Third: Maserati Spyder
In these times of corporate homogenization, it's nice to see that the Maserati has that genuine Italian-car feel. Sumptuous leather interior? Check. Lively steering and curve-loving chassis? Check. Addictive engine note from a high-revving, great-looking, crazy-fast V-8? Got it. Cowl shake? Lanky, long-throw shift action? Crappy switchgear? Feeling of fragility? Got those, too. It's the all-Italy team, present and accounted for.
Meaning all that's missing is a sexy, come-hither shape. Someone maybe needs to show Giugiaro a Ghibli. Following a period where he seemed to have mislaid his mojo, the older Giugiaro was fairly well along the comeback trail when he penned the original 1998 Maserati 3200GT, but he hadn't yet come all the way back, as he would with the design of last year's Alfa Romeo Brera show car. The Maserati is a car from the period when he didn't seem to be paying enough attention. The Spyder looks good from some angles, less so from others.
A Spyder with the electronically actuated six-speed Cambiocorsa gearbox is yours for $4000 extra, but we like the Spyder's six-speed manual transmission on open roads. The wonderful multicam soundtrack of the Ferrari-designed V-8 needs no explanation. Engines just don't get any better to listen to, and the Maserati is the undisputed hot-rod king of our gathering, ripping off 60 mph in five seconds flat and tripping the quarter-mile in 13.5 seconds at 109 mph. That's fast. The Maser handles reasonably, although it, too, is not immune to cowl shake. Notwithstanding its fully independent rear suspension, it feels like a 1970s Alfa Spider, only larger and a lot faster. An SVT Mustang Cobra built by Italians. Nice, but in a kind of connect-the-dots, rather than seamless, way.
Completing the stereotype, the Maserati's completely electric soft top went wobbly on us one night, needing a helping hand to get it shut, as senior editor Joe Lorio had predicted it would. The Spyder's satellite navigation system and stereo controls also proved useless.