The Maserati Ghibli combines style and quality with sharp handling to rival the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class
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 worthy challenger in the executive class – thanks largely to a diesel engine being offered for the first time in a Maserati. The 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel is joined by a pair of 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6s with up to 404bhp, while an eight-speed auto is standard across the range. Maserati has studied what’s needed to succeed in this class, which is why the Ghibli is just as capable cruising along smoothly and comfortably as it is being driven aggressively. In other words, it feels like a true Maserati when it needs to, but makes a feasible daily driver.
Our choice: Maserati Ghibli Diesel
Put the Ghibli next to a new Quattroporte and besides the Ghibli’s 173mm shorter wheelbase, you’ll have a hard time telling the two apart. Both feature eye-catching creases over their rear wheel arches and three square holes punched in the front three-quarter panel. To mark out the Ghibli as a sportier model though it gets an aggressive front-end treatment, with a more angular grille and slimmer headlights. The overall result is a four-door Ghibli that doesn’t quite turn heads like the GranTurismo coupe, but it makes rivals from BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar look rather plain in comparison. The interior quality is excellent, and the cabin shares most of its switchgear and architecture with the Quattroporte. However, a bold chrome surround for the central touch screen and central console tilted towards the driver is unique to the Ghibli.
Based on a cut-down version of the Quattroporte’s steel and aluminium chassis, and with the same suspension layout, the Ghibli gets off to a good start. A variable ratio steering rack takes some getting used to, but delivers sharp turning and even some feedback from the front wheels. Select Sport mode, which sharpens the powertrain, set the Skyhook adaptive dampers to their firmer setting and the Ghibli carves through corners with minimal body roll and feels noticeably more nimble than the Quattroporte. 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) but it revs smoothly and delivers plenty of mid-range surge. 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. And when you’re not trying to extract maximum performance, the refinement and ride comfort are both up there with the class leaders.
Italian cars aren’t renowned for their mechanical reliability, but things have improved since Maserati’s parent company Fiat bought Chrysler back in 2011 – which boosted component sharing and economies of scale. The V6 petrol engines are designed by Maserati but built by Ferrari – a company with plenty of performance engine pedigree - at their plant in Maranello, while the V6 diesel is bought from VW Motori – a renowned supplier of diesel engines to the car industry. Although yet to be tested, the Ghibli has been designed specifically to achieve a five star Euro NCAP crash rating. Seven airbags, anti-whiplash headrests and a chassis with hot-formed steels in crucial crash zones are all designed for unbeatable occupant protection.
The Ghibli can’t match the Quattroporte for rear legroom, but there’s still enough space for one six-footer to sit behind another. Headroom is adequate for adults in the back, too. The 500-litre boot space looks enormous and should happily swallow four-people’s luggage, although on paper it does trail the BMW 5 Series dimensions by 20-litres. 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 can’t match the BMW 530d, but the Ghibli has 13bhp more. 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. Insurance costs will be high though, and although Maserati does offer a warranty, servicing bills will be much higher than average once that expires.