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2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo adds substance to style

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2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

Maseratis seem to put form over function, so I haven’t understood their appeal. But the 2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo adds some substance to back up its flash, and I had the feeling it would worm its way into my heart.

The Trofeo (trophy) models are the fastest, baddest, and most expensive models in the Maserati lineup, and this year the Ghibli and Quattroporte get their own versions with the same engine found in the Levante Trofeo: a 580-hp, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 making 538 lb-ft of torque. That’s exciting because the Ghibli is the smallest and lightest Maserati, so it can make the best use of that prodigious power.

For a high-performance variant, styling is rather subdued. The Ghibli Trofeo has a small Trofeo badge on each fender, small bits of color for accents (such as the green/white/red Italian trim on the B-pillar), and functional hood vents. The easiest way to pick it out might be the noise from the V-8 as the car sprints away.

I was introduced to the Ghibli Trofeo at one of my favorite places: Willow Springs Raceway in the high California desert. An afternoon complete with a series of hard launches, a slalom course, and laps around the big track were enough to paint a pretty complete picture of the Ghibli Trofeo’s performance potential, which is considerable.

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

Easy power, easy speed

Maserati designed the Trofeo engine, but it’s built and assembled by Ferrari at its factory in Maranello, Italy, since Maserati does not have an engine manufacturing plant (though that looks to be changing soon for the MC20). It’s mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. 

Many of the Ghibli Trofeo’s contemporaries, such as the BMW M5 and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, opt for all-wheel drive systems that can put down power more cleanly. I like Maserati’s choice to go exclusively with rear-wheel drive. While it does sacrifice some off-the-line speed (that’s why the larger and heavier Levante Trofeo is faster from 0-60 mph), I absolutely love the throwback feel of these rear-drive machines. Aim for an early apex to let the engine wind out on corner exit, and the Ghibli Trofeo is at its finest.

The powertrain delivers its power quickly and smoothly. On the track, it was easy to modulate the throttle to get the exact amount of push I was looking for, which is especially important on Willow Springs’ ample supply of long, high-speed sweepers that require you to carry just the right amount of speed. Too much power or an uneven application of the throttle and it’s easy to find the gravel.

The electronically adaptive suspension also worked hard at each corner to maintain balance, which inspired confidence. These systems can sometimes overly numb the driving experience, but this one retained enough feel and rigidity that I felt in tune with the car.

The slalom course did make me wish for some added sharpness in the steering. The nose lacks the immediate turn-in response you find in cars such as the Giulia Quadrifoglio or BMW M2 Competition. But beyond that, it was hard to find fault from a performance perspective. Turns out that a solid suspension and 580 hp is a simple recipe for a good time.

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

Ready for launch

Another addition for 2021 is a Corsa (race) driving mode that includes launch control. It’s one of the easiest to use launch control systems I’ve encountered as these systems can sometimes require menus and submenus galore. While the car is in Corsa, simply pull back on the left shift paddle twice, step on the brake until an indicator registers enough braking force, and floor the accelerator. Release the brake pedal, the tires give a slight squawk, and mayhem is unleashed. The Ghibli Trofeo will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds, though the suddenness with which it unleashes its power makes it feel even quicker than that from the driver’s seat.

Lifting off the throttle or the brake prematurely shuts off the launch control system and the tires spin in 1st, 2nd, and perhaps even 3rd gears. Corsa turns off all of the car’s electric nannies completely. This mode should only be used on the track and and by those who really know what they are doing behind the wheel; even during our hot laps, I left the car in Sport mode with the suspension fully stiffened and the traction control and stability control engaged, though with looser settings, in the name of safety. 

I do wish, however, that Maserati would add a customizable driving mode, which could let drivers choose Corsa’s transmission, steering, and suspension settings but keep the ESC and traction control active. That would be my goldilocks setting for the track or the right twisty road.

