The 02 had a bad linkage that was updated for 03 models. The problems should be, 1/ not wanting to go in second when cold and 2/ yes, not so slick on the up changes. Well the gearbox was a Ferarri design for the car with the 02 V8 models.
Everybody knows Ferarri's are hard to get into second when cold. It is because Ferrari are smart enough to know second gets whacked in every performance car, so they make it stonger so it will last longer. The trade off is when it is cold. Fair trade in my opinion.
The slow upshifts are partly due to the clutch. You have to fully depress the clutch to get a smooth change. I do not know of a manufacturer that makes a better pressure plate. This would help.
However with practice you should be able to master it. Look at my video on you tube. www.showtinc.com
click on Maserati