Maserati Ghibli S 2014 review
The Maserati Ghibli S is well-priced and stylish but equipment levels let it down
In diesel form the new Ghibli is a well-priced, stylish alternative to the current crop of dull mainstream saloons. This ‘S’ model is less convincing though. The unsettled ride and inconsistent steering make it hard to exploit the excellent chassis, and the stingy equipment list grates on a car that already costs £63,415. If you can forgive these shortcomings though, it’s still very charismatic to drive fast.
Maserati is celebrating its centenary this year and also plans to sell nearly three times as many cars in the UK than it did in 2013. That growth will be built on the back of the brand’s latest new saloons – the Ghibli and the Quattroporte – and we grabbed the chance to drive the flagship 404bhp ‘S’ model on tough British roads.
The technical specification is certainly very impressive. The top spec Ghibli boasts a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 developed in conjunction with Ferrari, a limited slip-diff, perfect 50:50 weight distribution and lightweight aluminium body construction.
That might sound more like the recipe for a raucous sports car than a luxurious saloon, and the raw performance stats only underline the Ghibli’s dynamic intent. The sprint from 0-62mph takes five seconds flat, and a 177mph top speed makes it faster than any of its rivals from BMW, Mercedes and Audi.
The new engine is a real showstopper. The menacing growl it emits from the quad exhausts in Sport mode is accompanied by a surge of speed as you accelerate, and the revs build quickly and smoothly, with barely any delay or turbo-lag. However It never feels quite as fast as the figures, thanks to its substantial 1,810kg weight.
While the diesel bestseller is pitched squarely at high-end 5 Series and A6 buyers, the Ghibli S is priced to compete with V8-powered niche models like the 6 Series Gran Coupe and S7. The lavish interior certainly makes it feel more exotic than any of those rivals, and the sharp exterior styling only adds to this desirability.
Sadly, you’ll have to dig quite deep into your wallet if you want to add extras like the 21-inch ‘Titano’ wheels (£3,670), red painted brakes (£432) and carbon fibre interior trim (£1,710) that were all fitted to our highly-specified test vehicle.
Admittedly, some of the optional extras are essential, and the gorgeous aluminium shift paddles (£245) transform the driving experience. We drove the Ghibli S with and without them, and the eight-speed ZF gearbox was much easier to use with the shifters on the wheel – the stubby central lever feels clunky and awkward.
Similarly, the standard suspension setup is far too firm to be comfortable, and on bumpy roads the Maserati jostles and jolts driver and passengers alike. In fact it rarely settles into a proper cruise – something that improves with the optional ‘Skyhook’ adaptive dampers (£2,045) but the standard setup should be better.
The electric power steering is another disappointment. It’s accurate and quick enough to make the Ghibli feel nimble on slippery roads, but odd weighting and lack of genuine feel mean cars like the ageing Jaguar XFR are sharper to drive.
Forget these issues though, and start driving the Ghibli S with more conviction, and it really does come alive. The chassis balance is superb, it sounds fantastic and will be a rare sight in the UK – which might just be enough to tempt a few customers away from the usual German suspects.
Need to know: Maserati expect to sell about 1,000 Ghiblis this year – two thirds of their total volume - and about 700 of those will be the cheaper, cleaner diesel.