The Ghibli is Maserati’s attempt to take on premium German cars like the Mercedes CLS, Audi A7 and BMW Gran Coupe. It’s also the first Maserati to feature a diesel engine. Sacrilege? Let’s find out.
That name. Ghibli – where have I heard it before?
It’s an old Maserati favourite, having been used twice before, first on beautiful front-engined GT in the 1960s, and then on a much less beautiful Bi-turbo spinoff three decades later.
But this one’s a sensible saloon.
Right. Loosely based on the new Quattroporte, but smaller and sportier, it comes with a choice of three 3.0 engines: 330bhp and 404bhp twin-turbo V6 petrols, and, crucially for Europe, a 272bhp turbodiesel V6.
272bhp? Sounds a bit limp for a Maserati.
You’re right, particularly when German rivals offer over 300bhp. The fact is this VM Motori-built V6 is merely a stopgap until a brand new twin turbo diesel arrives in a couple of years. That will come in two forms, one with around 275bhp, and a hotter version with 350bhp.
How does it drive?
Well, but with some room to improve. The 50:50 weight distribution means it changes direction far better than many rivals, and the diesel’s torque is just about strong enough to ask questions of limited-slip equipped rear end out on twisty roads. But the hydraulic steering is overly heavy and not markedly more communicative than electric alternatives.
Passive dampers are standard, the damping force being equivalent to sport mode in the cars fitted with the optional Skyhook adaptive setup. Since the body control is so much better in Sport, and the ride occasionally unsettled in Comfort, it might be worth going basic.
The 443lb ft of torque from the single-turbo six makes for reasonably spirited performance (62mph in 6.3sec) but twin-turbo rivals are up to 1sec quicker and several mpg greener, too. And despite some augmented sound effects courtesy of special actuators in the rear silencers, it doesn’t sound as sexy as it could.
What’s the rest of the package like?
Roomy, particularly when it comes to rear headroom compared with the more visually striking Mercedes CLS, and available with various interior colour combinations that deliver that traditonal Maserati feel. The quality of materials is good, if not class-busting, and some of the switchgear, like the lever for the standard eight-speed ZF auto, and the dimly lit buttons on the console behind it, seems needlessly fiddly.
The Ghibli has a few rough edges, but it’s a credible rival to established German models and the diesel option gives it far more relevance in Europe. The allure of that badge will count for much, and offset the fact that rivals are better to drive and more efficient – a BMW 5-series rides better, Jag’s XF steers more sweetly. This is a good first effort by Maserati, but you get the feeling that the Ghibli diesel won’t really come into its own until the new engines have come on line. For now, the petrol Ghiblis deliver a far more convincing Maserati experience.