The early 2000s were an interesting time for the car world. Famous marques were changing hands, technology was evolving rapidly and there was more choice for petrol heads than ever before.
Many of the models being released around this time formed the basis for cars we see driving around today. The beauty of time passing, particularly when combined with most cars, is that performance cars will see their values drop and suddenly prices become achievable.
It is this huge change in pricing that sees two iconic pieces of motoring history make their way into my hands and onto the list for review; the Porsche 911 996 Carrera and the Maserati 3200 GT
WHAT MAKES THESE CARS SO SPECIAL?
Every now and again, a car will come along that divides opinion and makes an impact on the motoring world that not only gets tongues wagging at the time, but provides car enthusiasts with table top chat for years.
The Porsche 996 and Mazza 3200 GT did just that and I will tell you for why.
Let’s start with the Porsche. The 996 split opinion in the wider motoring world and amongst Porsche enthusiasts, this was down to some pretty big changes. The 996 was the first 911 to play host to a water cooled power unit as opposed to the air cooled engine found in every single model to that point. As you can imagine, this went down like a BMW at a Mercedes convention with some hardcore Porsche lovers. The other obvious change was the headlights. Aesthetically the 911 has always evolved and the front lamps were always a rather distinctive part of this, and in the 996 they went from the round shape that was so recognisable to a weird, elongated version with extra bits. Discussion as to whether the 996 is a “proper Porsche” has raged ever since.
The 3200 GT is a different story; the first Maserati to role of the production line after Ferrari bought the company in the late 90s, this model had to be a success. Maserati have their roots in their racing heritage. Fangio drove a Maserati to Grand Prix and championship glory in the 1950s but by the time the 3200 GT came to life, the brand was known for producing cars that were frankly, a bit rubbish.
COMPARING THE TWO
These two cars were in direct competition with each other in 2002. Both were of these were priced at around the £60k mark, both offered the driver excellent performance stats and both were in the luxury car bracket. On the face of it, both of these cars offered the same type of experience but as you dig a little deeper and get behind the wheel, it quickly becomes obvious that the Maserati and Porsche are worlds apart.
The Porsche 996, despite the fact it made fans of the brand freak out all across the world, is still a Porsche. The DNA that makes every single 911 a safe and dependable bet but still great fun, is alive and well in the 996.
The model driven was an auto tiptronic and although the connection you get from driving a manual 911 is missing somewhat, there is no denying that the experience is still very good. Despite the age of the technology on offer, the shifts from gear to gear are still slick and intuitive enough, expecially when you master the accelerator to help nudge the 996 into the performance you want.
The 3200 GT is another beast entirely. The first thing that strikes you is the size. Of course it isn't a big car but by virtue of the fact you can fit two fully grown humans in the back seats makes this obviously larger than the 996.
The 3200 GT is equipped with a 3.2 litre V8 and is honestly one of the best sounding engines I've ever clapped ears on. It burbles with delight and when you start to shift up the speedo it only sounds better.
Aaesthetically it is a hugely pretty car. With the distinctive trident badges littered liberally around the body and those iconic boomerang rear lights, it does a great job of making a spectacle even when stationary.
WHAT ARE THEY LIKE TO DRIVE?
This is where the two are worlds apart.
The Porsche 996, despite it being the first to have the water-cooled engine, is still categorically Porsche. It handles superbly on every type of road and into the bends of the country lanes I pushed it down. Like all non turbo 911s, all the power comes when you are strangling the engine at the higher end of the rev range and the 996 loves being driven hard. The tiptronic gear box also holds onto gears for a remarkably long time when you are being "spirited" which really does let you get the best out of the engine.
Frankly it is a joy to drive and that makes me very happy.
The Maserati is something else.
It has a much more grand tourer feel about it, which isn't a surprise given the clue is in the name. The throttle is light and the clutch has a lot of travel but once you get used to it, the performance really starts to shine.
It is a hugely quick car, I mean very VERY quick car. It kicks into life at around 2,500 rpm and just keeps on going until you run out of road. The sounds it emits from the engine and exhausts are just heavenly and if you were to buy one, there is no chance you are driving it economically as you will get hooked on making the 3200 GT sing.
Where it lets itself down is into the corners. Even with the sports mode engaged, the steering is a little light and the suspension could do with being a little stiffer but it is a grand tourer so you can overlook these little foibles.
WHICH ONE DO YOU BUY?
This is very much down to what you enjoy when behind the wheel.
If you want something dependable, fun and you can get serviced at specialist around the country, it is the Porsche 996 all day long.
If you are at the type of person who prefers theatre and drama over solid logic, the Maserati 3200 GT is about as theatrical as you can get and you will love it.
Thanks to Stour Valley Motor Company for lending us both these cars.