The Maserati Karif was a two-door notchback coupe sports car available from 1988 to 1991. Matching the past Maserati naming convention of wind names, the Karif is based on a specific wind blowing southwest across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia. The model code is Tipo AM339.
Maserati Karif Exclusive Design
From the start, it was to be an extremely exclusive production vehicle with an estimated 250 units. The actual produced number ended up being only 221 units of the Maserati Karif, which made their way into the hands of true enthusiasts looking for a two-seater car that can handle demanding driving performances. It was designed by Pierangelo Andreani under the De Tomaso Maserati era. As with many car makers in the wake of the 70’s energy crisis, Maserati was still doing its best to balance the desire for a high-performance vehicle with real-world requirements to meet emissions regulations. It was favorable to use an overall lower engine displacement and attempt to gain fuel efficiency. Maserati leaned on their twin-turbo designs to accomplish this, something that they were the first to bring to the mass production car market in the Biturbo model, and for good reason. The twin-turbo system pushed out incredible performance figures from relatively small displacement engines, while also increasing fuel efficiency. It was simply the right way to get through the difficult time, although it did lead to some issues with reliability that Maserati has had to deal with. But there’s no mistaking the stunning plumbing that is under the hood of the beautiful Maserati twin-turbo designs. The Maserati Karif did not want to be seen as a compromising vehicle, but rather one that a select group of true enthusiasts would adore. Maserati itself claimed that it was “an exceptional road ‘animal’, an exciting driving experience, an invitation to feel like a racing driver agin or for the first time.”
Engine and Performance
The Karif featured a twin-turbo 2.8L V6 engine with 3 valves per cylinder and a single overhead camshaft. This was the same engine used in the 228 model. It produced 285 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and could go 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in just 4.8 seconds. The top speed is reported to be over 158 mph (255 km/h). Some reports indicate the the actual available power was closer to 248 horsepower. And in models produced with a catalytic converter, the power ratings suffered significantly. It decreased to 225 horsepower and a top speed of 143 mph (230 km/h). The notchback coupe roof was constructed on a shortened chassis from the biturbo Maserati Spyder model. The shortened wheelbase and reinforced sills led to increased cornering and handling, especially compared to the longer Biturbo. It weighed in at just 2,824 pounds (1,281 kg), making for a sporty ride that could rip through turns and blast down straights. The engine was paired with a 5-speed ZF dog-leg manual transmission and a limited-slip rear differential. Floating calipers and ventilated disks helped the Karif slow as well as it would accelerate.
Interior Design and Suspension
Unlike many other Maseratis which focused on providing comfortable ride for up to four passengers, the rear seats of the previous Spyder model on a similar chassis were removed in favor of extra luggage space and weight savings. Two small seats remained in the back, allowing it to be called a 2+2 seater, but they were more suitable for small children rather than adults. The interior dashboard is fulling lined in padded leather, while the hand-stitched leather seats and polished wood interior from the Biturbo were carried over in to the Karif. Utilizing the “Mecannica Attiva” suspension system, the Karif’s front wheels were designed to keep the front wheels square to the road surface and provide lower suspension and steering arms for greater stability while cornering.