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

An interior to match

The front seats left me wishing for some extra bolstering on the track. They are quite comfortable, though, and they would help make the Ghibli Trofeo an able, though thirsty, daily driver. The fuel economy numbers are a low at 13 mpg city, 20 highway, and 16 combined mpg. 

Otherwise, the Ghibli Trofeo has a high end interior that befits its price, with soft leather in almost every crevice. An available interior carbon-fiber package adds giant column-mounted paddle shifters and door sills made of carbon fiber, which join a center console that’s already mostly made of the light stuff. The steering wheel feels a smidge too large for my taste, but it didn’t get in the way while driving on the track. However, for taller drivers, head room can be tight while wearing a helmet.

With a standard 10.1-inch touchscreen that replaces the old 8.4-inch unit, the infotainment system is quite easy to use, a benefit of Maserati’s relationship with the former FCA. The system’s processing power, memory, and resolution have all improved this year. The Android based operating system is extremely fast and it never got bogged down. Even switching between Android Auto and the native system was instantaneous—something I haven’t seen before. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility are also standard now, as are over-the-air updates for the system and a wireless charging pad tucked up under the climate controls.

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

2021 Maserati Ghibli Trofeo

I finally get it

The 2021 Ghibli Trofeo starts at $111,385 (including a $1,495 destination charge), and my test vehicle checked in at $117,485. That’s a hefty price for the car to justify, but after an afternoon with it and a quick jaunt in a Ghibli SQ4 to do a deeper dive into the multimedia system, it felt worth the money—as much as a six-figure car can.

The Ghibli Trofeo’s styling, performance, well-integrated technology, and playful attitude left me rather smitten. It nimbly skirts the line between luxury and performance, conflicting parts of its nature somehow existing in appealing harmony. I don’t back down from my previous feelings about Maserati, but I’m glad that this car changed my mind.

Maserati provided a day at the track in the Ghibli Trofeo for Internet Brands Automotive to bring you this firsthand report.

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VW marks Golf GTI’s 45th birthday with 296-hp special edition

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2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 45

It was in 1976 that the first Volkswagen Golf GTI went on sale, and now VW is celebrating the 45th anniversary of the nameplate with a special-edition model based on the latest eighth-generation GTI.

The new GTI still isn’t on sale in the United States; it arrives here in the second half of the year as a 2022 model. However, it’s been available elsewhere for the past year and in some markets is offered in high-performance Clubsport guise.

It’s this Clubsport version that forms the basis of the special anniversary model known as the Golf GTI Clubsport 45. VW started accepting reservations for the special model in select markets in Europe on March 1 and has priced it at 47,790 euros (approximately $57,250).

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 45

Special touches include a black roof and spoiler as a nod to the black-framed rear window of the first GTI. The 19-inch wheels, which are normally part of the GTI’s available Race package, also feature red accents. A number of “45” markings are also found around the exterior. More “45” markings are found inside, together with the same GTI logo used on the original car.

While the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 powering the regular GTI makes 242 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, the same engine in the Clubsport, including this Clubsport 45, is dishing out 296 hp and 295 lb-ft. Power is to the front wheels only, via a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. That isn’t the case with the regular GTI which is offered with a 6-speed manual as an alternative to the DCT.

The last GTI Clubsport wasn’t launched in the United States and the same is likely true for the new generation, which means there’s little chance of the Clubsport 45 special edition making it over. Local buyers looking for a spicier GTI will have to opt for the new Golf R. It also arrives here this year and packs as much as 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.

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Fire up of the Bitcoin mine, there’s a McLaren F1 for sale

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1995 McLaren F1 (Photo by Issimi)

With just 64 road cars built, it’s not every day that a McLaren F1 comes up for sale. If you have a few million bucks stashed away, though, one is now available through collector-car broker Issimi.

