This car could be the last of its kind
Maserati's Ghibli Trofeo could be the last V8 sedan introduced in Australia.
There will be V8-powered cars in the future, but they're likely to be updated versions of models already on sale. It's impossible to know for sure, but this genuinely could represent the last opportunity to drive a new type of eight-cylinder sedan for the first time.
Which is odd, as the Maserati Ghibli is not a new car - not by a long shot. Unveiled in 2013 as a rival to BMW's 5 Series, it combined seductive Italian bodywork with underwhelming engines including a Jeep-derived diesel.
This new variant is part of Maserati's Trofeo range, a three-pronged V8 salute appropriate for a marque carrying Neptune's trident. Though the bigger Levante SUV and Quattroporte pseudo-limo get more powerful versions of existing V8 motors, the 2021 Ghibli Trofeo represents the first time modern Maserati put its biggest engine in its smallest car.
The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 makes 433kW and 730Nm, which is impressive if a little less than equivalent German models. Built by Ferrari, the exotic engine has ties to supercars such as the 488 GTB and new F8 Tributo. It's likely to be the last Maserati to debut with a V8, as future machines will be powered by electricity or its in-house "Nettuno" V6.
Maserati says the Trofeo is good for a truly impressive 326km/h top speed, but that a 0-100km/h time of 4.3 seconds is blunted by the decision to stick with rear-wheel-drive hardware - it doesn't match the traction of all-wheel-drive alternatives such as BMW's M5.
But local boss Glen Sealey reckons says the car is not designed to compete with Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi.
"That's not us, we're Maserati - we are exclusive," he says.
"So when you're finished with those brands, you come to us. When you graduate, and you come through, you come to these."
Sealey points out glossy carbon fibre, frameless doors with double-glazed windows, and sumptuous "Pieno Fiore" full-grain leather as evidence of superior luxury.
The materials truly are beautiful, as is an analog clock, conventional driver instruments, enormous metal shift paddles and a fresh 10.1-inch infotainment screen. You get embossed heated and cooled seats with 12-way electric adjustment, multi-mode suspension, adaptive LED headlights and more.
Running changes to the Ghibli range include smartphone mirroring and an updated suite of driver aids. But it can't approach the connectivity and cleverness of luxury alternatives.
Priced from $265,000 plus on-road costs, the Ghibli Trofeo costs about $70,000 more than a V6 petrol Ghibli, and about $10,000 more than the faster Mercedes-AMG E 63 S.
We tested it on a brief suburban road loop before taking the car on track at Sydney Motorsport Park.
The Ghibli feels refined on the road, bringing a distant burble from quad exhausts side-stepping the in-your-face approach of rivals.
Well-damped suspension combines with minimal road noise and crisp shifts from the eight-speed ZF automatic found in many of the world's finest cars.
First impressions are that the two-tonne Trofeo is an effortless cruiser, not a bare-knuckle brawler.
These are reinforced on track, where the Ghibli's mighty motor is let down by brakes that overheat quickly, a traction control system lacking the fluidity of modern rivals, and a shortage of grip from stressed Pirellis.
You need to be patient to get the most from the Trofeo - when braking, turning, or applying the throttle.
The best German sports sedans are supercar-rivalling athletes on the track.
But not the Maserati. And that's OK.
The Ghibli Trofeo feels like a grown-up luxury car with a surprising turn of pace rather than a caged animal straining to pass Porsches at the Nurburgring. It has effortless straight-line pace, a creamy soundtrack and a relaxed approach likely to win support from folks who appreciate its charm.
Particularly as we are unlikely to see its kind again.
Exclusivity, effortless pace and a beautiful cabin help give Maserati's sedan a fitting send-off.
MASERATI GHIBLI TROFEO VITALS
Price: From $265,000 plus on-road costs
Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo, 433kW/730Nm
Warranty/Service: 3 year/unlimited km, about $2700 for 3 years
Safety: Not rated, 7 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert
Cargo: 500 litres
Spare: Inflator kit
Originally published as This car could be the last of its kind