Maserati Ghibli review
The Maserati Ghibli combines style and quality with sharp handling to rival the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class
Maserati says it has studied what’s needed to succeed in the sporty large executive class, and the Ghibli certainly demonstrates ability when you get the chance to drive it quickly. In other words, it feels like a true Maserati when it needs to – even when it has got the diesel option under the bonnet.
However, the Ghibli also lacks the impressive build quality feel of its established - principally German - rivals, while the ride is unfortunately a bit firm too.
The Maserati certainly has style on its side though, and makes an interesting alternative for drivers who want something that’s a little bit different to the mainstream. Assuming the fleet manager will allow it, of course…
The Maserati Ghibli is a new-ish 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 saloon car’s platform and claims to deliver the sort of sporty driving experience that plays up to the Italian marque’s glorious heritage.
Enthusiasts of that heritage will remember the Ghibli in its previous guises – a glamorous Guigiaro-designed and V8-powered GT car launched in 1966, and the boxy mid-1990s four-seat coupe styled by Gandini. Maserati probably hopes you remember the earlier model best.
Maserati has been pushing hard to turn fewer than 7,000 sales in 2012 into 50,000 – and the Maserati Ghibli is a crucial part of that plan, implemented by the brand’s owner Fiat.
Designed to sit beneath the new Quattroporte in the range, it gives Maserati a challenger in the big-selling executive car class – the challenge coming largely in sales volume terms from a diesel engine being offered for the first time in a Maserati.
Image 2 of 12
However, as well as the 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel there’s a pair of 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6s with up to 404bhp, while an eight-speed auto is standard across the range.
The Quattroporte platform has been shortened by 20cms between the axles for use in the Ghibli, but the newer car is nearly 30cms shorter overall. It shares its sibling’s double-wishbone front- and five-link rear suspension set-up too, as well as Maserati’s optional Skyhook adaptive damping.
With a £5k price premium when compared to a top-spec BMW 530d, Maserati hopes the cachet of the Ghibli’s badge and glamorous design will pull in buyers. It has also included a generous equipment list with leather seats, auto climate control, xenon headlamps, parking camera and touchscreen sat-nav for extra showroom appeal.
Engines, performance and drive
Fast steering means the Maserati Ghibli 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 XF 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.
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 accidentally knock the lever across from drive to Sport mode, because it’s closely positioned just ahead of the climate and infotainment controls.
Image 7 of 12
The 271hbp 3.0-litre V6 diesel isn’t as fast as the engine in the BMW 530d – at 6.3 seconds it’s two tenths slower from 0-62mph. It also sounds a bit old school when you start it up. It revs smoothly, though, and delivers plenty of mid-range urge 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. 0-62mph arrives in 5.6 seconds, or 5.0 seconds in the 404bhp Ghibli S. Top speeds for the petrol models are 163mph and 177mph respectively.
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.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The Ghibli Diesel is, in terms of fuel bills, 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.
Image 12 of 12
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.
As well as high dealer servicing costs, the Ghibli also attracts high insurance premiums – even the lowest-powered diesel model falls into the highest possible insurance group 50. The BMW 530d is group 43.
Initial reported residuals of 57 per cent have been very good to the Ghibli – although these are likely to drop once the model becomes established. The big question is just how far they will fall.
Maseratis of old have suffered pretty badly in that respect, thanks to a reputation for unreliability and problems with build quality. The modern era models may have debunked much of that old reputation, but it still seems likely that high maintenance and running costs, the model’s relative rarity and limited dealer network will be off-putting to future used car buyers.
Interior, design and technology
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.
Image 3 of 12
Inside, the Ghibli has a decent layout, and a characterful dash design with two converging panels and a central analogue clock – with blue face and aluminium details as per the Maserati tradition.
There’s plenty of luxury and leather but sadly, interior quality doesn’t feel quite on a par with its rivals. The leather-topped dashboard adds a touch of class, but the switchgear is a let-down. 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.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Ghibli provides its driver with a large, centrally-mounted 8.4 inch touchscreen for navigation and infotainment functions. It’s operationally satisfactory, but nothing like as slick or intuitive as the best German systems.
Image 11 of 12
There are two audio system upgrades available – a 10 speaker Harman Kardon set-up, or the range-topping Bowers and Wilkins system with 15 speakers and 1,280 watts of output.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Ghibli is only available as a four-door saloon, but its swoopy styling makes it more of a rival for cars like the Jaguar XF, BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes CLS Class saloon than a challenger to the ‘regular’ 5 Series or E Class.
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 the car is only available as an auto, as the addition of a clutch pedal would exacerbate the problem.
An air-conditioned glovebox, large door pockets, a centre console storage bin and 60/40 split rear seats help make the interior a genuinely useable space, and the luxurious interior trim creates a comfortable ambience. The car is quiet and refined while driving, although pressing the Sport button makes the exhaust a lot more intrusive. The ride quality is less than perfect on the UK’s increasingly pot-holed roads, which some owners will find irritating too.
With an overall length of 4,971mm the Maserati Ghibli is less than 20mm longer than the Jaguar XF, but its 1,945mm girth is 65mm broader wider than the Jag.
The BMW 5 series saloon measures up at 4,899mm x 1,860mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
While there’s plenty of room up front, rear space is poorer than in the Jaguar XF. The heavily sculpted outer seats mean the middle seat feels more like a perch and is pretty much unusable apart from for short journeys. Head and legroom are also tight, the swoopy rear roofline not helping accommodation all.
Image 5 of 12
Still, the seats are comfortable, and the centre armrest folds to reveal a storage area with two cup-holders, plus USB and 12V sockets.
Image 6 of 12
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.
Reliability and Safety
Even though the Ghibli was all-new in 2014, it uses a lot of running gear that’s been seen in other models. The diesel engine is found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and other Fiat-Chrysler products for instance, 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.
That’s all very well in theory, but sadly the build 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, leaving us with an overall impression that the Ghibli lacks the ‘hewn from solid’ feel of most of its rivals.
Seven airbags, anti-whiplash headrests and a chassis with hot-formed high-strength steels in crucial crash zones were all designed for unbeatable occupant protection from the outset, says Maserati. Euro NCAP was suitably impressed, awarding the Ghibli a five-star crash test rating in its 2014 test. Adult occupant safety was assessed at an impressive 95 per cent, child occupant safety at 79 per cent, and pedestrian safety at 74 per cent.
This compares favourably to the BMW 5 Series which achieved 95 per cent, 83 per cent and 78 per cent in 2010, and the Jaguar XF which scored 92 per cent, 84 per cent and 80 per cent in 2015.
The Maserati comes with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty – par for the course in this sector, and the same cover as you’d get on a BMW or Mercedes. Audi and Lexus limit cover to 60,000 miles over three years.
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. There’s no fixed-price service plan on the Ghibli at the moment.
Potentially troubling too is the dealer network for Maserati here in the UK. There are 17 outlets all told with a national spread that would be fine for a supercar brand. But the Ghibli diesel is aimed firmly at business users who could easily find the lack of coverage a pain.