First spotted by GTspirit on Tuesday, this 1995 McLaren F1 is currently located in the U.S., and was originally sold here when new, according to the ad. It’s had two owners and a “well-documented history,” the ad copy says, but no other details were given. The ad doesn’t list mileage, but says the F1 “has covered enough mileage to be usable,” implying the new owner shouldn’t feel guilty about adding more mileage.

Admittedly, you can’t be picky when it comes to buying an F1. With a BMW-sourced 6.1-liter V-12, a central driving position, and an emphasis on lightness, it’s still considered one of the world’s greatest driver’s cars two decades after its debut. The F1 also has an impressive resumé, holding the title of world’s fastest production car when new, and winning the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans. Prices reflect that.

1995 McLaren F1 (Photo by Issimi)

The car shown here is the standard road-going version, but McLaren developed additional variants once it decided to take the F1 racing (something designer Gordon Murray never intended). The racing version that won Le Mans was the GTR, and it was followed by a commemorative LM road car, then the GTR Longtail racer, which was designed to keep the F1 competitive against newer machinery.

The F1 remains so iconic that both McLaren and Murray have designed successors. McLaren’s effort is the Speedtail, which keeps the F1’s central driving position, but packs a 1,055-horsepower hybrid powertrain, and aims to be more of a grand tourer than its predecessor.

Murray has launched the T.50, which emphasizes the driving experience with a manual transmission and naturally aspirated V-12 that can rev to a 12,100 rpm. A more hardcore T.50s version bears the name of three-time Formula One champion Niki Lauda.

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2022 Kia Stinger coming with new look, engines

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2022 Kia Stinger (Korean spec)

Kia made quite the splash when it pulled the wraps off the Stinger a few years back. The shapely sport sedan offers coupe-like lines, a choice of turbocharged engines, and the choice of rear- or all-wheel drive—and Kia has more in store for the Stinger very soon.

Kia last summer unveiled an updated Stinger in its home market of Korea. Originally thought to be arriving in the United States for the 2021 model year, Cars Direct has learned from order guides that the updated Stinger will arrive here as a 2022 model. Exact timing hasn’t been announced but an arrival at dealerships later this year is likely.

The order guides point to a starting price of $37,135, including destination. That’s up $3,000 on the 2021 model’s starting price, making the Stinger similar in price to the related Genesis G70 sedan, though the G70’s price may soon move upward, too, as an updated version is also in the way, likely for the 2022 model year.

2022 Kia Stinger (Korean spec)

For the updated Stinger, buyers can look forward to subtle changes to both the exterior and interior. From the Korean-market model, we know the internals of the lights are new at both ends and feature more LED detailing than before. For example, the taillights’ integrated turn signals consist of 10 individual LEDs arranged in a grid pattern to mimic a checkered flag.

For the interior, there are better quality materials, new color options, and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen. The infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as voice activation for common functions. A 7.0-inch screen is available for the instrument cluster. A 4.2-inch unit is standard.

The big news is the addition of a new 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 good for 300 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. It is expected to replace the current model’s 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 in our market.

2022 Kia Stinger (Korean spec)

2022 Kia Stinger (Korean spec)

Above this will be the familiar 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, though with a new rating of 368 hp and 376 lb-ft versus the 365-hp and 376-lb-ft rating. That extra 3 hp is courtesy of an adjustable exhaust valve that can make the exhaust louder on demand.

The sole transmission will remain an 8-speed automatic and buyers will continue to have the choice of rear- or all-wheel drive.

Buyers in some markets are also able to add diamond quilted nappa leather seats, plus a black pack that adds black accents on the side mirrors and fender vents, as well as a set of matte black 19-inch wheels and a trunk lid rear wing.

2022 Kia Stinger (Korean spec)

2022 Kia Stinger (Korean spec)

Detailed specification for the U.S. will be announced closer to the market launch.

Kia’s last update for the Stinger was the introduction of the Stinger GTS for 2020. The more track-focused model featured both software and hardware upgrades to help it slice through corners better.

For more on the Kia Stinger, read the in-depth reviews at The Car Connection.

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