Mo­tor­ing: A ma­chine meant to be driven

Like all highly-strung thor­ough­breds, the Maserati Ghi­bli GranS­port can be de­mure one mo­ment and ex­citable the next.

Finweek English Edition - - Contents - By Glenda Wil­liams

The Ghi­bli strad­dles two worlds. It’s pri­mar­ily a sports car. But as a five-seater, it has all the el­e­ments of a lux­ury fam­ily car.

there is some­thing to be said for play­ing loud mu­sic and en­sur­ing that the ex­haust voice adds to those notes – more so when you are a driv­ing an Ital­ian sports car. It am­pli­fies the sense of oc­ca­sion.

The Maserati Ghi­bli GranS­port’s throaty ex­haust snarl is in­te­gral to that sense of oc­ca­sion and the Ital­ian mar­que’s per­son­al­ity; an au­then­tic sound hark­ing back to Maserati’s rac­ing DNA.

Sport­ing Maserati’s fa­mous tri­dent badge and named af­ter a North African wind, the Ghi­bli was first un­veiled in 1966 at the Turin Mo­tor Show.

For its 2018 re­launch, the lux­ury Ital­ian five-seater sports sedan has un­der­gone sub­tle restyling, aban­doned hy­draulic as­sisted steer­ing for elec­tric power steer­ing, and in­tro­duced an ar­ray of new hi-tech fea­tures.

The high-pow­ered coupé-like sports car

shares its core ar­chi­tec­ture – chas­sis, sus­pen­sion lay­out, V6 en­gines and eight-speed ZF au­to­matic trans­mis­sion – with the Ital­ian mar­que’s flag­ship, the Maserati Qu­at­tro­porte, but is 293mm shorter and 50kg lighter.

Three Ghi­bli mod­els, all built in Turin, Italy, are on of­fer; two petrol mod­els – the Ghi­bli and Ghi­bli S – and the Ghi­bli diesel. All come with twin-turbo, three­l­itre V6 en­gines. The petrol en­gines are man­u­fac­tured by Fer­rari in Maranello, Italy.

Maserati of­fers the Ghi­bli in two trim op­tions: the race-in­spired GranS­port and the clas­si­cally el­e­gant GranLusso. Recog­nis­able by their dis­creetly dif­fer­ing ex­te­rior fea­tures as well as their dis­tinct stylish in­te­ri­ors, the GranS­port is im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fi­able by its ‘shark nose’ pro­file.

fin­week took to the roads in the GranS­port base model, the 350 horse­power Ghi­bli.

Ex­ter­nal view

The Ghi­bli GranS­port is a bit of a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing un­til the ex­haust rum­ble is heard. This is when heads re­ally start to snap around.

Dom­i­nat­ing the front-end de­sign of this low-slung and pow­er­ful-look­ing lux­ury sports sedan are steelyeyed LED head­lights and a black three-di­men­sional grille bear­ing the Maserati tri­dent.

Po­tent air in­takes, blood-red brake calipers, 20-inch wheels, pow­er­ful haunches, slop­ing coupé-like roofline and dual chrome ex­hausts on ei­ther side of the wide rear bumper add to the force­ful sil­hou­ette.

Dis­tinc­tive, sporty cock­pit

The in­te­rior, with its sporty GranS­port trim, is beau­ti­fully ap­pointed. It is an un­clut­tered cock­pit sport­ing a com­bi­na­tion of old-world el­e­gance and rac­ing-in­spired dy­namism as well as user-friendly in­stru­men­ta­tion.

First to catch the eye is rich black leather with red stitch­ing and em­bossed red tri­dents on the an­ti­whiplash head­rests. Then there is the charm of the ana­logue clock mounted on the wood-trimmed and high-gloss black dash­board and the Ghi­bli’s sporty chrome ped­als.

The touch­screen dom­i­nates the cen­tre con­sole and of­fers all the in­fo­tain­ment fea­tures one would ex­pect from a lux­ury sports car, in­clud­ing Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto and an 8-speaker Har­man Kar­don sound sys­tem.

Sink­ing into the leather sports seats po­si­tions you in front of a large, al­beit sporty, leather steer­ing wheel, with equally large alu­minium pad­dle shifters.

The sport seat, while com­fort­able, is some­what less fig­ure-hug­ging for smaller pro­por­tioned driv­ers – par­tic­u­larly felt when ne­go­ti­at­ing curves at pace. And the indicators, lo­cated be­hind the shifters, are dif­fi­cult to reach for those with small hands and shorter fin­gers.

The Ghi­bli strad­dles two worlds. It’s pri­mar­ily a sports car. But as a five-seater, it has all the el­e­ments of a lux­ury fam­ily car.

It is roomy for the driver and front pas­sen­ger, but rear pas­sen­ger legroom might be less com­modi­ous than ex­pected. The Ghi­bli boasts a gar­gan­tuan boot with enough room to com­fort­ably ac­com­mo­date an adult, some­thing one fin­week col­league can at­test to.

Maserati mo­tion

The race-bred Ghi­bli is a fab­u­lous car to drive. Ath­letic and spir­ited like a typ­i­cal thor­ough­bred, it is re­fined but not flaw­less. It is this lack of soul­less per­fec­tion that im­bues the Ghi­bli with per­son­al­ity.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, given its V6 engine, it is quick; not blis­ter­ingly so cour­tesy of its 1 810kg kerb weight, but very quick none­the­less. And it is 267km/hour ca­pa­ble.

