The 2018 model fuses under-the-hood fury and superior comforts with delicious curves and soulful growls to deliver an awesome experience. Alvin Thomas enjoys the Italian exotics
A trident jewel on the fascia of a car has long been associated with cars of opulence, wealth and sportiness. Little wonder then that Maserati’s GranTurismo and Quattroporte have been selling like hot cakes since their launch decades ago. Heck, people like it so much that the brand isn’t even sold on the idea of altering its design portfolio.
But this posed a problem for the brand when they were trying to penetrate the mid-size luxury car market – one that has long been associated with German brands save for Volkswagen and Seat perhaps.
Nobody wanted a bargain product from an upmarket brand. The idea of an affordable car seemed like a step down even if changing trends demanded it. But five years since the first Ghibli rolled out of the Maserati stables in Turin, here we are, ogling at it like it was revealed just yesterday.
And from where I was standing, I couldn’t – for the love of God – figure out how an entry-level sedan could pump out 410hp and be swaddled in leather inside. For instance, this still comes to us at a time when Mercedes-Benz and BMW are pushing hatchbacks and puny four-cylinder sedans as upmarket entry-level offerings.
Nevertheless, we’re here to talk about the Ghibli, and that we shall.
Not much has changed since its re-introduction (the ‘Ghibli’ nameplate was first used in 1967) into the lineup in 2013. A few minor nips and tucks distinguish the 2018 model from the previous iteration.
As I had stated in an earlier review, the Ghibli follows the design-language of the sixth-gen Quattroporte. The curves upfront are distinctively Maserati, and they add to the aggressive persona of the car.
The lights are sharp and swoop down to enhance the sporty guise. But where it really strikes gold is the grille and the front bumper, which more or less integrates into a large section of the air intake. This means the car perpetually looks like it’s braking hard mid-way through a sharp corner. It’s incredibly stylish, I tell you.
The side profile is on point too, especially if you, like me, opt for the S Q4 variant, which comes with large 20-inch alloys. It is further accentuated by the character lines that run midway through the rear doors to the hind.
The rear is good looking too, albeit a bit vanilla. Still, it’s highly unlikely that anyone tailing you will be thinking of the posterior when the quad-exhausts are in full blast.
The Ghibli takes Maserati’s interior experience to a whole new level. My tester came slam dunked with all optional extras, which means I received everything from premium leather, a crisp and clear eight-speaker audio system and even some other added “luxury” touches.
Also included in the car is an all-new Chrysler-derived 8.4-inch Maserati Touch Control Plus (MTC+) touchscreen. It’s a welcome addition to the interior, as you can configure the screen and control numerous in-car functions too.
The seats, as stated earlier, are cloaked in leather – and more leather than what Spiderman wore in all his Marvel movies combined. Still, it’s soft to the touch and the seats are cushy to relax in. Bolstering and lumbar is aplenty (if a bit too much), and you won’t find yourself slipping out of the seats in tight corners.
Space inside borders on what larger competitors from Germany offer, but there’s adequate leg and head room upfront, and class-competent space in the rear.
The cabin is reasonably quiet, but I could still hear a hint of wind noise from the side-mirrors, and a bit of road noise from the ultra-wide tyres. Meanwhile, the engine only emits a mild hum when cruising at speeds of up to 120kph (at about 2,000rpm).
Cargo room is sizeable even if the hinges take up a bit of room. It should still be enough to haul large suitcases to the airport and back, you know, if you’re the sort of person who does airport trips in a luxury Italian marque.
But then again, why wouldn’t you? Driving the Ghibli is quite an… well… experience. It all begins when you fire up the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 upfront. It breathes out an impressive 410hp and 550Nm of blue-blooded torque (in the S Q4).
The powertrain is coupled to an eight-speed “ZF” automatic gearbox that then sends power to all four wheels. While this translates to superb 0-100 acceleration figures – about 5 seconds – there’s still a lot in line of driving dynamics.
To begin with, the steering is responsive and provides copious amounts of feedback to the driver. This definitely aids the driving feel but, above that, it gives the driver a sense of confidence that they can control the car despite the aforementioned power and torque figures.
The Ghibli does suffer from turbo-lag, but it’s only a minor niggle during normal driving. Still, if you’re really serious about putting down power on the road, you can take control of the shifts manually and quickly shuffle through gears using the column-mounted metal paddle shifters.
In sport mode, gearbox is fast and responsive but can be lax in normal mode. Still, every time you slam the pedal to the floor, you’ll be greeted with a kick-down – which then clears the throat of the glorious exhaust.
As expected from a Maserati, the exhaust note is phenomenal, if it isn’t already the best-sounding in the car industry already. Sure, the V8-powered GranTurismo and Quattroporte are in a league of its own, but the Ghibli may very well be the most soulful V6 exhaust I’ve ever tested in a car.
And it’s not just noise. Once the torque kicks in – all 550Nms of it – at about 3,000rpm, the car simply thrusts forwards. It’s planted in the corners too, with very little in line of understeer or oversteer unless you really poke it before you touch the apex of the corner.
The all-wheel drive system is intuitive and you won’t have to wrestle the car much in the bends either. But I couldn’t validate this over the course of my
short test-drive.What I can, however, attest is that the large brakes are mind-bogglingly strong and offers tons of stopping power. My only complaint would be that the anti-lock braking system (ABS) kicks in a tad early to curb any slippage. But then again, it does so to cope with the power generated by the massive brakes.
The Maserati Ghibli S Q4 is one of those sedans that invokes the vibes of a sports coupe. It’s sizeable when compared to one, but if you’re in the market for a car that can mimic – to an extent – the driving feel of a German sports coupe (the Porsche Panamera to be specific), while still being able to ferry five people in absolute comfort and Italian finesse, then look no further: the Ghibli is here for you.