New 2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo review

Nick Francis

02 Sep 2021

1/8
Maserati’s V8-powered Ghibli Trofeo is a stylish Italian alternative to German super-saloons, but how does it stack up against the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63 on the road?

PROS:

+ Thunderous V8 engine

+ Handsome inside and out

+ Decent infotainment system


CONS:

- Doesn’t handle as sharply as German alternatives

- Cramped rear seats 

- Cheap plastics let down the interior 


Verdict: In true Italian fashion the Ghibli Trofeo looks beautiful both inside and out, and for the most part it impresses on the road. But it does not out-perform the BMW M5 Competition, which is £3,000 cheaper, in any significant area. 

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo review: the five-minute read 


Since 2013 Maserati Ghibli has been attempting the seemingly impossible: that is, to entice customers away from the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It’s joined in the fight by fellow underdogs, the Jaguar XF and Lexus ES, and while each have their merits, they’ve all failed to make a significant dent in the Germans. 


The word ‘Trofeo’ is to Maserati what AMG is to Mercedes or M is to BMW. It stands for power and performance, so the Ghibli Trofeo’s onerous objective is to offer a compelling argument against the BMW M5 Competition and Mercedes-AMG E63 S. All three are V8-powered saloons with six-figure price tags that can, in theory, dazzle as much on track as they do on the road. 


Perhaps the most convincing area in which the Trofeo stands out is design: the Germans look commonplace compared to the Maserati, due to the fact the lower-powered versions of the 5 Series and E-Class are so popular. The rarity of the Ghibli, as well as its bold Italian curves and prominent trident badge on the nose, means the Trofeo turns more heads. 


At first glance it’s equally beautiful inside, with plush leather icing the door cards, dashboard, armrests...more or less everything to be honest. And if your fingers aren’t touching soft leather they’re touching smooth carbon fibre trim. 


The 10.1-inch infotainment screen looks great, is intuitive to use and suffers only occasionally from some lag in response time. The rotary dial on the driver’s console is okay but not as easy to use as BMW’s iDrive dial, it’s too sensitive and you can end up skipping multiple menus if you handle it roughly. 

Sadly the good work of Maserati’s interior designers is let down by the use of cheap switchgear found in places like the climate control panel and steering wheel. It’s as if Maserati blew its budget at the leather market and was forced to raid the Fiat parts bin to finish the job. 


Another major let-down is the space in the back, or lack of it. Unlike the BMW and Mercedes it is not a true three-seater, and given the heft of the car you’re left wondering how that can be. It’s not as if it can be explained by having a larger boot – it’s at least 10-litres smaller than its rivals at 500-litres. 


The beating heart of the Ghibli Trofeo is a 3.8-litre twin turbocharged V8 engine, the development of which was aided in no small way by a small sportscar company known as Ferrari. As you’d imagine, it’s a thumper, producing 580hp and 730Nm of torque. Power delivery is urgent and linear and it feels more muscle car than supercar, unlike the more frenetic BMW M5 Competition. 


As a result the Trofeo is probably an easier car to live with in town than the M5. It rumbles around contentedly, carrying itself at low speeds on its huge torque reserves and absorbing speed bumps without too much interruption, with the dampers dialled back to their softest setting. 


But on fast roads you quickly realise the E63 and M5 would make better track day companions. The speed of the Trofeo is impressive but at 4.3-seconds over 0-62mph is still slower than the BMW or Mercedes, and in quick corners it exhibits more body roll than both of those cars.  

That’s not to say the Trofeo isn’t a lot of fun. While it can be provoked into giving up grip at the front it never takes you by surprise, and once you accept the Trofeo behaves more like grand tourer or muscle car than the German screamers, you can start pulling the pin and getting the tail to wag on command. 


The sound from that V8 is incredible and the eight-speed ZF gearbox is calibrated perfectly: it’s never found on the wrong cog, no matter which drive mode you are in. 


It’s hard to see why anyone who buys a car with their head would choose the Ghibli Trofeo over the BMW M5 Competition or Mercedes-AMG E63 S, not least because at £104,960 the Maserati is the priciest of the bunch.


But there’s an undeniable romance about driving a Maserati, which should not be underestimated. And if you like standing out, that might be enough to persuade into a Maserati dealership.


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Extended read…

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo interior and infotainment 


On first impression the Trofeo’s interior is everything you want a Maserati to be: it’s a love letter to Italian style and opulence and much more theatrical than the clean-and-clinical cabin of the BMW M5. That said, the Mercedes E63 gives it a run for its money in the style steaks and is more modern in its design, if that’s what you’re looking for. 


