseratis from this period, and from my experience they were generally reliable. There were some silly faults, like warning lights and the odd rattle, but that was about it. Hopefully, this one will be faultless, having covered just 23,000 miles and been through a recent major service. It even has 34 per cent clutch wear, so if you don’t ride it like a torque converter auto up hills in traffic, you should get many more miles out of that as well. And they made just 2,640 of these, compared with countless 996s and 997s. So if you after something rare and brilliant, then look no further.
Specification | Maserati 4200 Gransport
Engine: 4,244cc, V8, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 6-speed automated manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 400 @ 7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332 @ 4,500rpm
Recorded mileage: 23,000
Year registered: 2004
Price new: (I should really remember this)
Yours for: £29,990
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