Can it really be almost 15 years since Maserati introduced the Gransport to the world? What a fascinating decade and a half it's been. Nowadays the big news focuses on the Levante and other future SUV projects, what with the GranTurismo in dire need of replacement and both the saloons off the pace. Back then, however, the Quattroporte had just been remade from the ground up and was beginning a renaissance of the big Maserati four-door. The Gransport confidently capitalised on that. While dramatic, fast and luxurious, the 3200GT (and 4200 that replaced it) had never quite delivered as driver's car since its 1998 launch - the Gransport did.
It followed that time-honoured tradition of so many great sports cars: liberate a little more power and noise from a fantastic engine, lash down the chassis more convincingly for people who actually like driving, make it look meaner, garnish with Alcantara and charge a bit more money. Limit the production if you're feeling especially bold. And watch the buyers come charging in.
The Gransport's genius was that such significant improvements were wrought from seemingly quite modest tweaks. This was not an overhaul in the mould of a Challenge Stradale; instead the Gransport was given an extra 10hp, new calibration for the CambioCorsa gearbox, stiffer, lower suspension plus a new set of wheels and tyres. Weight reduction wasn't pursued, there wasn't a crazy bodykit and, if memory serves correctly, not a great deal of fuss was made by Maserati. Silly sods.
At the end of 2004, evo said Maserati "had hit the bullseye" with the Gransport, a car with "the sort of responsive, feelsome steering and dynamic composure we always wished the Coupe had". Car and Driver said it was "the best yet of this generation of Maseratis", and Motor Trend reckoned the GS "cranks up the Coupe's intensity noticeably."
Consider it, then, like the GTS versions of Porsche 911s; not a thoroughbred race version, but the best of the road-focussed breed, a philosophy that's was largely carried over into the MC Stradale GranTurismos as well. But while you'll pay a handsome premium for the Porsche, with the best Maserati Coupe it's modest: this one is £20,990, with 54,000 miles. A plain 4200 with 49,000 miles is just £3k cheaper - which seems little more for what is a vastly better car. Add into that the fact this car is in a great colour (though matching blue upholstery might be a bit much), has a full service history from Maserati dealers and specialist, a clutch seven thousand miles ago as well as recent tyres and it looks a very tempting proposition.
Moreover, it looks great? The Gransport aesthetic was actually created by Frank Stephenson, and it's a successful rework to this day. Where the 4200 never quite left the 3200's shadow for ditching the boomerang lights, the Gransport worked because it was that much more purposeful and aggressive, while also being more attractive. Look at a Jaguar XK of this era for some extra context of how well done the Maserati was...
At some point soon, surely, the Gransport will be remembered more fondly that is currently is. Maybe if Maserati gives up on sports cars - with the GranTurismo replacement indefinitely delayed because of the SUV rush, and the Ferrari engines going, it's not impossible - then the Gransport will receive a fair share of the limelight. For now it offers a valid, desirable, exciting alternative to the obvious sports car choice at this money, one brimming with all the drama you'd hope for in a Maserati - and a useful chunk of ability as well. For £20k, that makes it sound like a bit of a bargain.
SPECIFICATION - MASERATI GRANSPORT
Engine: 4,244cc, V8
Transmission: 6-speed CambioCorsa automated manual
Power (hp): 400@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 334@4,500rpm
First registered: 2004
Recorded mileage: 54,000
Price new: £66,900
Yours for: £20,990