Maserati races into the ‘four-door coupe’ market segment with the beautiful all-new Ghibli comprehensively equipped and sharply priced from $138,900. Although Maserati aficionados will point out it’s a return for the nameplate (‘Ghibli’ is a hot wind in the Sahara) – previously a two-door coupe in 1967 and the 1990s.
Sized about the same as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the Maserati Ghibli celebrates its roots with hallmark Maserati elegance and sporty driving dynamics. And while the glamorous Italian brand will never be in the volume game to the same extent as its German rivals, the Ghibli and the upcoming all-new Levante SUV are the lynchpins driving Maserati’s plans to up annual production to the maximum 75,000 units per year.
Maserati Ghibli Overview
Maserati Ghibli arrives in the centenary year of Maserati. Like sister companies Ferrari and Alfa Romeo Maserati is one of the fabled Italian brands from those heady pre-war years when Enzo (Ferrari) and his mates would wheel-out exotic racing machines from their farmyard garages and go racing in what became Formula One and the World Sports Car Championship.
For us, owning a Maserati (like a Ferrari and Alfa Romeo) buys into those pages in history and still stamps these brands as something special.
You can choose from three models – Ghibli Diesel, Ghibli or Ghibli S (the latter two powered by twin-turbo V6 petrol engines with different outputs).
Apart from the extra engine performance, over the others, the ‘S’ model gains extras such as Automatic Front Lighting System, Bi-Xenon headlights, steering wheel paddle shifters for manual gear changes and eight-way electronic adjustment for the front seats.
Maserati Ghibli Engine
Maserati has launched the Ghibli with three 3.0-litre V6 engines – a single-turbocharged diesel and two twin-turbocharged petrols. More powerful V6 and V8 engines were announced as part of the five year plan for Fiat-Chrysler brands.
The two petrol engines are manufactures by Ferrari. The regular Ghibli delivers 243kW/500Nm while the Ghibli S provides 301kW/550Nm (mostly different engine management programming).
Of course the single turbocharged V6 diesel comes from VM Motori and is good for 202kW/600Nm.
All drive the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Maserati Ghibli The Interior
The Ghibli steps away from the upscale Maserati Quattroporte when you step inside (hey the Quattroporte is priced from $240,000 so it’s got be more luxo right?). Apart from the obvious differences in materials (although there’s still gorgeous Poltrona Frau leather and the option of two leather trims for the dashboard), the Ghibli also adopts a design which is noticeably different.
Wherever you look however the Maserati Ghibli is more than a match for the Germans in terms of style, quality, features and space.
The driving position is excellent (six-way electronic adjustment in the standard Ghibli or eight-way in the S model) and the dashboard is a styling masterpiece with faultless integration of the hallmark Maserati clock and 8.4-inch touchscreen for audio and navigation. Seats too look straight from ‘Italian Style Central’
Audio is a 10-speaker system or a premium 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system is optional.
The rear seat provides legroom which is close to the best in this league and split-folds 60/40 for cargo versatility. Luggage space is 500-litres (one or two full-size golf bags look like they would fit).
Maserati Ghibli Exterior & Styling
While links to the Maserati Quattroporte are obvious, the all-new Ghibli doesn’t hide in the shadow of its larger, more luxurious sibling. Moreover the Ghibli is a genuine ‘four-door coupe’ with its swooping lines and frameless side windows.
It’s also significantly different under the measuring tape – 29cm shorter at 4.97-metres, 173mm shorter in the wheelbase at 2998mm and 20mm lower. But the Ghibli is actually slightly wider in both front and rear track measurements.
Styling is certainly aggressive while maintaining the hallmark Maserati dimensions in profile of 66 per-cent door/33 per-cent glass. The front grille and C-pillar/rear three-quarters are clearly influenced by Maserati’s GranTurismo model.
And of course other Maserati styling traditions continue – the long bonnet and front fender air-vents for instance.
We applaud the rear-end design (remember this is a European E-segment vehicle) – elegantly shaped tail-lights and a nice combination of curves and straight lines for the boot.
