MASERATI calls its 1987 Biturbo i Spyder Cabriolet an "everyday exotic." It's no such thing.
There's nothing practical or "everyday" about this car. Its interior is wrapped in Italian glove leather and accented with rosewood veneer. The car's timepiece is exactly that -- a $600 designer watch mounted on the dash and powered by a mini-battery. At night, you press a button to turn on a dashboard light to illuminate the watch's face.
Everyday? The Biturbo i Spyder has a twin-turbo, intercooled, fuel-injected, 2.5-liter, V-6 engine that consumes so much fuel it comes equipped with a gas-guzzler tax of $1,300.
Everyday? Yeah, as long as you're parking it in a private garage or something. Leave it on a city street or in a suburban parking lot, and if it's still there when you return, it's bound to be covered with fingerprints.
Don't get me wrong. This is one of the sexiest cars on the road, and it sets my heart aflutter. But I wouldn't live with this thing on a daily basis for love nor money.
Complaints: The Zagato design house in Milan did a splendid job of sculpting this convertible. But the artists seem to have overlooked body stiffeners. Many convertibles twist and shake. But this one has a dance of its own -- twist, shake and waddle. Good grief! Ford's 1987 Mustang GT convertible costs half as much and is twice as tight.
Also, the Biturbo i Spyder is a two-seater. But for some inexplicable reason, the designers threw in two removable, leather-covered tush pads on the rear luggage shelf, suggesting that this front-engine, rear-drive convertible can actually seat four. Cute, but dumb.
Praise: On a sunny day, with the manually operated convertible top down, it's hard to match the thrill of driving the Biturbo i Spyder. People stare at you, roll down their windows, honk their horns. You get all kinds of interesting offers. For the egocentric, this car is good for the head.
Ride, acceleration, handling: Excellent acceleration, but not stunning when compared with less-expensive performance cars. The Biturbo i Spyder kicks out 187 hp at 5,500 rpm. With the twin turbos and dual intercoolers, all designed to boost engine power, you'd expect the car to at least match the 225 hp of the hard-to-catch V-8 Mustang GT.
Then again, all that power, in both cases, borders on silly: You'll never use all of it.
Handling is superb on well-kept superhighways. But, largely because of the car's twisty body, ride and handling get low marks on rough roads.
Sound system: Ugh! AM/FM stereo radio and cassette by Blaupunkt/Aspen. A two-speaker system. Can you believe it?
Mileage: About 15 to the gallon (17.6-gallon usable tank capacity, 264-mile range), combined city-highway, running mostly driver only and with convertible top down. Not terrific, especially for a car equipped with a five-speed manual overdrive transmission.
Price: $39,975 as tested, including $1,300 gas-guzzler tax and $390 destination charge. Base price is $38,285. Estimated dealer's invoice price is $32,159, according to import-car retail industry sources.
At least they didn't call it an "affordable exotic."
Warren Brown covers the auto industry for The Washington Post.