When Maserati debuted the Biturbo the company wasn’t exactly flourishing. The sleek new two-door coupe promised big things in December 1981, however, introducing not one but two world firsts. While other parts of Europe were giddy over single turbocharging, Maserati upped the game with the world’s first twin-turbocharged production engine. Coupled with the first use of a Torsen limited-slip differential, a genuinely sporting, luxury new compact coupe launched with the aim of bringing Maserati a new breed of customer.
The two-door bodystyle originally emerged and was joined by a four-door variant two years later. Produced until 1994, the ‘Biturbo’ consisted of a hugely complex range that was tweaked for various markets throughout its lifespan. All featured the iconic twin-turbo V6. The original model launched with a 3-valve per cylinder, 2-litre 90o V6 producing around 180bhp with twin carburettors. Capacity grew to 2.8 litres and power output peaked at 275bhp, undergoing myriad of changes along the way, including fuel injection, intercoolers, iron or aluminium bore liners depending on market; Maserati spec enthusiasts keep a complex library.
While many words are required to describe the Biturbo’s mechanicals, only one is needed for the interior: opulent. Sumptuous luxury and grandeur greeted the driver and passengers in a way that hadn’t been matched by alternative coupes of the time (and rarely since). Ruched fabric adorned the interior, complemented by – like a TOWIE extra – an expanse of veneer and leather. The iconic clock, a timepiece now synonymous with Maserati, also debuted with the Biturbo and has remained ever since.
The chassis provided another area of complexity. Originally launched with Macpherson struts at the front and a semi-trailing rear arm set-up with a mix of comfort and performance in mind, Maserati eventually introduced what it described as an active electronic shock-absorber. Each shock was said to adjust individually, with messages sent to a dedicated control unit regarding road and driving conditions, enabling ride adjustments to be made within 300 milliseconds. Developed alongside KONI, if you believe the claims then the system was said to provide the best of all worlds at any speed. Very 2020 for the 1990s.
Build quality issues and perceived complexity of the drivetrain have ensured that few of the near-12,000 Biturbos produced remain. We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts in the comments.