Iconic Italian carmaker Maserati gives its Ghibli a more modest makeover, while still keeping all the thrills and frills of a sports sedan, finds Alvin Thomas.
Maseratis are soulful, drop-dead gorgeous, and sound like angels blowing trumpets while on the go.
But above all, a Maserati – with its character and charm – always makes its driver feel special. There’s nothing quite as pleasing as cruising on a highway in a Maserati.
Don’t believe me? The company’s GranTurismo model has been on sale since 2007. The car is still on sale worldwide (even after nine years), and I have been very vocal about its status as a grand tourer. There’s nothing quite like it, and there probably never will be again!
So, when Maserati told us they were going downmarket with a four-door-sedan, and no less – naming it Ghibli – I was aghast.
For those of you who don’t know: the Maserati Ghibli was a two-door grand tourer from the late 1960s. It was so good it was deemed one of the best sports cars in the world by magazines of the day. I even had posters of it in my scrapbook. So, you get my disappointment with slapping “Ghibli” on a four-door sedan.
But with the keys to a “Blu Emozione Metallic” (blue) Maserati in my hand, I have to be honest and say that my initial disappointment was being washed away.
With its majestic curves in the front and sides, the Ghibli looks unmistakeably “Maserati”. The front end is particularly avant-garde and aggressive with its long bonnet and spectacular nose that points low and dominates the whole of the front fascia. Pictures don’t do justice to this design. It must be seen in person to be appreciated.
The same design language is carried into the interior. Everything is neatly laid out in a very minimalistic cabin. However, there’s a 20cm touchscreen unit, which controls all your entertainment, telephone and even navigation needs.
Thankfully, Maserati also keeps physical buttons for the air conditioning (unlike many manufacturers of today), which obviates fiddling with a touchscreen to change temperatures or set the fan speed. The cabin is also wrapped in contrasting Rosso Trofeo (red) leather from head to toe. My tester also received real wood finishing on the dashboard and door panels. Apart from that, everything you touch is soft-touch thus adding to that “premium” feel.
Underneath the bonnet lies a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 pumping out a hefty 410hp and an astonishing 550Nm of torque. All the power and torque is put down to all four wheels via a clever, eight-speed automatic transmission. If needed, you can also take control of the shifts manually using the paddle shifters or even the gear lever. The shifts are definitely sharp and snappy; upshifts for instance are instantaneous.
The inclusion of a massive turbo means there are substantial amounts of turbo-lag (time taken for the turbocharger to spool up).
But when it’s all spooled up and ready to go (somewhere around the 3,000rpm mark), the torque shuns you into the back of your seat and gathers speed like no other car in this class. After a few attempts, I could hit the 100kph mark in just 5.3 seconds although someone more skilful could break the five-second mark with ease.
But the best part has to be the brilliant exhaust system. Pop the car into “Sport” and “M” (manual) modes, and you will be treated to Maserati’s signature exhaust wail. It’s biblical, to say the least. I found myself driving the car with the exhaust on full blast more often than not.
The Ghibli is also very compliant, despite riding on massive 48cm low-profile tyres. Of course, “Sport” mode firms up the dampers and makes things a bit jittery but it is still a very comfortable place to be in. This mode also firms up the steering and alters the steering ratio, meaning you can take corners with very little effort.
However, because the Ghibli is still based on the same chassis as its bigger brother, the Quattroporte, it definitely does not take corners with the same ease as its grand touring sibling (GranTurismo).
Pushing it into corners hard reveals a slight hint of body roll. But it is still miles ahead of its other European competitors.
Since the car sends power to the rear in most situations, I could slide the car into corners with ease. It also drifts and power slides eagerly, if with only a slight hint of understeer, initially on tip in. But you can easily counter that by flooring the pedal and sending the rear into a staggered drift.
The Brembo brakes that come with the Ghibli are epic. They retard speed with ease but if I were to nitpick, the ABS does kick in a tad early.
All in all, a day with the Maserati Ghibli is all it took for me to rediscover my passion and love for the “Ghibli” nameplate.
And with its RO28,000 pricetag, it has been designed to take on “supersedans” from Germany. But in truth, this is a different animal. It’s nothing like any four-door sedan I have ever driven. It is a spacious, luxurious sedan that can give its rivals a run for their money. Do give the Ghibli a shot before you shop for another car.