When we drove the Maserati Ghibli GranSport last year, we came away suitably impressed. It was a solid and stylish sports sedan that impressed us with it’s quality and performance. While we enjoyed it, we secretly wished Maserati would install the engine and suspension from the brilliant Levante Trofeo in it. Well, Maserati must have had a microphone hidden in the car, because last autumn Maserati announced that they were extending the Trofeo trim level to the rest of their line-up.
The Trofeo trim level amps up the experience by adding the “Sport/Corsa” drive mode and replaces the turbocharged V6 with a Ferrari-engineered 3.8L twin-turbo V8. They offered us some seat time in the new Ghibli Trofeo to see what we thought so we took them up on their offer. We were utterly blown away by the improvement over the standard models.
They delivered a beautiful blue example to us to review. As soon as we laid eyes on it’s beautiful shape once again, saw how the creased sheetmetal caught the light from different angles, we remembered how much we hated seeing it drive away after our last encounter. There were a few design details to highlighted the fact that this was a Trofeo: the wheels were a new and intricate design that we found ourselves ogling; there were new “boomerang” tail lights; new hood vents that upped the sexiness factor by a considerable margin; and there were some new bright red accents, both around the side engine vents and a red slash beneath the trident on the C-pillar.
Not all Maserati Trofeo models have the red accents however. Maserati applied each color of the Italian flag (red, green, and white) to a particular model since they have three models currently available. The Ghibli gets red accents, the Quattroporte gets green accents, and the Levante gets white accents. We thought that was a very creative approach to differentiation.
Inside was same interior we remembered from the GranSport trim level, a mixture of basic black with red color-blocked seats, dashboard panels, and arm rests. The center console was still beautifully laid-up carbon fiber and leather. It’s a very comfortable and welcoming interior, with well-bolstered and appointed seats. The only real flaw is the lack of legroom in the back seats, but that may be why we’re drawn to the Ghibli – it feels more like a two-seat sport sedan with emergency seating in back for dogs, bags, and legless hitchhiking supermodels that we encounter.
We noticed that the infotainment screen is improved this year with the equivalent to Apple’s ‘retina screen.” The image quality appears to lack any pixilation and has more of an “animated” quality to it. It’s extremely clear and easy to read and feels like a much higher quality unit. Also new in the Ghibli is the tell-tale button on the center console that reads “Sport/Corsa.” It’s the Corsa option that indicates that you’re in a Trofeo model. When activated, it provides even sharper responses than “Sport” from the engine, steering, and transmission while simultaneously firming up the active suspension on the car, putting it in the most sport-oriented mode possible.
Under the hood of the Ghibli Trofeo, you’ll find the red crinkle-finish turbocharged 3.8L V8 that was designed and built by Ferrari for Maserati. It pays to be “in the family” because this engine is the stuff of fantasies. It makes 580 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque. It revs to 7200 rpm and will make the hair on your arms stand up as it approaches that number. While the standard turbo-V6 was no slouch, the V8 puts it in a completely different realm of performance. It provides blazingly fast speed: 0-60 under 4 seconds and a top speed of over 200 mph. While we didn’t come anywhere close to experiencing 200 mph, we can tell you that it pulls triple-digit speeds so effortlessly that the claimed 203 mph top speed seems easily believable.
That engine is hooked to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that provide instantaneous shifts – no milli-second lag before it shifts, it happens when YOU want it to happen, which is very pleasing as a driver. Laggy paddle shifters have ruined more driving experiences for me than anything else.
There are 4 drive modes on the Ghibli Trofeo now: Normal (default), ICE (Improved Control & Efficiency), Sport, and the aforementioned Corsa. Each imparts a different character to the car and evokes different responses from the controls and engine.
The wheels are huge 21” Maserati Oriones and they’re beautiful. I found myself tracing their lines every time I found myself looking at the car. They were shod with Pirelli P-Zero tires but production cars will likely have Continentals standard. Inside the wheels are massive vented and drilled brake discs, straddled by huge Brembo multi-piston calipers.
