New Maserati Ghibli 334 Ultima 2024 review: a super-fast BMW M5 rival
The 334 Ultima is the fastest road-going Maserati ever produced, and only 103 will be made
Our rating here comes with the large caveat that the 334 Ultima we drove rode on winter tyres and therefore missed out on the performance rubber that is one of the key upgrades of this limited run car, but the chassis and engine combination makes the ultimate Ghibli a super saloon with a distinct character of its own. It’s rare and expensive, but if a BMW M5 feels a little too hardcore and looks too flashy, then this is a compelling alternative.
Three hundred and thirty four kilometres an hour. That translates to 208mph, and marks the official top speed of the Maserati Ghibli 334 Ultima.
Another way to look at that number is that it means this is the fastest road car Maserati has ever produced; faster even than the marque’s stunning modern day supercar, the 202mph MC20. Even the Ferrari Enzo-based MC12 from 2004 boasted an official top speed of ‘only’ 205mph.
The 334 has been produced for a rather poignant reason though, because it marks the end of Maserati V8 production cars, but those headline numbers certainly mean that the 334 is going out with a bang.
It’s based on the Ghibli Trofeo, which means under the bonnet there’s a twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre 90 degree V8. It’s very closely related to the unit used by the likes of the Ferrari Roma and SF90, though Maserati reengineered it to use a cross-plane crank in place of the flat-planed Ferraris – a move which trades a little top end power for more low-down torque.
The result is 564bhp and 730Nm – figures that compare pretty favourably against another V8 super saloon, the 616bhp/750Nm BMW M5 Competition. At 1969kg, it still has plenty of mass to move around, though.
Unlike the BMW, the 334 is rear-wheel drive only, but it’s still no slouch. Beyond that 208mph top speed, the 334 will also crack the 0-62mph dash in just 3.9 seconds.
But with power and weight identical to the Ghibli Trofeo, you might be wondering where a 5mph boost in top speed and 0.4-second drop in 0-62mph time has come from. Maserati says that there are three key areas. The main improvement comes through a new compound of Pirelli tires wrapped around 21-inch wheels. Subtle aerodynamic changes play a part too, with a carbon fibre front splitter and lip spoiler helping the air to flow more efficiently over the Ghibli’s body at speed.
While the homologated weight matches the Trofeo, the 334 Ultima also gets a few subtle weight saving measures; the new wheel and tyre combination and a lighter rear seat bench, among other tiny tweaks, contribute to a 20-25kg diet.
Elsewhere, the 334 gets some unique cosmetic details, the most striking of which is the oily-coloured Persian Blue paint, which looks stunning set off against the gunmetal finish of the wheels and bright red 334 decals.
Inside, the cabin is trimmed in a mix of ‘pale terracotta’ leather and black Alcantara, while a numbered plaque sits on the carbon fibre centre console. The in-car tech and general level of finish aren’t up to the standards of an M5, but that upholstery colour combination, plus details like the fantastic metal gearshift paddles for the eight-speed automatic gearbox, make it feel more special than the BMW.
Unfortunately, our drive in the Italian Alps didn’t give us an opportunity to assess how special the driving experience could be, because the snowy conditions of our test drive necessitated the use of winter tyres, therefore missing out on the 334’s key upgrade over the Trofeo.
What we could glean from the experience is, unsurprisingly, quite similar to the Trofeo. Beside an M5, it trades some intensity and firmness for a more relaxing, refined and laid-back attitude. The ride is impressively compliant, especially if you switch the adaptive dampers into their more forgiving setting, which can be selected independently of the engine and drivetrain modes.
What little opportunity that we found to try the 334 on smooth, dry asphalt reveals a car that offers promise for the keen driver. The steering has a natural weight and isn’t as hyperactive as other super saloons. While the ultimate levels of aggression and grip means that it would struggle to keep up with an M5 on a challenging road – particularly in the conditions of our drive – its sweetly balanced chassis makes the Ghibli ideally suited for driving at seven or eight tenths.
That engine is the clear highlight, though. Like the rest of the Ghibli experience, its focus is on class rather than flashiness. There are no silly pops or bangs from the exhaust, only a deep burble at idle that is overtaken by a rich muscle-car growl as you venture towards the red line. It sounds fantastic without being fake; loud without being obnoxious.
Rarity is guaranteed with the 334. Just 103 units will be made; a nod to Maserati’s first ever V8 model, the 5000 GT, which was known internally during development as ‘Tipo 103’. That goes some way to justifying the rather steep asking price of £159,625.
|Maserati Ghibli 334 Ultima
|3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo
|Eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive