Maserati Ghibli takes on the prestige coupes

Maserati Ghibli takes on the prestige coupes

Maserati has pitched the new Ghibli sports sedan into a very competitive segment in the premium luxury space occupied by other European brands such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Jaguar.

You might think the most direct competitor for the Ghibli would be the E-Class Mercedes-Benz or the BMW 5-series but you would be wrong. This machine has far loftier ambitions than being a direct competitor to a Stuttgart or Munich taxi.

The coupe-like Ghibli is more of a true competitor for the other four-door coupes appearing in the Executive Class such as the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the Audi A7, the Jaguar XF R and the BMW 6 series Gran Coupe.

Personally from some angles I felt the Ghibli has a very similar style to the BMW 3 series, particularly around the front headlamps, but the uniquely styled body is quite different to its big brother, the sporting limousine known as the Quattroporte.

The Ghibli’s entry price point of $129,990, excluding dealer and delivery costs, is nearly $65,000 below the previous Maserati entry point and there is no overlap in pricing between it and the Quattroporte, with the Ghibli S priced at $149,990 excluding dealer and delivery costs.
Maserati says these prices will allows ownership to an entirely new group of clients to whom the brand may never have spoken to before, or who may be unaware that the brand has such a vehicle on offer to them.
Given that the last Ghibli model was a two-door coupe which disappeared off the new car price list in the 1990s, all new Ghibli sales will be conquest rather than conversion sales.
The least powerful engine in the Ghibli is a direct-injection twin-turbocharged 243kW V6 petrol, the most powerful yet in the Ghibli S is a direct-injection twin-turbocharged 301kW V6 and there is a 202kW 3-litre V6 turbo diesel which has been specially built for the car by Italian diesel specialist VM Motori, and the exhaust we are told has been specially tuned to produce a sound expected of a Maserati.

We were told at the press launch held recently in Australia that another two high performance engines will become available for the Ghibli, as well as another higher performance diesel as the car matures.

Although Maserati has enjoyed rapid sales growth recently, a phenomenon it wishes to continue as it seeks to open another 500 dealers across the globe in current and new markets, the brand still wishes to retain its cachet of exclusivity by offering high performance luxury products without any performance compromise.

There will not be a four-cylinder tax-break Ghibli for European markets as there may have been in the past, and there will certainly not be stripped out cut price versions either.

Specification is high, the Ghibli offers a large centrally mounted touch screen in the dashboard to control the satellite navigation, dual zone air-conditioning, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, as well as the optional heated and ventilated front seats.

The surprising omission from the Ghibli is the lack of features such as blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, active cruise control with stop and go function, and a self-parking function. Given that these features are filtering down to mass market models, it is almost bewildering that a premium vehicle manufacturer does not even list them in the options catalogue.

The Ghibli offers three different leather interiors as well as a choice between wood and carbon fibre dashboard trims.

The two cars provided for the media to drive on the launch programme beautifully illustrated the available trim packages. One was fitted with the beige leather seat upholstery, complemented by matte wooden door trim, while the other had charcoal leather upholstery and a glossy carbon fibre trim.

In a cosy compact cockpit such as the Ghibli, my preference was for the lighter seat colour, I felt that it added a more spacious feel as well as more premium image, the darker trim was a bit claustrophobic for my taste.

Personalisation will be a big part of the Maserati oeuvre and will allow its customers to have a car that fully reflects their personality and individuality both inside the cabin and out.

Driving impressions:

We drove two Ghibli S models around the winding and often narrow back roads of Northern New South Wales just below the border with Queensland, which proved a challenging test of the cars suspension and the drivers nerve.

Australian country roads run the gamut from smooth asphalt to corrugated dirt roads, with plenty of potholes and other delights thrown in for good measure.

Both cars were fitted with standard suspension rather than the active Skyhook suspension, and one car was fitted with 18 inch alloy rims and the other 19 inch alloy rims.

Unlike its big brother the Quattroporte S, the leaner and lighter Ghibli S appeared to have a great deal more body control and was far more composed over the rough stuff. The ride is certainly firm, and the Ghibli provides a dynamic driver with a great seat of the pants feeling, but it never became hardly uncomfortable in the cabin, indeed the faster the car travelled, the better the quality of the ride over corrugations and rough surfaces.

The steering provided good feeling and feedback, and Maserati is resolute that it will retain tradition hydraulic power-steering as the company says it provides a better quality feeling through the steering wheel than an electric system preferred by many companies for its fuel saving efficiency.

Any sports sedan worth its salt needs good brakes and the Ghibli is no exception, while other journalists might comment that these are sensitive and a bit “grabby”, it wasn’t an issue for me.

I try very much to have a smooth driving style, utilising the eight speed automatic gearbox manually with the flappy paddles mounted behind the steering wheel for engine braking as well as caressing the brake pedal gently but firmly when required, to set the car up for the next corner, and I have to say that the Ghibli’s brakes felt strong and progressive at all times.

There was never any hesitation from the brakes and there was never any fade, the harder and after we went, the better they performed.

The driving position is very comfortable, the driver can adjust the seat to ensure maximum comfort and ease of use, and all the controls are easily found and intuitively used. I liked the electric adjustment of the steering wheel for up and down as well as in and out.

I also like the traditional Maserati analogue clock which takes pride of place in the centre of the dashboard above the touch screen.

Pressing the Sport mode button on the centre console near the gear selector handle also unleashed the beast with.

Once upon a time Italian car seats and interior set ups suited drivers with long arms and short legs, but now nothing could be further from the truth, and I’m quietly sure that a 95th percentile male will be quite comfortable driving the Ghibli over long distances.

Boot space is adequate rather than exceptional but you can fit two sets of slimline sporting golf clubs inside apparently, although anything bigger is going to be a challenge given the narrow aperture of the boot opening.

As mandated by the US market, Maserati also fit an internal boot release inside the boot least anyone try and kidnap someone and force them inside what is a very cosy space.

Overall the Ghibli does deliver the performance, poise, polish, and prestige that the Maserati brand promises, now it remains to be seen if it will deliver the sales in Australia and New Zealand which the company is seeking.

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