The suspension is Maserati’s Skyhook air suspension system and it does a fantastic job of controlling the cars body movements while providing active damping and providing different performance with each drive mode selection. It’s what creates the smoothness that you feel when driving it, no matter the road surface.
Drag your fingers along the fender as you walk towards the driver’s door and you can almost feel the history of the marque in it’s sensuous lines. Open the driver’s door and you’re greeted with the smell of fresh leather and new carpet that beckons you to plant your derriere in the driver’s seat. Once you do, you’re hooked. The bolsters of the seats hold you in place comfortably without being restrictive and once you’ve adjusted the electric seats and steering wheel and mirrors to your preference, you simply MUST close the door and push the big red start button.
The engine starts with a subdued roar that you can feel through the seat but it’s surprising how quiet it sounds. It’s a beautiful engine note but it almost seems too quiet. Didn’t Ferrari design the engine? Where’s the loud exhaust? Shouldn’t it sound like a Formula 1 car? Ah, but this isn’t a Ferrari. This is a Maserati. This is more refined. This engine has manners. If you goose the throttle a bit there’s more sound, more drama. It’s there, but you have to call it up intentionally. The car also seems quieter inside than the last Ghibli we drove. It feels like Maserati has added more sound-deadening insulation and quieter glass. The effect is the sense that you’re in a very refined, very expensive automobile. And – you are.
Take the electronic shifter in hand and click it into drive. The transmission shifts into gear and you feel it tense up, ready. Foot off the brake and the car idles off. Feed in some throttle and the car heads off confidently and quickly. The V8 quietly burbles away under the hood, bored. The car is strangely quiet. The engine seems muffled, distant. You don’t hear as much outside noise as you recall hearing in the Ghibli GranSport. It feels….higher end. Top shelf. It’s nice. It feels expensive.
Brake at the first intersection and you find that the brake are a little grabby. There’s no response from the pedal push at first, then they grab suddenly and it jerks your head forward a little. “Now why would a Maserati have such awful brakes?” you wonder aloud. The rest of the car seems so refined. But it’s nothing that a little more care when braking can’t fix, so you think nothing of it and adjust your braking habits. More on this later.
Put your blinker on and check traffic. Nobody coming so you pull out and get on the throttle a little harder. The car quietly rockets up to speed in the blink of an eye. The engine gets a little louder as it does and some of that V8 magic comes through. Am I at the speed limit already? Nope, you’re OVER it already. Wow. Quick. The freeway on-ramp is approaching so you click the shifter over into “manual” mode and downshift using the left paddle.
The engine blips and the revs soar and gently fall away, burbling and popping a bit as the revs fall. I’m sorry, but nobody does engines like the Italians. Nobody. You downshift again, enjoying the symphony of electro-mechanical interaction again, before turning onto the on-ramp. The car leans into the curve a little but remains stable and balanced. Back on the throttle again, accelerating up to speed and the engine is building revs quickly – quicker than you expected – and the engine is getting louder as the secondary exhaust valves open wide and all that pressurized noise and exhaust makes a break for it out the back. The Ghibli Trofeo sounds AMAZING. We rocket onto the freeway going much, much faster than traffic is moving and have to brake to fit in. They still feel a little grabby but they slow the car quickly and without fuss. We travel with traffic a bit, looking carefully for police, before changing lanes and rocketing up the road in the empty lane, the engine raising it’s voice again until it’s screaming, clicking off shifts with the beautiful carbon fiber paddles. It’s fantastic but we’re well into triple-digit speeds already so we have to tuck back into traffic and brake strongly to get ourselves back down to reasonable and acceptable speeds. The V6 Ghibli GranSport was fun, but this…THIS…is something altogether superior. By far. Dare I say this is what the Ghibli should have been at it’s introduction.
