From exclusively building race cars to stunning coupes and crazy supercars.
Maserati is making big moves right now. The Italian brand has launched the smaller Maserati Grecale crossover to go up against the Porsche Macan to make money in a volume segment while still keeping its aspirational ambitions alive with the MC20 and MC20 Cielo supercar twins. Trying to break its reputation for unreliable cars, it's launched a new ten-year warranty. And it's preparing itself for an all-electric future with the forthcoming GranTurismo Folgore.
If you thought all that was bold, it's simultaneously trying to reinforce its brand cachet as a premium brand a cut above the likes of Porsche.
It has been a long journey from the brand's founding by Alfieri Maserati at the end of 1914. But that wasn't when Maserati started building cars. No, that came about when Diatto - a race car manufacturer for whom Alfieri, Bindo, and Ernesto Maserati worked - suspended production in 1926. The Maserati brothers quickly made the switch to building their own cars, winning the 1926 Targa Florio right out of the gate. That set the tone for a winning future, both on the race track and the road. It's the latter we'll focus on here, though, as we've cherry-picked some of the finest Maseratis to have graced the road.
Maserati opened its road car ledger in 1947 with the A6 1500 grand tourer. It debuted with a body by Pinin Farina as a two-seater coupe but later became a 2+2 fastback.
Maserati developed the A6GCS/53 chassis to race in the World Sportscar Championship, and the 52 built featured various body types. The story goes that after torrential downpours plagued the 1952 Mille Miglia, customers demanded a closed-top version, or berlinetta. Having just signed a famous deal with Ferrari, legendary design house Pinin Farina could not take on Maserati as a client, so instead, a Rome-based Maserati dealer named Guglielmo 'Mimmo' Dei bought six chassis and contracted Pinin Farina privately to design the bodies. Aldo Brovarone penned the final design of the A6GCS/53 Berlinetta, with four being produced, one of which was showcased at the 1954 Turin Motor Show - much to Ferrari's chagrin. The result is that Maseratis didn't feature Pinin Farina design for another five decades.
Those cars aren't just beautiful, though, as the A6GCS/53 is also loud, fast, exciting to drive, and one of the seminal sports cars of its era.
In 1957, Maserati started building more regular series production cars with the 3500GT. Available as a two-door coupe or convertible, the 3500 GT used Maserati's latest 3.5-liter straight-six engine from the Maserati 350S endurance race car. The bodywork was by Milan-based Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera. At the same time, Maserati adapted the engine for GT use by replacing the wet-sump system and switching to accessories more readily available off the shelf. The standard car made 220 horsepower and topped out at 134 mph, but there was more to come.
The 3500GTI - the first recorded use of the GTI nomenclature (suck it, Golf fanboys) slapped on Lucas mechanical fuel injection in place of triple Weber carburetors, cranking up the power to 235 hp and the top speed to 137 mph.
The Maserati 3500GT was an excellent car, but after a test drive, the then Shah of Persia, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, wanted more power. He asked Maserati's chief engineer, Giulio Alfieri, to put the Maserati 450S race car's 4.9-liter V8 engine in the 3500GT's chassis and offered to fund the development. One of the few modifications to the engine was increasing the displacement to 4.94 liters (although it's commonly and incorrectly rounded up to 5.0 liters). It made up to 340 hp when equipped with Lucas ignition, although lesser variants made 325 hp. 34 were built between 1959 and 1965, and not all of them looked the same. That's because the bodies were supplied by no fewer than eight coachbuilders of the era, including greats like Touring, Pinin Farina, Ghia, Bertone, Vignale, and more.
Maserati has named three different cars Ghibli, after the hot, dry south-westerly wind across the Libyan desert. The original is a 2+2 coupe with bodywork by the then-upcoming designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and powered by a 4.7-liter dry sump, quad-cam V8 engine making 330 hp and attached to a five-speed transmission. Maserati put the car into the world in direct competition with the fellow Italian Ferrari Daytona, Lamborghini Islero, and the British Aston Martin DBS. It ran from 1967 to 1973 and production later included a 4.9-liter version of the engine making around 335 hp in Ghibli SS models. A total of 1,170 coupes left the factory and 125 Spyders.
