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.

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS -

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.

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