► MY18 updates for Maserati’s sporty 4dr
► Two new trim lines and power hike
► Should you buy one over a BMW?
Picture a Maserati. Is the first thing that comes into your head an exotic sports car? If so, don't forget about its choice of saloons and an SUV.
The Maserati Ghibli saloon is the brand's biggest seller in the UK, and Maser has treated it to a few little upgrades to keep it competitive against so many posh rivals.
Going up against the likes of the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-class, Jaguar XF and Audi A6 (or high-spec examples, at least), it needs to be good to justify its higher price (the Ghibli range starts from £51k+).
It’s off to a good start, with looks that are far more special than any of its German rivals, and a choice of 3.0 V6 engines to pick from. No four-cylinder options here, oh no.
Most noticeable changes are to the exterior styling. They’re subtle, yet effective. A new grille nicked from the stunning Alfieri concept car features, with fresh LED light units and tweaks to the bumpers.
Influencing the style is the availability of two new model lines – GranLusso and GranSport.
You probably can work out for yourself that one majors on luxury with more chrome, and the other is sportier-looking with piano black inserts and more aggressive looking grilles.
More work has been done under the skin, though. There’s a new stability control system dubbed Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC), to prevent instability before it happens, an electric power steering system (for the first time) and a host of new driver assistance and safety kit as standard.
The top-level Ghibli S has been treated to a minor boost in power too, now producing 424bhp.
Tweaks have also been made to the interior, but there’s still lovely Italian leather galore, with inserts of genuine silk (apparently) by Ermenegildo Zegna. It doesn’t feel as expensive as you might hope though, and the extra trimmings actually feel a little out of place on the more luxury-focused version of the Ghibli.
Talk me through the Ghibli line-up
As before, the range is made up of the Ghibli Diesel, Ghibli and Ghibli S, with 271, 345 and 424bhp respectively.
We drove the Diesel and S back-to-back (with more time spent in the diesel, in a rare episode of sensibleness).
The V6’s power delivery is silky smooth as expected, but there’s no getting away from its diesel fuel source when you demand a little more from the engine.
At a cruise, however, refinement is excellent, with very little wind or road noise making its way into the cabin. It’s effortless to cover long distances.
Hit a back road and its direct steering helps to make it feel smaller than it is (it’s big).
Squeezing through tight roads can be a little hairy at times, but on a sweeping piece of tarmac with good visibility and the occasional tight switchback, it’s one of the better drives of the premium saloon market.
You can flick between normal and sport driving modes to liven up the throttle response and steering weight, and settings for the adaptive Skyhook dampers (standard on GranSport and optional on GranLusso).
The sportier damper modes cause the Ghibli to feel a little unsettled and jittery over bumpier surfaces. On a silky smooth ribbon of road they work a treat, but you’re never going to find one of them in the UK, so leave it in normal and avoid feeling sick.
We also noticed in our time with the car that the eight-speed auto ’box has a tendency to shunt when deciding which gear to be in – you can feel and hear the mechanicals engaging a gear in some cases, experienced mostly in crawling traffic. That kind of thing makes a difference in a car that’s intended to major on luxury as well as sportiness.
If you don’t want a diesel (understandable), then the top-spec Ghibli S has more to offer than the regular Ghibli. With 424bhp and 428lb ft, there’s certainly enough shove, although, again, there’s no getting away from the Ghibli’s sheer size.
The S also feels even more firmly set-up than the diesel, and demonstrates a very different character when driven on similar roads.
It’s still agile and responsive with excellent body control, but it doesn’t settle down on anything other than a completely flat road surface. Again, good luck finding that here in the UK, other than on a new piece of motorway. And if that’s where you find yourself most of the time, the diesel will be the better option.
The sound might just change your mind, though. The Ghibli S’s sonorous V6 engine and new exhaust system sound fantastic, and you don’t need to be driving at high speeds to enjoy the music.
The exhaust howls even around town if left in Sport mode. All you need to do is find somewhere with plenty of scenery around you (go with a gorge or tunnel for the acoustic benefits…) and enjoy the soundtrack. It’s that good.
If you want an upmarket diesel saloon, it’s hard to make a case for the Ghibli as the competition is so well-rounded, and also much cheaper in some cases, with better interior quality.
If you want a nutcase saloon to thrash through the mountains at the weekend and sit on the motorway during the week, it’s an intriguing option that does feel special to look at.
It’s up to you whether you can justify the price hike over German and British rivals for Italian style and sound, though, because the competition also offers performance and refinement by the bucket-load.
Specifications relate to 2018MY Ghibli diesel