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Bi Bi, Baby- 1985 Maserati Biturbo brochure

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Brochure images are from the collection of Hemmings Motor News, courtesy of Bruce Zahor

A twin-turbocharged V-6 engine is at the heart of every Ghibli sedan and Levante SUV (as well as some Quattroportes) that Maserati sells in the USA today, and this Chrysler-based, Ferrari-built 2,979-cc ( unit utilizes a DOHC, four-valve design, with direct fuel injection and two intercoolers, to make 345 or 404 horsepower.

This executive powerplant has historic precedent for the marque of the Trident, as a twin-turbocharged SOHC V-6 gave that most Eighties of all Maseratis–the Biturbo–its name and spirit. The entry-executive class-sized (think contemporary E30-chassis BMW 325i or Mercedes-Benz 190) two-door was introduced in late 1981, but did not arrive Stateside until 1984. It had more standard grunt than those competitors, courtesy of its 2,491-cc (, all-aluminum engine, which sported three valves per cylinder and one turbocharger per cylinder bank. It was also fitted with a Saab “APC”-style boost control system, dubbed “Maserati Automatic Boost Control,” which used a knock sensor, pressure transducer, solenoid valve, and an electronic control unit to detect knocking and allow the maximum amount of boost for any given situation.

And while it’s not mentioned in this brochure, we see an image of the Biturbo with its big brother, the V-8-powered Quattroporte, whose crisp lines inspired those of the junior car, which was penned by DeTomaso stylist Pierangelo Andreani, the man who’d previously created the Ferrari Mondial for Pininfarina. Of course, Alejandro de Tomaso then controlled Maserati, having taken over in 1975 after Citroën lost it in bankruptcy. It was de Tomaso who decided that the very modern Biturbo would be mass-produced, rather than being largely hand-built in tiny volumes, in Maserati tradition–that said, fewer than 6,000 cars were built each year, with half that figure produced by 1988.

The first Biturbos sold here were all equipped with a five-speed manual transmissions, but a three-speed automatic soon became available. In its early form, the V-6 was fueled through a two-barrel Weber carburetor (this brochure promised 192 hp and 0-60 in 6.8 seconds, although our catalytic converters meant 185 hp was more accurate). Electronic fuel injection would arrive in 1986-’87 to improve reliability and hot starting. The fully independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes meant this car’s road manners were always top-notch.

The Biturbo quickly earned an unfortunate reputation that would overshadow its entire run in the U.S. market, but as with any maintenance-intensive Italian exotic, a well cared-for example offers a uniquely exciting, characterful drive.

Little more than 2,000 American-spec Maseratis were imported in 1984, with fewer than 1,300 arriving in each of the subsequent two years… imports trailed down to fewer than 250 for 1990. Top-quality examples are understandably rare today, and highly prized by those in the know. Have you ever driven a Biturbo, or one of its derivatives like the four-door 430 or the pretty, two-seat Zagato Spyder? How about the incredibly rare and powerful Shamal?

Click the brochure images below to enlarge.