En­gag­ing the sport but­ton changes the per­son­al­ity of the car. It starts with the ex­haust sound­track, the low rum­ble in­ten­si­fy­ing into a roar. The sus­pen­sion be­comes firmer, steer­ing be­comes weight­ier and the throt­tle opens up to make ac­cel­er­at­ing a more blaz­ing af­fair. Helped in part by the down­force from the front spoiler, the

If per­son­al­ity and

ex­cite­ment trumps re­fined

per­fec­tion, then you’ve

met your match.

rear-wheel-drive Ghi­bli is sure­footed on the straight and snappy out of the corners.

It may be planted on good sur­faces, but it is less so on blem­ished sur­faces – no­tice­ably in sport mode. The lat­ter also af­fects the com­fort level of the ride to some de­gree. Both these is­sues, though, are eas­ily ad­dressed with var­i­ous dam­p­en­ing sys­tems.

The high-per­for­mance Ghi­bli of­fers five driv­ing modes; auto nor­mal, auto sport, man­ual nor­mal, man­ual sport and ICE (in­creased con­trol and ef­fi­ciency). Equat­ing to the “Eco mode” of peers, the Ghi­bli’s ICE driv­ing mode al­lows for a more eco­nom­i­cal and se­date mode of driv­ing, as well as bet­ter con­trol in all weather con­di­tions.

Most car­mak­ers have switched to elec­tric power steer­ing for the added ben­e­fits (like in­creased fuel ef­fi­ciency) that come with this tech­nol­ogy. So too now has Maserati. While I lament the loss of the su­perb com­mu­ni­ca­tion that comes with hy­draulic as­sisted steer­ing, the Ghi­bli’s new elec­tric power steer­ing pro­vides good feed­back with a de­cent amount of grip and turn­ing force per­cep­ti­ble through the wheel. Steer­ing, too, is di­rect.

The Ghi­bli’s ZF eight-speed au­to­matic shift­ing sys­tem is fluid and ef­fort­less while man­ual shift­ing is a quicker and sharper af­fair, adding spice to the drive and ex­haust note, es­pe­cially in man­ual sport mode.

This is a ma­chine meant to be driven rather than one de­signed to drive for you, but the Ghi­bli still comes with all the lat­est semi-au­ton­o­mous driv­ing fea­tures ex­pected of lux­ury cars.

Driv­ing as­sis­tance pack­age fea­tures in­clude ac­tive lane keep­ing and blind spot as­sist, for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing and a 360-de­gree sur­round view cam­era. The Ghi­bli’s high­way as­sist (HAS) fea­ture al­lows for au­ton­o­mous driv­ing on a high­way. The HAS fea­ture, which com­bines the use of a radar sen­sor and cam­era, keeps the Ghi­bli in its lane, main­tains the speed set for the cruise con­trol, and keeps its dis­tance from the ve­hi­cle ahead. Op­er­at­ing from 30km/h to 145km/h, the car stops and goes as high­way traf­fic dic­tates.

The lane-keep­ing fea­ture of HAS is some­what ‘in­ter­fer­ing’ though – per­haps be­cause the fea­ture is so in­tent on keep­ing you dead cen­tre of the lane that a slight de­vi­a­tion from that brings a less than smooth move­ment back to the cen­tre.

Apart from the ad­vanced driv­ing as­sis­tance fea­tures which add to the Ghi­bli’s safety tech­nol­ogy, the Ghi­bli com­mands a 5-star EURO NCAP safety rat­ing. It is equipped with seven airbags, adap­tive LED head­lights with glare-free high beam as­sist, and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem.

The car also fea­tures in­te­grated ve­hi­cle con­trol (IVC), a sys­tem that pre­vents rather than cor­rects loss of car con­trol, and the Maserati sta­bil­ity pro­gram (MSP), which can de­ploy a host of safety and per­for­mance sys­tems to main­tain han­dling and grip.

One is re­minded of its ori­gins when you drive this race-bred car. It starts on en­ter­ing, is am­pli­fied by the ex­haust voice and fur­ther im­bued when pi­lot­ing this high-per­for­mance ma­chine. It’s not per­fect. And that gives it soul and charisma.

Noth­ing about this car is pedes­trian. If per­son­al­ity and ex­cite­ment trumps re­fined per­fec­tion, then you’ve met your match. Un­mis­tak­ably Ital­ian and in­fused with the pas­sion, his­tory and unique­ness so char­ac­ter­is­tic of Ital­ian-built cars, the Ghi­bli is an in­tox­i­cat­ing drive.

The force­ful sil­hou­ette of the Maserati Ghi­bli GranS­port; a slop­ing coupé-es­que roofline, pow­er­ful haunches, adap­tive LED head­lights and dis­tinc­tive “shark nose” grille.

The Ghi­bli GranS­port’s cock­pit fea­tures stitched leather seats em­bossed with Maserati’s fa­mous tri­dent badge, leather sport steer­ing wheel and sporty foot ped­als.

Dual chrome ex­hausts that al­low for Maserati’s sig­na­ture ex­haust note are set on ei­ther side of the new, now more aero­dy­namic, wide bumper.

The Ghi­bli GranS­port’s blood-red brake calipers and 20-inch al­loy wheels.

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