I was driving by a friend's office the other day and noticed a new sports coupe parked where I was used to seeing his 1999 996 Carrera. After a few days of seeing this new, different car, I sent off a quick email asking him if he had made a switch. His response was "yes" he did indeed trade-in his Porsche toward a new ride and, more shocking to me, a new marque as well. I was very surprised to find that he had moved away from Porsche (as he's been a long time enthusiast) and even more stunned by his new brand of choice, Maserati.
After hearing this news, I decided to invite him out to lunch. Ok, that's a bit of an embellishment, in reality, we had been trying to get together for the past few weeks to talk other business and this seemed like a great opportunity to "kill two birds with one stone". Not only could we catch up personally, in addition, I would get to hear first hand his reasons for abandoning my favorite car manufacturer and if I was lucky, I could sneak in a quick test drive for a short comparison.
Over lunch he discussed how he had recently started having serious maintenance issues with his '99 Carrera (which I'm told is not uncommon for higher mileage examples of this year and model) and had gone looking at the local Porsche dealer for his next P-car. Upon arriving on the lot, he found that a customer just traded in a '02 Maserati Coupe. Without going into his personal reasons for making the change (besides the maintenance issues) he ended up driving home, from a Porsche dealer, with a Maserati.
After lunch, he did indeed toss me the keys and we went for a short, but telling, drive. My plan is to swap for a day or two with him this spring to do a more extensive comparison, but for now these are my thoughts:
First Impressions - Walking up behind the Maserati did not give me the same feeling I get upon approaching the business end of a wide body 911 (but then again, not many things in the auttive world do). At first glance it doesn't offer the same design and style of the other, more famous, Italian super-car brands (Ferrari and Lamborghini). However, once you step inside, ensconce yourself in the very comfortable interior and listen to the throaty roar of the 4.2 liter, naturally aspirated (that's right), 390 hp motor, as it works its way to the 7500 RPM redline, you know this car has some "juice". The Maserati is deceptively sporty!
Acceleration - Weighing in at 3700 lbs the Maserati takes you from 0 to 60 is 4.8 seconds. With more than 100 hp above and beyond my 993, I thought it would be quicker. While still slightly faster than my 993, that extra weight takes away from the acceleration.
Top Speed - The Maserati has a published top speed of 180 mhp. The 97 C4S has a published top speed of 157 mph (on a side note, the C2S has a top speed of 160 mph). Maserati is the clear winner here.
Transmission - To the best of my knowledge the 993C4S was not available with Tiptronic (which is a good thing). The 6 speed, close-ratio, manual transmission is easy to use and has nice, quick, short throws for fast gear changes. The Maserati has a six-speed manual (the Coupe Cambiocorsa comes with an available 6 speed paddle, F1 style shifter). I need more "seat" time to give a more accurate comparison of the two. For right now, I will say that when cold, I had trouble getting from 1st to 2nd without a little grinding and found it easier to skip right into 3rd. Lastly, the Porsche seems to really just get going around 4500 to 5000 RPMs while the Maserati's prime torque band peaks at 4500 RPMs (even with a red-line of 7500).
Handling - This is purely subjective. I think the Porsche 993 C4S is the winner hands down. It basically sticks to the road and with the all-wheel drive and is much more forgiving than most other Porsches with little to no body roll. From a coolness factor, the Maserati has the optional "Skyhook" system that changes the suspension settings. However, from what I have read, it doesn't stiffen the suspension at all. Instead, by engaging the "Skyhook" it provides a suppler feel for those bumpy roads.
Brakes - Interestingly enough, both cars have vented discs with brakes supplied from the same manufacturer, Brembo. Unfortunately, once again, the extra weight of the Maserati comes into play. While the brakes are responsive and will stop you quickly, they don't do so with the same authority as the Porsche.
Consumables and Maintenance - I don't have a lot of information on this subject yet, but will update on my next drive. What I do know is that the gas mileage for the Maserati leaves quite a bit to be desired. At less than 14 mpg around town the big V8 has quite an insatiable thirst.
Interior - The Maserati is a true 2 + 2. While an average size adult would have a very difficult time getting into the back, my friend was able to complete a nice day trip with his wife and two small children (he even tucked their puppy in between the kids in the back). For me, as a tall man, the driving position was not as comfortable as the Porsche and the brake and gas pedal were just a bit too tight (there is plenty of cockpit space though). The Maserati came standard with full, supple leather (an option on the 993) but no sunroof. Lastly, I'm not sure if it was just a glitch with my friend's car or if all Maserati's have the same problem, but the radio reception was terrible (not even picking up local stations well) and the controls are far from intuitive.
Appearance - Sorry Steve (my friend who owns the Maserati in question) It should come as no surprise that the 993 is the clear winner here. While the front and the back of the Maserati have attractive styling, there is something about the rear quarters that make it look too boxy (from the side) and detract from the overall look that I want and expect from an aggressive sports car.
As a disclaimer and included in all my comparisons, my opinion is biased, obviously, but I still think I fairly described things. I'm looking forward to nicer weather in a few months to do a more thorough driving comparison. If you would like to receive more comparisons like this and other Porsche related tidbits please for all the latest updates. You can do so or by filling in the email form on the top right hand side of this page.