Maserati doesn't have a habit of pushing the design envelope and often followed rather than led, but it got in on the mid-engine supercar game early with the Bora. At the time, in 1971, Maserati was owned by Citroen. Maserati used Giugiaro again for the bodywork, but now via his new studio Italdesign. The 4.7- and 4.9-liter V8 engines were carried over from the Ghibli, but the Bora used pneumatic brakes and hydraulically-adjusted seats via Citroen and was the first Maserati with four-wheel independent suspension. Capable of 177 mph top speed, the Bora was ahead of its time in performance, engineering, and style but also arrived at the wrong time. Only 524 were built, as the mid-1970s oil crisis did sales no favors.
Maserati followed up the Bora with the more affordable V6-powered Merak, which used the space created by a smaller engine to add two cramped rear seats.
People may object to the Biturbo making this list, but it's worth noting that Maserati was making coupes and sedans with a twin-turbo V6 before it was cool. It's also an essential part of Maserati's past that informs the present. It came from when Alejandro de Tomaso owned Maserati, and the company stopped making mid-engine sports cars. It was a move downmarket and a bid for survival. That bid resulted in a traditionally built car that used the Maserati name to sell it in relatively large numbers for the brand. From 1982 up until the start of the 1990s, every Maserati car was built upon the Biturbo's platform; unfortunately, it was also the start of the Maserati reputation for poor quality and reliability. Things got so bad that Time magazine chose the Biturbo as the worst car of 1984.
The V6 ranged from 2.0 liters and 180 hp to 2.8 liters and 279 hp in various iterations, laying down a benchmark for a future of V6 models from the brand.
Remember that time Maserati built a better Ferrari halo than Ferrari? That was the MC12.
Fiat already had a hand in the dumpster fire that was Maserati as a business but bought the rest in 1993. In 1997, Fiat sold fifty percent of Maserati to Ferrari. There were some decent cars out of the era, but the MC12 is a Ferrari Enzo-derived supercar that looks (and arguably drives) better than a Ferrari Enzo. It was built so Maserati could go racing in the FIA GT Championship, with enough built for the road for homologation. As would become a habit for the relationship between Ferrari and Maserati, the MC12 wasn't as quick off the line or as fast in a straight one as the Ferrari, but it was visually stunning, and the 6.0-liter F140 V12's voice is operatic. Only 50 were built in total, making it rarer than the Enzo's 400 units.
The Quattroporte has been a horse in Maserati's stable since 1963, and every version has been faithful to the name. Quattroporte means "four doors" in Italian, and that's what you get, along with about as much power as you want. The current iteration is a large executive-style sedan powered by either a twin-turbo V6 or a Ferrari-derived 3.8-liter V8 that makes a soul-stirring 580 hp in the Trofeo version. We recommend the softer 523 hp model, though, as it sits in the sweet spot of bananas performance and executive comfort. The next-gen Quattroporte (VI) will shrink to occupy the space being left by the soon-to-be-culled Ghibli.
Featuring an all-new in-house designed engine, the MC20 is Maserati's most important and best-looking car in years. This isn't a rebadged Ferrari like the MC12, but a bespoke supercar with the first non-Ferrari engine in years. It has a strong power-to-weight ratio, refined aerodynamics, state-of-the-art suspension tuning, and a luxurious interior.
The engine is called Nettuno (or Neptune), and it's a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces a total of 621 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque that sits midship in the new composite monocoque chassis. Maserati wanted V8 power but without the weight of two extra cylinders and tapped into Formula 1 race car technology for the first commercial use of a pre-chamber ignition system, also known as Turbulent Jet Ignition (TJI). For Maserati customers wanting a roof-down experience, there is the new MC20 Cielo.