Maserati Ghibli review
The Maserati Ghibli combines style and quality with sharp handling to rival the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class
The Maserati Ghibli is an all-new model that’s designed to rival high-end executive saloons like the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Mercedes E-Class. It gets a dramatic look, is based on a shortened version of the luxurious Quattroporte’s platform and claims to deliver a sporty drive.
Maserati is pushing hard to turn less than 7,000 sales in 2012 into 50,000 by 2015 – and the Maserati Ghibli is a crucial part of that plan. Designed to sit underneath the new Quattroporte in the range, it gives Maserati a challenger in the big-selling executive class – thanks largely to a diesel engine being offered for the first time in a Maserati.
As well as the 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel there’s a pair of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6s with up to 404bhp, while an eight-speed auto is standard across the range.
Maserati says it has studied what’s needed to succeed in this class, and it certainly has the ability when you get the chance to drive it quickly. In other words, it feels like a true Maserati when it needs to.
However, it lacks the impressive quality of its rivals, while the ride is on the firm side. It certainly has style on its side, though.
Our choice: Maserati Ghibli Diesel
Not many cars look as dramatic as the Ghibli. The low snout takes inspiration from the GranTurismo coupe, while the distinctive trident badge and small headlights provide a menacing look. Its front wings rise over the wheels and behind the arches is a set of three false air vents – a typical Maserati design touch – while the low roof and small glass area add to the sporty feel.
The Ghibli isn’t quite as well resolved at the rear. Maserati badges on the C-pillars are another traditional touch, but the narrow rear screen, rounded bootlid and small LED lights give it a bit of a dumpy look. Still, with quad exhausts and no trim badges, you get no clue that a diesel is under the bonnet.
Inside, the Ghibli has a decent layout, but quality isn’t quite on a par with its rivals. The leather-topped dashboard adds a touch of class, but the switchgear is a letdown. The hard plastic buttons aren’t very nice to use, while the window switches on the driver’s door look like poor copies of Mercedes items. The centre console gets a textured natural wood finish, but if that’s not to your taste, gloss and carbon fibre finishes are available.
To some enthusiasts, the idea of a diesel Maserati will be sacrilege, but the brand has done a decent job of integrating the 3.0-litre V6. While there’s a bit of clatter at start-up, and the engine is a bit noisy, when you press the Sport mode button, the Active Sound generator in the exhaust masks the diesel thrum with a pleasingly meaty rumble.
Engaging drive with the shifter is tricky, as you need to be deliberate when pulling the trigger to select it, otherwise you’re left in neutral, which can be frustrating. Another niggle is that it’s easy to knock the lever across from drive to Sport mode, because it’s closely positioned just ahead of the climate and infotainment controls.
The 271hbp 3.0-litre V6 diesel never feels as fast as the engine in the BMW 530d (it’s two tenths of a second slower from 0-62mph) and sounds a bit old school when you start it up. It revs smoothly, though. and delivers plenty of mid-range surge with an interesting exhaust note for a diesel.
If it’s excitement you’re after, the Ferrari-built twin-turbo V6 petrol will be more to your liking. Even in its less-potent 325bhp form it delivers sharp throttle response and a much more Maserati-esque growl from the quad exhausts.
In-gear response is good, but the eight-speed box has clunky shifts when left in auto mode. We’d recommend adding the £245 aluminium steering wheel paddles and taking manual control – the paddles are good to use and add to the car’s sporty feel.
Fast steering means the Maserati is eager to turn in, while even weight distribution ensures it feels balanced in corners. Turn off the stability control, though, and the Ghibli is quick to snap into oversteer. And while the variable-speed steering helps you catch the slide quickly, the set-up is light and a bit short on feedback.
Take it easy, and the Maserati is a mixed bag. Firm suspension fidgets and shimmies over bumps where the Jaguar feels stable and solid, while the sharp brake pedal also takes some getting used to. The car is great on a twisting B-road, but the rest of the time it’s too firm and unsettled to be a relaxing cruiser.
Even though the Ghibli is all-new, it uses a lot of running gear that’s been seen in other models. The engine is found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and other Chrysler products, while the platform is shared with the Quattroporte, and will also underpin the next GranTurismo.
The eight-speed box is from German company ZF, and has seen service in a raft of rivals, so it should be reliable, too.
The sat-nav is from Garmin, while under the bonnet Bosch electronics are used, plus Maserati offers a comprehensive assistance service should anything go wrong.
Quality is no more than okay – the doors don’t exactly shut with a German-style reassurance, while our diesel test car had noisy power steering and squeaky brakes. The infotainment system revealed a few foibles, too.
Seven airbags, anti-whiplash headrests and a chassis with hot-formed steels in crucial crash zones are all designed for unbeatable occupant protection. Euro NCAP awarded the Ghibli a five-star crash test rating.
The Maserati’s 500-litre boot is 40 litres down on the Jaguar XF’s, but has a wider opening and lower lip. The back seats split 60:40, although the through hatch is narrower, plus there’s some exposed metal around the opening.
Rear space is poorer than in the Jag, too. The heavily sculpted outer seats mean the middle seat feels more like a perch, and head and legroom are tight. Still, the seats are comfortable, and the centre armrest folds to reveal a storage area with two cup-holders, plus USB and 12V sockets.
Up front, there’s lots of seat and wheel adjustment, although the offset pedals mean your legs are angled away from your arms – it’s a good job it’s an auto.
An air-conditioned glovebox, large door pockets, a centre console storage bin and 60/40 split rear seats help make the interior even more useable.
Go for the Ghibli Diesel - in terms of fuel bills, this is the cheapest Maserati to run by quite some margin. Maserati claims it will return 48mpg and emit 158g/km of CO2, which is some way short of the BMW 530d, making it a far more expensive company car to run.
Go for the lower-powered twin-turbo V6 petrol, with 325bhp, and you’ll get 29mpg and CO2 emissions of 223g/km. Opt for the higher-power 404bhp Ghibli S and that drops to 27mpg and 246g/km, which is reasonable given the performance on offer.
The biggest stumbling point will be servicing costs. Maserati is a prestige brand, so it expects owners to pay prestige prices, and you’ll pay nearly £2,500 for the first three services – around three times as much as for the Jag. There’s no fixed-price service plan on the Ghibli at the moment. Independent specialists should help to lower costs, and could be a better solution if you don’t live near any of the brand’s 17 dealers.
Residuals of 57 per cent are very good – although these are likely to drop once the Ghibli becomes established.