When your fingers aren’t touching plush leather they’re touching smooth carbon fibre trim, and classy touches like that spring-loaded wireless charging dock that swallows and ejects your phone instantly adds a real sense of premium and is genuinely useful.


Sadly the good work of Maserati’s interior designers is let down by the use of cheap switchgear found in places like the climate control panel and steering wheel. It’s as if Maserati blew its budget at the leather market and was forced to raid the Fiat parts bin to finish the job. 


A very sharp and glossy 10.1-inch infotainment screen goes a long way to compensate for it, it looks great sitting frameless in the middle of the dash. It’s logical and intuitive to use, and only certain apps hesitate to load up when selected. Too many functions, including the heated steering wheel, are kept inside the infotainment system though - more shortcut buttons please Maserati. 


On balance it still falls short of the excellence demonstrated by BMW iDrive system, and Mercedes’ MBUX simply looks beautiful. 


The driver display in the Trofeo doesn’t match the infotainment system’s quality either. The analogue speedo and rev counter don’t look retro-cool like they do in something from Porsche, they just look dated, and the small digital panel is low-res and clunky.


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2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo practicality and boot space 

 

The Ghibli Trofeo lets itself down when it comes to interior space. The front of the cabin feels bright and airy, and the front seats both have an excellent range of movement, but the back seats are tiny.


Unlike its rivals the Trofeo will not seat three people on the rear bench comfortably, and even two tall adults will be hitching their knees up, especially if those in the front are also tall. Headroom is okay, but it seems redundant when anyone over six feet tall will be digging their knees into the back of the plush leather front seats.


Storage space isn’t exactly amazing either, the door bins are smaller than those on the M5. There is a large storage cubby in between the driver and front passenger which helps, as well as four cup holders. 


The Trofeo also has the smallest boot when compared against the Mercedes and BMW, although at 500-litres it’s still a useful size and will swallow plenty of baggage. 

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2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo engine


Again, of the three cars we are comparing in this review the Maserati has the least powerful engine, but remember it’s all relative - producing 580hp and 730Nm of torque it’s still a beast.


Nothing beats that V8 sound - although it’s a little muted in the cabin due to the double-glazed windows - and there are certainly bragging rights to be had from the fact Ferrari played a part in the engine’s development. But while it’s the same unit found in cars like the Ferrari Portofino, Maserati has done a lot to give it a character unique to its car. 


The figures that count: 0-62mph in 4.3-seconds and a top speed of 203mph. Yikes. 


During our time with the Trofeo we were averaging 16mpg, but we did manage 25mpg by driving it like we had a crate of Fabergé eggs on the back seat. The I.C.E mode – which stands for Increased Control and Efficiency – knocks back the throttle map and helps with fuel economy. With this activated it will cruise at 1,500rpm at 70mph. 


The engine is incredibly muscular, with dollops of torque making slower driving around town so easy. When called upon it releases its power smoothly and linearly, the forced induction is less noticeable than it is in the Germans. Believe us, it’s plenty fast enough. 


The Trofeo’s sweet V8 is mated to a slicker-than-slick eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox which has been tuned for the Trofeo’s demands perfectly. The shifts are almost imperceptible and it’s never found on the wrong cog. 

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo driving


On the road the Ghibli Trofeo is far from perfect, but there’s still a lot to love about it. As we say, that engine is strong and the auto’ ‘box is equally impressive. Sport mode is the sweet spot for fast road riving, the dampers firm up and throttle map sharpens. Shifting via the large carbon fibre paddles on the steering wheel feels crisp and rewarding. 


Huge Brembo brakes offer plenty of feel and, when asked to, bite like a rottweiler. Around town the Maserati feels better mannered than the Mercedes or BMW, less ready to rip your arms off, and even on the 21-inch wheels it does a decent job of absorbing the bumpy stuff. 


Corsa Mode – Italian for race – unshackles everything and turns the stability control off. This mode is for track or private land only, with all the power sent to the back wheels the Trofeo is ready to spin like a washing machine. If drifty doughnuts are your thing, you’ll be very happy indeed. You can easily get the back end loose in Normal and Sport mode too. 


Even though the Trofeo is more than happy to oversteer it feels predictable. It is easier to push into an understeer situation than the Germans but, again, you can very obviously feel the grip reaching its limit before it happens. That said, it’s definitely not as sure-footed in fast corners as the Mercedes and BMW, especially the BMW. 


Speaking of fast corners, there’s more than a hint of body roll from the Trofeo, something you simply don’t get from its rivals.  


The steering is also a big disappointment, it does not turn quick enough for a performance car, and it’s numb and baggy off the centre. Once hustling there is some feel to it, but still not enough.


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Nick Francis

02 Sep 2021