The Maserati Ghibli brings with it a new era for the brand. First introduced in 2014, the Ghibli and an updated Quattroporte began rejuvenating the portfolio and opening it up to more customers. Few brands have the history and pedigree of Maserati, and few customers get to experience ownership of one of their cars.
The Ghibli considerably lowers the entry price to the Maserati badge. It now competes in a market segment dominated by the big three German prestige brands. With a price tag that starts at around $150,000 it opens the brand up to a new market segment.
The Ghibli has been a success, Maserati has significantly lifted its global sales. It doesn’t seem that long ago when the brand’s sales sat at around the 7,000 cars a year mark. It now sells over 30,000 cars a year and has set itself the lofty target of 75,000 by 2018. Last year the brand sold 345 Ghibli models in Australia. An impressive percentage of its total number of 519 sales. The Ghibli is Maserati’s volume model, however, Ghibli sales may come under threat from within when the brand launches its Levante SUV.
When I was growing up, Maserati was often referred to as a ‘gentleman’s Ferrari.’ It blended luxury and performance in an understated way. The brand didn’t scream for attention and it didn’t need to. Blending sporting looks and performance with high-end luxury in a stylish package is what has helped the brand stand out and remain desirable. Does the Ghibli keep to these ideals while becoming more attainable?
Just walking towards the car, anticipating the drive, is a wonderful experience. It’s exciting in a way other cars in this segment can’t replicate. It’s not just another BMW or Merc.
To look at, the Ghibli is a striking car from all angles, it’s a great looking sedan. The muscular and sporty design certainly catches the eye. The colour of this car, Blu Emozione, a metallic blue looked brilliant when bathed in sunlight.
It’s a car that does stand out anywhere it's driven and parked. People do stop to look at it. The Ghibli looks different to the German sedans and has no trouble gaining attention. The great lines and frameless windows create an attractive side profile that’s difficult to ignore.
Before driving the car, I was quite taken with the key. It is one of the more interesting keys in the automotive industry. It has a quality feel and is far heavier than anything else I have come across.
More importantly, on the road, the Ghibli is an extremely fun and comfortable car to drive. The 3.0-litre V6 twin turbocharged petrol engine, which is assembled by Ferarri, delivers 243kW @ 4,750 rpm and 500Nm @ 1,750 – 4,500 rpm. It combines well with the 8-speed ZF transmission. Acceleration is excellent and gear changes are fast and smooth.
This particular transmission utilises auto-adaptive technology that has the ability to recognise driving style along with the road conditions. This allows the transmission to adapt its gear changing mode as necessary. The system works well and never disappoints.
The transmission has five operating modes, Auto Normal, Auto Sport, Manual Normal, Manual Sport and I.C.E. (Increased Control & Efficiency). The I.C.E. function reduces consumption by delivering a softer pedal response and cancelling the turbocharger’s over-boost function. It also alters the transmission’s shift actions, making them slower along with reducing torque at the gear’s switch point.
Throughout this test, I found Auto Normal and Auto Sport to be the best options for everyday use. The Manual Sport mode is the option that puts the driver in control of the powertrain. Using the paddle shifters in Manual Sport allows for an entertaining ride if the road and conditions are favourable.
It is pleasing that Maserati have continued to deploy this transmission and resist the move to a dual-clutch setup. The ZF transmission remains a brilliant and well-proven allrounder.
The Ghibli handles well for a large sedan. On a variety of road surfaces, at speed, it felt surefooted. The 50:50 weight distribution contributes to an enjoyable driving experience. The suspension is on the firm side. It’s perfectly fine for this type of car and never felt uncomfortable, even with the optional 19-inch alloy wheels. Maserati offer their Skyhook adaptive damping system as an option. This further minimises body roll and sets an even sportier tone for the car.
The steering set-up is also very good. Maserati claim its servo assisted hydraulic steering system ensures an optimum steering feel that’s as natural as possible and not artificial in any way. I found the steering system to work well and there was never any doubt about where the front wheels were pointing. In saying that, people looking more at the brand’s sporting image or those coming from other sports cars may suggest the steering could be slightly more progressive.
Stopping power is provided by four-piston brakes with fixed alloy Brembo calipers and 345x28 mm ventilated discs in the front and floating calipers with 320x22 mm ventilated discs in the rear. They do a good job of bringing the car to a halt.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the exhaust note. It’s a great sound that’s beautifully judged. It’s easy to notice and appreciate, but not over the top.
