The Maserati Ghibli has been on the market for quite some time, but with the managerial reshuffling that has been taking place at the brand over the past few months, the automaker’s local arm gave us the chance to revisit its luxury sedan.
So, how does the entry-level model hold up on the roads of Cape Town? Well, since we had the car for a good few hours, we had the chance to really put it through its paces, without the usual logistical restrictions of a traditional launch.
In its essence, the Ghibli is a weighty luxury sedan with some performance-inspired attributes executed in a very Italian fashion. It fits in just below the Quattroporte and is billed to compete against the likes of the Porsche Panamera, BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and Mercedes-Benz CLS. However, it is often overlooked due to its price and the fact that Maserati has found itself somewhat in the shadow of Ferrari here in South Africa.
Visually, the Ghibli doesn’t look unusually striking, much like many Maserati designs from the past, but there are some aggressive lines, especially along the front end.
Inside the Ghibli, you are greeted by a very attractive, classy interior that uses a combination of leather and plastics, with wood trim here and there. The first thing you notice, however, is the plushness of the well-cushioned seat that hugs you as you climb in. Unfortunately, though, the very next thing you’ll pick up on is the limited legroom for the driver as the transmission digs into the footwell, which translates to an awkwardly placed left foot.
Nevertheless, the Ghibli expresses its performance/luxury personality rather well, mostly since it’s fitted with a capable twin-turbo 3,0-litre V6 delivering 243 kW and 500 N.m to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. In normal traffic situations and urban environments, this engine and transmission combination is adept, but it’s hard not to notice the turbolag off the line when you boot the throttle.
Gear changes are also incredibly smooth and quick and add to the experience of high-performance luxury. The Ghibli serves up effortless long-distance driving, if you can excuse the heavy fuel consumption, while the smooth ride delivered by the front double wishbone and rear multilink suspension (sourced from the Quattroporte) and the low levels of NVH only add to the luxury experience.
What brings the Ghibli down, though, is its two-tonne body. Despite the fact that this hefty weight is distributed evenly between the front and rear, it takes much away from the vehicle’s dynamic capabilities. With the correct throttle management, the Ghibli will hold its own in the corners, but your entry speeds have to be low or else you will find it understeering without notice. Most concerning, however, is the manner in which it distributes the braking force through the EBD. In both soft and hard braking circumstances, you can feel the body shift to the left, forcing you to correct the wheel every time you press the pedal.
The Ghibli doesn’t sound overly dramatic either, despite boasting a powerful V6. It offers a genuine rumble from the exhaust system but as it progresses from low to high revs, the volume doesn’t translate the speed as much as you’d like it to. It becomes slightly louder and sharper in sport mode but we’re assuming the true performance drama is reserved for the more powerful S trim.
As is the Italian way, the Ghibli isn’t a luxury car without its flaws. But it definitely gives you the feeling that you’re driving in an exotic car, as it should. In this market, there aren’t many cars like it, although a cheaper Panamera may just be a more tempting purchase (although the latter can’t quite match the Ghibli on exclusivity).
So, the Maserati Ghibli is certainly a car you’d buy if you actively want to avoid the mainstream options. It does an admirable job of combining luxury and athleticism when you consider its considerable weight, but if it’s a big, zero-compromise performance car you’re interested in, then you may want to consider the S instead. Or, indeed, look elsewhere.