Today, every Maserati comes with a built-in leap of faith. The 2021 Ghibli Trofeo shortens the distance of the jump and makes the risk very worthwhile.
Maserati has enjoyed a spectacular history since 1914. Juan Manuel Fangio drove Maseratis to Formula One Drivers’ Championships in both 1954 and 1957, and Wilbur Shaw won the 1939 and 1940 Indianapolis 500 in one. There are great cars throughout Maserati’s past, and it deserves the reverence that its name commands. And yet for every high point in Maserati history, there’s been a mighty dip.
Italian for trophy, the Trofeo name is being affixed to the Ghibli and Quattroporte for the first time. The name returns to mark a super-premium brand above mere regular Maseratis. It plays the same role as M at BMW, AMG at Mercedes-Benz, Blackwing at Cadillac, or Kirkland Signature at Costco. Currently, the Trofeo is applied to all three Maserati models—the mid-size Ghibli, the somewhat-larger Quattroporte four-door sedans, and the Levante SUV. The two-door GranTurismo and GranTurismo convertible models ended their run last year.
To achieve Trofeo status, the Ghibli receives a Ferrari-derived twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-8 with 580 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. In the context of modern turbocharged V-8s, however, that’s modest grunt. The 603-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in the Mercedes-AMG E63 S, for instance, knocks out 627 pound-feet, and the 591-hp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in the Audi RS7 wallops with 590 pound-feet.
While the Maserati’s engine can’t quite measure up to those two, the Maserati sends its power to two wheels, not four. To make the most of the available traction, Maserati employs a launch-control system that works with the excellent ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. To activate it, point the steering straight ahead and select the Corsa driving mode. If you’re lacking in calcium and your femurs shatter holding down the brake and accelerator, that’s on you. Release the brake, and the car races forward.
Maserati claims the sprint to 60 mph requires 4.0 seconds. Both Germans are much quicker. Unlike its all-wheel-drive competition, the Ghibli Trofeo launch control allows some wheel spin, and the launch isn’t the gut punch you’d expect from this power level. Before the acceleration begins in earnest, there’s a slight yaw in the tail as the tires hunt for traction and the mechanical limited-slip differential figures out where to send the torque. There’s no hard slam of thrust but a sensation of the car working to find its footing. Keep going, and the Ghibli Trofeo will hit 203 mph, according to Maserati. That’s right there with the claims for the Charger Hellcat Redeye. Now that’s a consumer-relevant comparison that needs to happen.
Maserati limited our exposure to the Ghibli Trofeo to the high-desert Willow Springs Raceway outside of Los Angeles. On the big track at Willow, the Ghibli Trofeo proved adept and easy to plant at the apex of each corner. These weren’t qualifying laps. Despite the 21-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero PZ4s, the Ghibli is a luxury car first and a sports sedan second. At a tepid pace, the suspension deals with Willow’s sometimes ragged surface without complaint. In the most radical Corsa mode, the stability control loosens its grip and makes it easier to get in trouble. Not easy, but easier. The thrust out of corners is short of the insane charge of the other sedans in this class. On the road, the Ghibli Trofeo will likely feel incredibly quick.
The Ghibli’s 118.0-inch wheelbase is 2.3 inches longer than that of a Mercedes-AMG E63 S, but the Maserati’s 195.7-inch overall length is 0.7 inch shorter than the German’s. It’s subtle, but those proportions and a taut skin-stretched-over-muscle appearance give the Ghibli a look that the rest of the class lacks. Maserati isn’t shy about adding swoops and flourishes that add to the aggressive countenance. For 2021, a restyled grille and new “boomerang” taillights add some zip to a design that was dang zippy when it first appeared back in 2013. To distinguish the Trofeo, there are some carbon-fiber pieces (because that’s what sporty sedans in the 2020s get) and a few red accents to announce the presence of the studly V-8 under the hood.
Inside, there’s a new larger 10.1-inch touchscreen for controlling everything, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The seats are comfortable, the console-mounted shifter is precise, and there are big paddles behind the steering wheel for satisfyingly quick shifts. Never on the cutting edge, the interior has a certain old-school charm now—analog gauges in an era obsessed with digital displays. It’s possible that in a few years the Maserati will look less dated than the current electronic fashion.
The very best thing about the Ghibli Trofeo is that it isn’t an Audi, BMW, Mercedes, or even a Dodge Charger Hellcat. It might not be as quick as its competition, but it’s just as fiery. The Ghibli Trofeo is compelling because it sounds and looks different, and that makes it a unique proposition for an iconoclast. Just make sure you’re ready to part with the $115,085 that Maserati wants to help you stand out. That’s an eye-watering $41,400 more than the least-expensive Ghibli.
Maserati’s history of ups and downs carry through to the massive depreciation suffered by its latest cars. Getting the most from the Ghibli Trofeo requires appreciating the allure of the marque’s history and finding it in the current car’s details and design. Be ready, however, for a big depreciation hit. That part is still a leap of faith.
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