Sure to get wind up rivals
The stylish and high-performance Ghibli S is a treat to drive at many levels, PETER BARNWELL writes
MASERATI is on the march from a rather obscure but sexysounding Ferrari second cousin to a genuine contender in the luxury sports sedan/coupe, roadster segments.
A couple of years ago they sold a few thousand Masers internationally. This year that will be more like 75,000, many from a new, purpose-built Italian factory.
It’s a huge increase mostly driven by Chinese and North American demand for the new Quattroporte big saloon car and, of course, an enhanced product range with more to come.
Now there’s another, more compact but equally appealing four-door “coupe” called the Ghibli priced from $138,900 for the diesel. The name harks back to the 1967 and unfortunately, despite the romantic sound, means “hot wind”.
Ghibli targets a younger audience than the larger Quattroporte and is a sportier thing to drive and to look at as well as being more affordable.
The Ghibli range will eventually extend to about half a dozen vehicles including a V8 version or two but for now, it’s three cars, the Ghibli and Ghibli S twin-turbo petrol 3.0-litre V6s and the Ghibli 3.0-litre turbo diesel. Both petrols are from Ferrari, the diesel is from VM Motori in Europe.
All look pretty much the same, apart from wheel sizes that range from 18-21-inch diameter.
Characteristic Maserati design details dominate the Ghibli’s looks – the vertical tooth grille with large trident badge, the diamond shape side vents, the long bonnet, short tail, the sharp character lines and the angry looking headlights. The windows are frameless and the door to window glass ratio is 2:1.
Though it uses numerous “exotic’’ materials in its unusual chassis and body structure as well as welding, bonding, bolting and riveting fixing systems, the Ghibli still tips the scales at a substantial 1850kg or thereabouts. It scores a five-star crash rating with all that delivers.
The Ghibli is pitched more as a GT-style car rather than a sports sedan.
In other words, more capable on the interstate freeway or winding mountain road than on the track.
The drive car was a $169,900 Ghibli S – the higher output petrol V6 with a twin-turbo installation and direct fuel injection along with variable cam timing and other engine technology designed to optimise performance without denting fuel economy too much. It’s good for 301kW/550Nm output while sipping fuel at around 10.0 litres/100km
Power goes to the rear wheels through a ZF eightspeed auto with paddle shift and multiple, driver select modes, then a limited slip diff.
Maserati offers the Ghibli with generous specification but an extensive range of “personalisation’’ options and feature choices allows the car to be virtually custom built – with a three-month lead time.
The Ghibli sounds nearly as good as the V8 Masers thanks to careful attention to the exhaust and an active sound system.
On the road the Ghibli S is a treat to drive at many levels. The hydraulic steering is precise, well weighted and responsive but with a largish turning circle.
The multi-piston Brembo brakes bite large diameter discs without wilting under pressure and the huge section tyres grip the road wet or dry. It has a 50:50 weight distribution and corners like a sports sedan, though the suspension is a touch too soft for Aussie back roads. Adaptive “Sky hook’’ suspension should fix that.
The Ghibli S has plenty of kick and puts away a 0-100kmh sprint in 5.0 seconds neat, the lower spec car takes 5.6 and the diesel about 6.3 but on the upside of that is the diesel’s fuel economy rated at 5.9litres/100km.
The interior is Italian plush with beautifully crafted seats and interior fascia, stylish dials and easy to use controls, including a large touch screen in the middle. The audio is by Bowers and Wilkins.
Some driver assist technology is provided but not as much as some of the other high end Euro mid size sedans.
Stupendous and stylish, heaps of performance and luxury. Could give heartburn to the likes of Benz CLS and EClass, Audi A6/7 and BMW 5Series. The V8 should be awesome. Four stars out of five.