2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo review: Prioritizing performance


Black carbon fiber and 21-inch wheels set the Trofeo apart from lesser Ghiblis.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Depending on your priorities, the Maserati Ghibli is either awesome or awful. It’s a sharply styled sedan with the heart of a Ferrari, yet it’s rather cramped inside and uses switchgear from a decade-old Dodge Journey (yikes). Thankfully, the 2021 Ghibli has a number of updates that right some of its past wrongs, and there’s a new Trofeo mode headlining the changes, as well. Say what you will about this sedan’s shortcomings; it’s easy to let a few flaws slide when there’s an Italian twin-turbo V8 under that long, sculpted hood.

LikeAwesome V8 engineVisceral driving experienceSolid infotainmentStandard driver-assistance tech

Don’t LikeWay too many old Chrysler parts insideCramped interiorMore expensive than competitors

In fact, that’s a great place to start. The Ghibli Trofeo has a redesigned hood that incorporates a pair of heat extractors, and my tester has an optional tricolor (sorry, tricolore) stripe pack that runs the length of the car off-center on the driver’s side. All 2021 Ghiblis have redesigned LED lighting and the Trofeo gets two unique 21-inch wheel options as well as blacked-out carbon fiber exterior trim.

In addition to the Ghibli, the Levante SUV and Quattroporte sedan also get the Trofeo treatment, the star of which is a seriously bangin’ engine. The 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 is designed by Ferrari, producing 580 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque, not to mention one of the sweetest, most sonorous soundtracks in the business. Paired with a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, the 4,616-pound Ghibli Trofeo can accelerate to 60 mph in 4 seconds flat. You can do that with launch control, too, which is part of the Trofeo’s custom Corsa driving mode. Put your left foot on the brake, pull the left (downshift) paddle, lay your right foot into the gas pedal and, as they say, let go and let God.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Ghibli Trofeo in one picture.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

That Corsa mode gives the Ghibli’s performance some extra wiggle room — literally — limiting the intervention of the traction and stability control systems. Not that it’s in any way difficult to provoke some wheelspin in the car’s Normal and Sport settings; just goose the throttle midcorner to get the Ghibli’s rear end to step out. That’s despite an electronic limited-slip differential managing torque distribution at the rear axle, too. I like it when sophisticated driveline tech still allows for a little playfulness.

The Trofeo uses Maserati’s Skyhook suspension, which is really just a fancy name for adaptive dampers. The default comfort setting is still pretty stiff, and only amplified by 21-inch wheels and summer tires at all four corners. You’ll feel the vast majority of road imperfections, though the dampers do a good job of at least keeping the car stable and composed over rougher surfaces.

Overall, though, the Ghibli Trofeo has a pretty raw, unhinged on-road character. The steering has lots of feedback but lacks instant response, meaning you’ve got to work a little harder to quickly dive into corners. The body rolls more than I like, but that sort of amplifies the excitement. There’s definitely a lack of overall finesse and composure compared with sedans like the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63, but I suppose that’s also what makes the Ghibli entertaining. For better or worse, this car really keeps you on your toes.

Also, kudos to Maserati for using large, steering column-mounted paddles in the Ghibli Trofeo. This is exactly how paddle shifters should be done, and I love the action combined with the noticeable kick from the transmission when changing gears in Sport mode. It’s rare that I find myself using paddle shifters on the regular, but it’s an experience I enjoy in the Ghibli Trofeo. Of course, it means I have absolutely no chance in hell of seeing the EPA-estimated 16 mpg combined fuel economy rating, but so it goes.

When you’re just out to run errands or commute to work, the Ghibli Trofeo comes with all the driver-assistance features you could ever want, and they’re all standard, which is surprisingly kind of a rarity in the luxury/sport sedan space. Full-speed adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking — the Ghibli Trofeo has ’em all. It even gets Maserati’s new Active Driving Assist, which combines adaptive cruise and lane-centering technologies, and can be used on any “well-maintained” road, according to the automaker, at speeds up to 90 mph.

The new infotainment tech is awesome, but there’s still a lot of cheap switchgear in here.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

There’s more great tech inside the Ghibli, where you’ll find Maserati’s new Intelligent Assistant infotainment system. Don’t let the name fool you — this is effectively a reskinned version of Stellantis’ Uconnect 5 suite. But considering how great Uconnect 5 is in vehicles like the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Durango, I’m not mad about Maserati using borrowed tech. The 10.1-inch frameless, high-res display looks great and the interface within is simple to use. The Android-powered software is quick to boot up and offers immediate responses, and Apple CarPlay can be operated wirelessly. Android Auto is here, too, as are Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

The rest of the Ghibli’s interior is hit or miss. There are some genuinely nice pieces, like my test car’s woven leather seats and real carbon fiber and metal inlays. But there’s still way too strong a reliance on switchgear from the larger (and cheaper) Stellantis parts bin. Yeah, that “Zegna pelletessuta” upholstery might be spiffy, but it loses its luster when juxtaposed with the same window switches and headlight controls from that Dodge Dart you rented in Florida back in 2013.

Arguably worse is the fact that the Ghibli’s cabin is really quite cramped. Headroom and legroom are in short supply no matter where you sit. I’m only 5 feet, 8 inches tall, but I can’t get comfortable in the back seat when the driver’s chair is set to my ideal position. The Ghibli is about the same size as a BMW M5, but even the smaller M3 is more spacious inside.

The Ghibli Trofeo definitely isn’t for everyone.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The Ghibli is priced about the same as an M5 Competition, at $111,735 including $14,95 for destination. Loaded up with goodies like tri-coat paint ($2,700), a Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($2,100), those stripes ($6,500) and more, the car you see here comes in at $128,135. That’s more than what you’ll pay for a similarly optioned M5 or even a Mercedes-AMG E63 S Sedan. Sporty hatchbacks like the Audi RS7 or a Porsche Panamera 4S put up a solid fight at this price, too. And all of these aforementioned competitors are arguably more well-rounded cars.

Sure, it’s hard to argue against a Ferrari V8, and the Ghibli Trofeo’s infotainment and driver-assistance updates make this Maserati more attractive than ever before. Me? I’d just stick with one of the Germans, simply because they offer so much more in the way of craftsmanship and refinement while still offering great power and poise. But hey, maybe your priorities are different than mine. If it’s a visceral driving experience you’re after and you can overlook a few faults, you could certainly do worse than the Ghibli Trofeo.



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