For a car of this type, fuel economy was surprisingly good. When the car was driven sensibly, it averaged 9L/100km. It is difficult to remain completely sensible with the trident logo staring at you from the centre of the steering wheel. When driven to take advantage of the car’s sporting heritage an average consumption of 14.8L/100km was returned. If economy is an important consideration, Maserati does offer a diesel Ghibli.
The interior is a great place to spend time. There are so many details to attract the eye. Essentially, the Ghibli interior is far more interesting than the conservative interiors in its German rivals. The material choices are excellent and there is a genuine sense of occasion when you enter the driver's seat. It should be noted that as Maserati moves to a higher production manufacturer, with the Ghibli as its volume seller, it is not as customisable in terms of interior colours and trims as other models in the range. With every cloud having a silver lining, Maserati offers a selection of optional packages to enable customers to bring some of their personality and style to the car.
The leather work is beautiful, both in look and feel. The soft-touch materials throughout the cabin are also of high quality. The open pore (a fancy term for unvarnished) wood trim has a natural look and feel that adds significantly to the cabin ambience.
The seating position is spot-on, it’s not too low down and remains comfortable for long stretches of highway driving. The Ghibli has the credentials to be a GT car.
The steering wheel is particularly large, it could be slightly smaller to contribute to a sporty feel. Despite its size, it feels lovely in the driver’s hands. In fact, every surface the driver touches is a great tactile experience. It has been widely reported that some interior pieces, buttons and switches are shared with cheaper cars from the Chrysler stable. I didn’t find this to be a problem, I haven't spent enough time in Chrysler models to notice.
The Maserati touch control infotainment unit is not worthy of a car in this price bracket. It’s not as responsive as it should be and the graphics are a long way behind the better systems used in competitor vehicles. The navigation system is in no way up to the standard of the one in my ancient iPhone 4S. The resolution of the reversing camera is also a letdown, in fact, it’s unacceptable, I have seen better resolution reversing cameras on cheap city hatchbacks.
Infotainment aside, the biggest issue with the interior and the car as a whole is the rear seat space. The brilliant exterior design compromises rear seat comfort for adults. At my height (192cm) with the seat set to my driving position, the seat behind me is unusable. This is a disappointment in a car 4,971mm long with a 2,998mm wheelbase. At the very best, the Ghibli should be considered a four seater. It doesn’t matter if you are lucky enough to occupy the driver's seat, however for a large four-door sedan at this price, more thought was required to maximise rear passenger comfort.
In the initial stages of this test, the gear selector proved frustrating to use. When changing from drive to reverse, it would often end up in park. It requires a delicate hand to avoid this.
In terms of safety, the Ghibli has an array of features to protect occupants. It comes equipped with a seven-airbag system and anti-whiplash front headrests. The Maserati Stability Program utilises are range of systems, such as ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution), ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation), MSR (Motor Spin Regulator), BAS (Brake Assist System), and Hill Holder. It also brings Blind Spot Alert & a Rear Cross Path system that beeps when reversing out of a car park. It is designed to assist drivers where their view of oncoming traffic is blocked as they reverse. Helpful, for shopping centre car parks.
Disappointingly, the Ghibli does miss out on some of the latest active and passive safety technology that is now standard in other cars in this class. Even things found in cheap mainstream cars such as a head-up display and emergency city braking are not included. These are notable omissions on a car at this price point.
In terms of ownership, it’s impossible to put up a strong value for money argument. It is good value for a Maserati, but with a premium brand comes premium running costs. It comes with a 3-year unlimited kilometer warranty. The Ghibli doesn't have a capped price service program, however, Maserati offer a prepaid maintenance program. Most fastidious owners are going to get it on the hoist at least once a year. Consumables are likely to be costly, but it comes with the territory in this price bracket.
The Ghibli should be considered as a car that can handle multiple applications. It’s at home in city traffic or highway cruising. It does manage to combine sport and luxury themes in a desirable way while being more attainable. It has something its competitors often lack, character. It does pull the heartstrings and stir your insides. This is what a Maserati should do, this is what the customer is buying into. Like most Maserati models, it’s not perfect, but is there such thing? The Ghibli’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, especially if you are fortunate enough to be in the driver’s seat.
Let’s start a Car Conversation, is Maserati still as desirable? Do you agree the Ghibli balances both sport and luxury?