The Trofeo is exactly as we hoped it would be in this lighter platform – smooth, blindingly fast, and nimble. That it’s more refined and quieter inside is like icing on the cake. Wind noise and tire noise and suspension noise are minimal. You hear very little of it. But you hear that engine just fine. And you can converse with your passengers or listen to the radio without having to turn it up all the time.
Our exit is coming up fast so we move into the right lane and turn our blinker on and exit the freeway. After taking a few secondary roads, we end up on a wonderfully twisty road with lots of elevation changes that follows Lake Michigan for quite awhile. It’s still early in the morning and traffic is non-existent to light, so we press the “Corsa” mode button, slip into manual shift mode while hanging our thumbs at 9 and 3 on the wheel, and sample the Ghibli Trofeo’s abilities.
We rocket up switchbacks to the top of huge hills, then cut back into the woods again, following the twisty road as quickly as we dare. When we come up behind a slow pickup truck, we make sure the road is clear then drop two gears and flash past him and quickly leave him growing small in our rearview mirror. The engine sings out in front of us, and you get the impression of a thousand well-oiled steel and aluminum parts working in perfect synchrony and tolerance to make all this magic possible. This is intoxicating stuff and we’re loving every second of it.
Downshift, turn in, throttle, upshift, turn out, throttle, throttle, throttle – good lord this thing is fast! – hard on the brakes, downshift, downshift, steer through the curve and throttle down again. The whole time, the turbo-V8 engine is forcefully screaming. Unbelievable. This is perfection to drive. The body remains neutral and stable, leaning a bit in the sharpest corners but otherwise upright and balanced.
Passing slower traffic is ridiculously simple – just throttle down and steer. Four lumbering SUV’s leaving enough space between them for three cars each, plodding down the road as if in purgatory? Just gimme a dashed center line. Before you can blink they’re in the rearview mirror, fading quickly away and out of memory as you leave the distinctly Italian howl of the Trofeo’s engine hanging in the air.
The only issue is the incredible speeds you achieve much too quickly. I’m constantly braking to stay quasi-legal and near the speeds that will only earn me a massive speeding ticket instead of a chauffeured trip to the Benzie County jail in free, matching bracelets. The brakes scrub incredible speed off like it’s nothing. They may be grabby around town but when you’re pushing extralegal speeds, they do an admirable job of slowing you quickly, confidently, and with perfect poise. That’s why they’re fitted.
After a few hours of this driving (where does the time go?), and having taken some time to stop and take some photos, it’s time to head for home. We put the drive mode in the default setting and slip onto the freeway for the long drive home. The ventilated seats are keeping us cool. The ride is smooth, absorbing all the freeway bumps and frost joints. The engine is quietly humming away, earning a well-deserved rest after it’s athletic endeavors. My nerves are still buzzing from the driving but I’m really not tired or worn out. Usually that road will sap my energy and leave me drained and tired but the Maserati is such a comfortable car to drive that I’ve still got energy and awareness to spare. What a pleasant change.
Our time with the Ghibli Trofeo was much, much too short, but we understand that other outlets were waiting for their turns to experience it so we grudgingly gave it back after a few fun-filled days and the realization that even if we fled the state with it, it’s hard not to be noticed in a bright blue Maserati Ghibli Trofeo.
The EPA says the Ghibli Trofeo should get about 20 mpg on the highway and 13 in the city. We have no idea what our mileage was while we drove it, despite filling it three times, but if we did that well, we’d be impressed. Things like mileage really don’t register when the driving is this much fun.
Our car came in at around $115,000 USD. Totally worth it. It had a smooth, quality feel and the performance abilities to fairly warrant that price. The near-equally priced Lexus LC500 we drove immediately after this wasn’t 2/3 the car this was. Maserati has built what many of us have long thought a Maserati should be, what it’s history insists it be: a smooth, beautiful, refined sport sedan with the soul of a race car. With the Trofeo line, Maserati has fully (finally!) returned to that ideal and form and it’s a better car because of it. Forza, Maserati. Forza. Bella machina.