VARANO, Italy – Maserati SpA begins sales of its refreshed ’05 Coupe and Spyder models in Europe, with shipments under way to the U.S. market.

The auto maker also adds a GranSport edition to the 2-door line, offering more power and aggressive aerodynamic styling cues taken from Maserati’s Trofeo racecar.

Maserati GranSport Coupe

The GranSport, which made its official debut at the Geneva auto show earlier this year, is “not a street-legal racing car, but more of a model in its own right,” John Fewings, head of Maserati’s product marketing, tells reporters at a media launch event here. “It’s more driver-oriented (than the base Coupe and Spyder).”

The GranSport comes standard with only one engine and transmission combination: Maserati’s signature 4.2L V-8 and Cambiocorsa automated manual transmission.

Modifications to the engine and the exhaust system include changes to the inlet manifolds to enable better breathing, enhanced valve/seat connection to help air exhaust and a 10-hp boost in output over the base coupe engine to 400 hp.

Changes to the exhaust system include a bypass valve that provides better exhaust sound and a reduction in backpressure, controlled by the engine management system.

Maserati engineers also made modifications to the Cambiocorsa transmission to improve responsiveness and performance.

The most significant change includes the new sixth gear, which is 4% longer than the previous system. Changes to the software have improved shifting response by 35% when the vehicle is in sport mode.

Maserati says the modifications to the transmission and engine have cut acceleration times from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) to 4.85 seconds when compared with the base Coupe’s 4.9 seconds. The GranSport can cover 0.6 miles (1,000 m) in 23 seconds, a half-second faster than the base Coupe.

Exterior treatment modifications for the GranSport focus more on function than appearance, says Maserati chief designer Frank Stephenson. “Every piece that has been changed on the car’s exterior has been done for a functional reason,” he says.

A new and larger grille, which is more in harmony with the grille work on the Quattroporte sedan, provides improved air intake. The new front bumper features a more sport-inspired appearance, and the new lower spoiler provides improved downforce.

New sill panels give the car a more aggressive stance, as do the standard 19-in. wheels derived from the Trofeo.

The GranSport receives a revised rear fascia, with three air outlets molded into the rear bumper for improved airflow. Newly designed quad oval exhaust pipes are designed to look like the Maserati oval logo.

A new subtle rear spoiler, affixed to the trunklid, has undergone extensive wind tunnel testing to improve aerodynamic values and keep the car glued to the road.

The GranSport also receives considerable interior changes compared with the rest of Maserati’s 2-door model range.

“We wanted to visually take weight out of the (interior of the) car,” Stephenson says. “We wanted to use different materials. We now have more use of carbon fiber in the cabin.”

The GranSport’s center console borrows a new design from the Coupe and Spyder that features a tapered look, keeping with Maserati’s signature trident logo. And a new start button has been installed on the center console.

Extensive changes were made to the GranSport’s steering wheel, including a flat top design to improve ergonomics. The gauges have been reconfigured to feature white graphics on a Maserati-blue background.

New materials are used on the GranSport’s interior, with the debut of BrighTex (used extensively for sporting goods) in its first-ever automotive application. BrighTex features a woven pattern with bright colors and a lighter appearance.

The GranSport goes on sale in the U.S. later this month, with just 500 units expected to roll off the assembly line outside Modena through the rest of the year. The high-performance coupe will carry a base price of $98,172.

The remainder of Maserati’s 2-door range, the Coupe and Spyder, adopt some of the exterior changes featured on the GranSport, including the new front and rear bumpers and new chrome rings around the headlamps.

Otherwise, the Coupe and Spyder models keep their same transmission and engine offerings. There have been minor improvements in terms of Cambiocorsa transmission response for the ’05 models.

The ’05 Coupe Cambiocorsa is expected to retail for $86,800, while the Spyder will carry a base price of $91,400. Both arrive at U.S. dealers in coming weeks.