If you’ve ever wanted a Ferrari four-door sedan, then you’ve been fresh out of luck, with the Prancing Horse focusing all its energies on coupes and grand tourers. Luckily, Maserati has you covered with Ferrari V8 power under the bonnet of its range of Quattroporte sedans since the introduction of the fifth generation in 2003.
Now, though, Maserati’s mid-size sedan gets the Ferrari V8 treatment for the first time, with the 2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo joining the brand’s line-up of high-performance cars and SUVs.
What distinguishes a Ghibli Trofeo from an ordinary run-of-the-mill Ghibli?
It starts with that glorious Ferrari 3.8-litre, twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet. Built by Ferrari in Maranello, although with input from Maserati’s engineers, it’s the same engine doing service in a variety of cars from the Prancing Horse stable, including the Ferrari 488 and Portofino.
In Maserati trim, it makes 433kW at 6750rpm and 730Nm from 2250–5250rpm. It's mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission sending drive to the rear wheels.
Maserati claims that combination is good for a 0–100km/h sprint time of 4.3 seconds along the way to a top speed of 326km/h. And that makes it, according to the manufacturer, the fastest sedan ever built by Maserati.
Actually, that’s an honour it shares with its larger sibling, the Maserati Quattroporte Trofeo, coincidentally released at the same time as the Ghibli.
|2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo|
|Engine||3.8-litre twin-turbo V8|
|Power and torque||433kW at 6750rpm / 730Nm at 2250–5250rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||12.3–12.6L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||NA|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||500L/NA|
|Turning circle||11.7m kerb-to-kerb|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (2014)|
|Warranty||3 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||BMW M5, Mercedes-AMG E63 S|
|Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)||$265,000|
The Trofeo sedan twins landed in Australia this month, joining the incumbent Maserati Levante Trofeo in the brand’s portfolio. It too is powered by the same Ferrari V8, making the same 433kW and 730Nm, but thanks to its all-wheel-drive platform it can complete the sprint from standstill to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds, while top speed for the 2170kg (kerb) SUV is rated at 304km/h.
Let’s look at the Maserati Ghibli Trofeo, though. At $265,000 (plus on-road costs) it’s the most affordable of the three, and by a long way. The Levante Trofeo asks for $336,990, while the top-of-the-range Maserati Quattroporte Trofeo wants $376,900 plus on-roads.
That makes the Ghibli Trofeo a bit of a bargain in the Maserati hi-po landscape. And yet, compare the Ghibli Trofeo to its natural rivals in the wild and the numbers don’t stack up so nicely.
Buyers in this playground may consider the BMW M5 Competition at $246,900. It too gets a blown V8, oozing musculature with every cubic centimetre of its 4400cc. Better yet, opt for the slightly softer BMW M550i Pure at almost half the price of the Ghibli Trofeo, and you’d still get enough V8 hustle to satisfy most weekend warrior needs.
Similarly, Mercedes-AMG’s E63 S – with its 4.0-litre turbo V8 – is more affordable than the Ghibli Trofeo, with a sticker price of $250,400 plus on-roads.
And yet, what advantage those German muscle cars have on price alone is soon eroded by the charms and flair of the Italian Autostrada conqueror.
Maserati threw us the keys to its latest Trofeo iteration at the local launch in Sydney. It was a short and sharp launch, around 30 minutes behind the wheel on local roads, followed by less than a handful of laps around Sydney Motorsport Park – a teaser if you will. And what a tease it was.
On the road, the Ghibli Trofeo is filled with Italian charm. At idle, the baritone rumble from the engine is intoxicating. A charming soundtrack unmistakably Italian in its composition, Verdi’s Aida, compared with the German muscle cars blaring out Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.
But, thanks to the Ghibli’s double-glazed windows all ’round that soundtrack is lost, muted to a hint. Which is a pity, because it diminishes the experience of a V8 Maserati just a little.
And yet, driving the Ghibli Trofeo at socially acceptable speeds can be rewarding. Power delivery is smooth and linear, while the ZF eight-speed is seamless in its application.
Even at slow suburban speeds, there’s the merest hint of that V8 rumbling away under the bonnet; a soundtrack that promises performance, as if it’s waiting to spring into life.
And when it does spring into life, the Ghibli reacts with poise and purpose. There’s no sudden bellowing of V8, though, but the four-door leaps forward effortlessly and piles on speed with abandon.
The ride, too, is composed and unruffled, the adaptive dampers even in their firmest setting doing a fine job of isolating road rash from occupants, and the cabin remaining a serene place to spend time in.
And it’s certainly a comforting environment. The Ghibli’s sound deadening is first-rate. There’s no discernible wind noise, while road noise sounds like it’s happening to someone else. The single most discernible sound in the cabin is the air-conditioning fan, which is audible even in its lowest setting.
And that’s the problem right there. With that glorious Ferrari-built, Maserati-engineered V8 under the bonnet, you want to revel and luxuriate in the soundtrack. Instead, you can’t help but feel the Ghibli’s V8 is better heard from the outside.
But, there is good news. Hit the racetrack free from the constraints of pesky road rules, and the Ghibli takes on a different demeanour.
From the outset, it’s clear this is a performance car in every way. Full throttle opens up the Ghibli’s pipes, and with a thunderous roar the four-door surges forward at an alarming rate. The good news, the Ghibli is an accomplished track-day weapon, even if it’s unlikely to ever see much in the way of a racetrack.
There’s a predictability to the way it moves, composed under hard braking, and pinpoint accurate on even the tightest corners. The steering remains precise and sharp, with every input translating to the road accurately.
Switching to manual mode and using the paddle-shifters to effect gear changes is rewarding, too, letting that glorious V8 bellow out to redline. Each shift is accompanied by a delicious (if muted) bang, and each downshift playing along to a soundtrack of sonic booms.
And despite its 1969kg kerb weight, the Ghibli feels light and nimble on its wheels, with changes of direction met with an assurance that inspires confidence.
But the Ghibli isn’t a track-day warrior, not really. It's best kept for gobbling up long distances in a relaxed manner. And the cabin provides the perfect accompaniment. Thanks to full-grain Pieno Forte leather trim, the interior smells like a saddlery, with a deliciously rich aroma at once pleasant and luxurious.
Alcantara headlining looks and feels plush, while real carbon-fibre accents used liberally throughout look and feel good. There’s a 10.1-inch touchscreen integrated into the dash running Maserati’s new Android Automotive-based ‘Maserati Intelligent Assistant’ operating system, featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, plus Amazon Alexa voice assistant functionality.
Other standard features include adaptive LED headlights, push-button start, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, lane-keeping assist, autonomous emergency braking, traffic-sign recognition and a 360-degree camera.
Externally, red accents around the air vents over the front wheel arches distinguish the Trofeo from other Ghiblis, while a bespoke bonnet with aggressively styled air vents adds to the performance car vibe.
And make no mistake, the Maserati Ghibli Trofeo is a genuine performance car wrapped in a sedan body. It looks the part, too, with its aggressive bonnet and external trims.
The powertrain combination certainly underscores how competent this car is as a sports sedan, at once powerful and, yes, thrilling, even if the sense of theatre and drama is absent from behind the wheel. Still, that might appeal to buyers who prefer Verdi to Wagner.
Whether you like noise or prefer more discretion from your motivation, one thing is certain. Maserati has confirmed this is the last time that lovely Ferrari-sourced V8 will be used in a Maserati – a fitting farewell, then, for what is arguably the Ghibli's coming of age. Enjoy it while you can.