Maserati’s freshest ride breezes in
Named after a hot, dry, Libyan desert wind, the sports-luxury Ghibli sedan is all part of Maserati’s grand plan to make annual sales of more than 50,000 units by the end of 2015, writes Dave Moore.
It’s pronounced with a hard ‘‘G’’ by the way, and though the name Ghibli has appeared on previous Maseratis – a long V8 coupe in the 60s and a square-set four-seater in the 80s – the 2014 car is the one that will be from now on associated with the breezy title.
The Ghibli is designed in its latest form to offer an Italian alternative to BMW’s 5 Series, the Audi A6 and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, not forgetting the Jaguar XF and Lexus GS models.
Based on a shortened version of the latest Quattroporte platform, the Ghibli looks very like its larger sibling – aimed at the segment above – with a curvy, almost voluptuous waistline, cropped teardrop-shaped glass house and Maserati’s now familiar frontal treatment, with the open angelic grin and the lidded 1000 yard gaze of a gunslinger.
It looks its best on 21 inch rims, but it never looks undershod even on 18-inch items. Altogether there are six wheel styles in 18, 19, 20 and 21 inch sizes – plenty of choice.
As well as having styling that only really the Jaguar can compete with in this segment, the Ghibli arms itself with a variety of powertrains, with V6 3.0-litre twin turbocharged petrol engines offering 243kW in the Ghibli and 301kW in the Ghibli ‘‘S’’ and Maserati’s first diesel, a similarlysized six derived from those used by Chrysler and Jeep with 202kW on tap. An eight-speed paddleshift auto is standard across the range. The more powerful version of the petrol V6 is also fitted to the Ghibli S Q4 which features all-wheel-drive. This model is still some time away for New Zealand.
Pricewise, the Ghibli sits at least $65,000 underneath the new Quattroporte in the Maserati line-up, its starting sticker of $129,990 giving the Marque a compelling new entry-point which not so long ago was well beyond $200,000. Suddenly you can see where all those extra sales are expected to come from.
The bean-counters and marketing specialists at Maserati say they have researched what elements are required in the segment. We can already tick the box for styling. How does it score elsewhere?
There are more soft textures on the inside of the Ghibli than the Quattroporte and it does look and feel like the sportier of the two cars, with five gorgeous leather trim choices which include swatches for the dash-top, wheel-rim and seatbelts. The centre console can be had in piano black finish or textured natural wood and carbon fibre if that’s your bag.
Up front, the the seating is superb and the driving position one of the nicest places to be this side of a first-class airline seat. The airconditioned glove box, big door pockets, a centre console storage bin, two cup-holders, plus USB and 12V sockets as well as the 60/40 split rear seats make the car a flexible place to travel too.
Maserati has left nothing out of the Ghibli package. The Ghibli has entered this sports premium market with a Maserati Touch Control screen, reversing camera, Poltrona Frau leather interior and a 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system should you ever grow tired of the sound of its gorgeous V6, as well as WLAN-based WiFi and compatibility with most modern mobile phone systems.
While there’s not quite as much rear leg-room as the longer Quattroporte, the Ghibli feels at least as roomy as the previous model Quattroporte. In the rear, the outer seats are very shapely and tend to relegate the centre perch into an ’if you must’ prospect for a fifth passenger.
The switchgear feels a little hard to the touch as some of them come from Chrysler/Jeep but centre rear seat aside we’d give the new car an above average pass in the cabin, helped by an excellent score for the boot, which can swallow half a cubic metre of luggage.
On the driving front, the Ghibli is a much more sporting choice than its posher range-mate.
Crisply geared steering makes the Ghibli respond eagerly to driver input and its well-sorted 50:50 weight distribution means that it feels satisfyingly balanced and poised from turn-in, through a bend’s apex and into the exit point. The whole car feels directly linked to the driver and its levels of grip are reassuring, with plenty of feel in the viable-speed steering to help bring things back into line, should the tail start to move out, though this will only happen if you fiddle with the switchable stability control.
Ride quality is always an important consideration when looking at the New Zealand market and it has to be said that the Ghibli does fidget on less than perfect surfaces at lower speeds. On the open road it all changes and it’s quiet and smooth except when traversing expansion gaps though it does transmit bumps and surface changes.Compared with Maserat’s longer-wheelbased Quattroporte flagship, it’s a little too firm to double up as a limousine, but with handling and communication like this, few will care.
I guess it’s the trade-off you have to make when entering the sporting edge required in the modern executive market.
The petrol-fuelled Maseratis tick all the boxes for this segment. The Ghibli’s V6 is built by Ferrart with twin-turbochargers and even in less powerful non S form, the unit offers crisp, quick-acting throttle response and an almost orchestral baritone exhaust note from the four stubby outlets under the rear splitter.
Looking at the power and torque figures and acceleration figures (see the adjacent panel) there doesn’t appear to be a slow Ghibli in the line-up.As it is, the basic petrol Ghibli still dispatches the zero to ‘‘sorry, officer’’ sprint in 5.6 seconds.
With eight speeds shuffling the power and torque, any level of acceleration is seamless and ultra-smooth, but when in sport mode it thumps through the shifts just a touch harshly.
Squeezing-off shifts with the ZF system is fun enough on the open road, but moving between R N and D for parking purposes is tricky, requiring the use of a trigger button on the lever to do so. It’s not as intuitive as most.
Euro NCAP has already awarded the Ghibli a five-star crash test rating.
As you’d expect with seven airbags, antiwhiplash headrests and the use of high strength steels in the car’s crash zones. However, so communicative is the car and so replete with stability aids and hearbeat-quick brakes that the driver probably feels equally safe in the knowledge that the Ghibli would be more likely than most to help the user to avoid loss of control in the first place.
I had to ask twice about this beautiful car’s pricing when I picked it up last week.
Truth be known it looks no less gorgeous than the bigger and at least $65,000 more expensive Quattroporte, and sounds and drives like the thoroughbred it is and on the way to becoming the Maserati cash-cow, I can imagine a lot of German trade-ins on the way as the Ghibli starts to blow hard and hot in the marketplace.
Ghibli style: Junior Quattroporte looks every bit as gorgeous as its larger sibling. Our test car rode on 19-inch rims.