Maserati's V8 gets one last hurrah in the Ghibli saloon.

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We can expect a lot more cars like the Maserati Ghibli 334 Ultima across the next decade.

Farewell special editions that wave goodbye to powertrains being mercilessly guillotined by the robust electrification strategies most European carmakers have laid down. Which is the unabridged way to say you’re looking at the last V8 Maserati.

And the last Ghibli, at least for now. It’s a whole decade since the badge appeared for a third time to launch Maserati’s first genuine crack at the mainstream. Prices started below fifty grand and there was even a diesel, but the car didn’t truly fulfil either of its briefs – here was a less exciting flavour of Maserati that still trailed its rivals at the sensible stuff.

Still, we’ll never complain about esoteric alternatives being injected into straightlaced sectors – and it at least elevated the brand’s sales figures out of obscurity and prepared us for the advent of Trident-badged SUVs.

It took until the model’s sunset years for more than six cylinders to find their way under the engine bay, tough, the recent Ghibli Trofeo acquiring a rather special 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that’s essentially a cross-plane cranked, wet-sumped and shorter-stroked version of Ferrari’s ‘F154’ engine, used in an abundance of cars including the heavy-hitting Ferrari 488 Pista.

It's not hiding beneath a party-pooping plastic cover, either, Maserati giving full billing to its eye-catching crackle-finish. The ‘334’ in its name has nothing to do with the engine though, oddly, but rather its top speed in km/h, one single unit over a Bentley Flying Spur Speed and enough to crown it ‘world’s fastest four-door’ – at least outside the stable doors of Brabus.

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Its princely 207mph peak is 5mph up on standard and achieved chiefly through a new tyre compound, a subtle carbon rear spoiler and around 20kg of weight savings (albeit not officially homologated); its new 21in wheels are lighter while some of the ADAS safety equipment has gone AWOL and the glovebox is now manual rather than electric. We imagine you’ll cope.


`maserati Ghibli 334 Ultima  eview 2023 06 interior

Outside the car is painted Blu Royale, a nod to a hue applied to Maserati’s first V8 (the 5000 GT of 1959) while inside there’s Terracotta leather and the requisite commemorative plaques and stitching to denote your one-of-103 special (another nod to the 5000 GT, this time its ‘Tipo 103’ internal code).

Analogue dials and long, metallic paddleshifters mark out a car whose arrow is aimed right at enthusiasts’ hearts, while the clumsy infotainment layout and ergonomically flawed gear selector lag with disappointing inevitability behind its broadly German (and much more modern) rival base.


`maserati Ghibli 334 Ultima  eview 2023 13 engine

Sadly, as the images suggest, we’ve not had the chance to verify the scintillating top speed nor comment on the one dynamic trait that’s new here because its more specialist rubber was naturally substituted with Pirelli SottoZero winters to help slither us about in the Italian Alps on much less of a knife-edge. It’s a fine chance to reappraise the Ghibli Trofeo, though – and just how capable a 572bhp, pure rear-drive saloon feels at the dawn of 2024.


`maserati Ghibli 334 Ultima  eview 2023 14 tracking

Yes, this is a car the world is leaving behind in numerous ways. While part of me wants to applaud its old-school, FR layout, a larger chunk of me respects why key alternatives have long since gone AWD, even Maserati’s own GranTurismo. If the car was more precise and predictable at its limit I’d be a greater advocate, but the snowy weather only exacerbates the vague reactions I’d previously experienced in a Trofeo on leafy spring roads back in Britain. I suspect dry, warm tarmac would reveal a smarter side to its handling than more inclement conditions appear to.

But don’t mistake that for a lack of entertainment, nor soul. Yes, soul – the word that’s surpassed parody when reviewing anything quick or potent made outside of Germany. But one single pull of those beguiling paddleshifters and your heart is warmed. I found myself keeping its adept eight-speed ZF transmission in manual mode, constantly interacting with its V8 to enjoy the uncommonly classy pops and burbles on the overrun at very sane speeds (and through frequent Alpine tunnels). It’s no firecracker and you won’t play tunes on it like you could the old NA 4.7-litre ‘F136’ of Maseratis old, but it’s still brimming with appeal and feels all the more mischievous when even the might of AMG has given in to hybridisation.


`maserati Ghibli 334 Ultima  eview 2023 24 static front

Nevertheless, my heart simply can’t overcome my head and implore you to rush out and grab one while you still can. Its relatively niche references and somewhat stratospheric price – over £100k more than an entry-level Ghibli of ten years ago – suggest this is for the hardcore collectors only. With such a short production run, that shouldn’t prove an issue. For the rest of us craving a chest-thumping Italian sports saloon, however, an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is half the price and a more scintillating drive.

Stephen Dobie