Maserati Ghibli diesel 2016 review
We drive the revised Maserati Ghibli fitted with Maserati's 3.0-litre diesel engine
The allure of the badge and draw of the Maserati Ghibli’s good looks is strong, but Maserati’s executive car still misses the target when it comes to delivering the complete package. It has its appeal, chiefly in its design, but a mediocre powertrain, firm ride and lack of overall space count against in an extremely competitive class. It’s designed, developed and produced in Italy but the Ghibli remains outclassed by the Germans.
Executive Italian cars are having a bit of a resurgence, looking to reclaim the office car park from the Germans. The new Alfa Giulia has proved to be a convincing alternative to the BMW 3 Series, while this updated Maserati Ghibli certainly has the looks to tempt business folk out of their 5 Series, A6 and E-Class saloons.
The Ghibli arrived three years ago but this is the biggest update it’s seen so far. Virtually all of the changes are beneath the skin, so visually the Ghibli remains as it was – easily chiseled, handsome and eye-catching enough to tempt buyers to part with their cash.
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You can even have the Ghibli with a Ferrari-developed 404bhp 3.0-litre V6, yet as appealing as that sounds a whopping 90 per cent of Ghiblis sold in Europe are still 3.0-litre diesels. However, nobody will be able to detect your penny-pinching lifestyle as a diesel looks visually identical to the higher-powered petrol versions.
Inside, the lavish, elaborate and leather clad cabin is a refreshing change to the often clinical feel of the German alternatives. The improvements made to the cabin are most welcome too, with the 8.4-inch colour display getting a thorough overhaul. There are new graphics, Apple CarPlay, a more responsive and intuitive menu system plus a new rotary controller on the centre console that allows easier access to the car’s suite of functions. It’s a marked improvement over the old system, but still not as slick as BMW’s iDrive.
The Ghibli looks and feels up to scratch then, and at only a few quid more than an equivalent BMW 535d, a thoroughly tempting option. But we’d stop short of putting down a deposit just yet.
Maserati says it benchmarked the 5 Series and E-Class when developing the Ghibli and has put a huge amount of effort into improving refinement. Thumb the starter button and the V6 diesel rumbles into life but never really settles - push on and it lacks the smoothness and finesse of the six-cylinder unit in the BMW. It’s quick enough, hitting 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds, but again the Germans are faster and feel it.
An active sound system in the exhaust is designed to give a throatier note in Sport mode, but in reality it just enhances the harshness of the diesel engine. At least it’s efficient, capable of almost 50mpg with CO2 emission of 158g/km.
Maserati has also tuned the eight-speed ZF gearbox to deliver sharper responses, but it does have a tendency to hang on to gears before changing up in automatic mode. The beautiful aluminium paddles look and feel fantastic, delivering much snappier changes from the gearbox. The paddles also operate with a satisfying clunk when pulled but, bizarrely, they are a £245 option.
A perfect 50/50 weight distribution means the Ghibli always feels balanced mid-corner, but it’s not the most agile of cars - nudging almost 1,900kg. The steering isn’t brimming with feedback and often feels inconsistently weighted. In short, a Jag XF or 5 Series are the pick if you want to be entertained behind the wheel of an executive car.
When it comes to refinement and comfort the Mercedes E-Class has the Ghibli licked, too. Even on relatively smooth roads in Southern France, the Maserati seemed to pick out and shout about road surface imperfections that weren’t visible. The ride has an overly sharp and brittle edge to it, sending big thuds and vibrations through the chassis when you hit a pothole. Adaptive dampers are available for £2,045, but would appear to do little other than put a serious dent in your bank balance.
In terms of practicality, the Ghibli is larger than most of its rivals but doesn’t feel it inside. Space is good up front, but those in the back will have more to complain about. Legroom is at a premium for anyone over 6ft, while headroom isn’t the most generous either. There isn’t a particularly spacious boot either. At 500 litres, its down on size against virtually all of its rivals.