When it comes to wheels, Maserati Ghibli has everyone covered with two designs each for 18-inch, 19-inch, 20-inch and 21-inch. The cars we drove had 18s and 20s and we thought the larger wheels better filled the wheel arches for a sportier look.
Naturally fuel consumption is never far away from the mind of anyone in the automotive industry and the Maserati Ghibli is impressively aerodynamic with a cD value of just 0.31. And the same thinking is behind weight reduction and the Ghibli runs aluminium doors and bonnet.
Maserati Ghibli On The Road
A drivers’ car deserves a drivers’ road and Maserati invited CarShowroom.com.au to put the Ghibli through its paces over the excellent roads behind Byron Bay in northern New South Wales. Very close in fact to where we drove the Quattroporte diesel a few months back.
The Maserati Ghibli sits on a similar chassis/suspension to the larger Quattroporte (in fact forward of the B-pillar it’s identical) – front aluminium double wishbones and five-link aluminium rear (but with unique spring and damper rates and the front lower wishbones are 70mm lower). Skyhook electronically controlled dampers are available.
That made-by-Ferrari twin-turbocharged petrol V6 is a cracker (no diesels in Australia yet) with an exhaust note which is music to your ears (noticeably noisier than the luxury Quattroporte). There’s a hint of turbocharger lag from a standing start but not at speed – in fact the mid-range response when overtaking is stunning.
But it’s in the twisty stuff in sports mode and using the eight-speeder manually where the Maserati Ghibli really comes into its own and stands out from the Germans. The Ghibli comes alive with a pointy response in corners, rear-biased feel for chassis balance, superb grip and a dynamic feel.
A couple of damp hairpins showed the ESC was calibrated in sport mode to permit just the right amount of oversteer (very BMW M-like) and mid-turn bumps were just sneered at by this high-performance Italian.
Maserati’s hydraulic steering deserves special praise. No electric assistance means the Ghibli keeps the driver just a bit more connected to the front wheels.
In terms of ride, the Maserati Ghibli isn’t as firm as the Germans – good news for some – but the optional 20-inch alloy wheels did introduce a tad more sporty harshness than the standard 18-inch wheels. That said, if we’re buying we’d go for the 20s.
Maserati Ghibli Issues
Much like the Maserati Quattroporte, manual gear changes with the steering wheel paddle shifters are a tad slow. And the actual gear lever has a complicated path when selecting ‘Park’ or ‘Reverse’.
Maserati Ghibli Verdict
If the Ghibli is the entrée to the expanded Maserati range (starting with the Levante SUV next year and then the Porsche 911/Jaguar F-Type rivaling Alfieri), Maserati sales staff shouldn’t plan on too many vacations – they’re going to be very, very busy. By any measure, the Ghibli is a standout high-performance four-door coupe, matching the high-profile Germans in this segment every step of the way.
Yes it’s got plenty of luxo features and gadgets, but this is an Italian car so the driving dynamics are engrossing and rewarding. With so much of the Quattroporte underneath that should come as no surprise.
And there’s something about Maserati interiors which gets your heartbeat racing. The style, the materials, the driving position…it’s luxury and sportiness like only the Italians can.
But there’s no getting away from the price. Starting at $138,900, the Maserati Ghibli delivers a heap of car for the coin.
Maserati Ghibli The Competition
Mercedes-Benz CLS is a glamour, a CarShowroom.com.au favourite and comes equipped with the usual armada of ‘Benz technology. V6 petrol models range from $158,700 to 173,000 and the CLS350 CDI V6 turbo-diesel will set you back $159,200. The CLS is magnificent in every way, but the Maserati Ghibli is a more engaging drive (unless you go to the $262,645 CLS 63 AMG…but that’s a different story altogether).
The BMW 6 Series Coupe is also treasured by CarShowroom.com.au and although there’s no diesel, the turbocharged six-cylinder 640 is a gem. And while the ‘Beemer’ is a delight, it too isn’t as engaging behind the wheel as the Maserati Ghibli and the $177,800 sticker is substantially more.