Maserati Ghibli


Debut: 2013
Maker: Maserati
Predecessor: No



 Published on 17 Jul 2013 All rights reserved. 


You won't be a stranger to the name Ghibli if you have followed our classic car archives or, well, if you are old enough. Maserati used this name twice before. The first time was on a Giugiaro-penned GT launched in 1967. The second was a derivative of the Biturbo family produced in the 1990s. They had nothing in common except the trident badges. Now the same name is used on an even more different car – a 4-door sedan! This is the smaller brother of Quattroporte. It is Maserati's first entry into the mainstream E-segment, which means it will compete with BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-class, Audi A6, Jaguar XF etc. It is also the first ever Maserati to employ diesel engine. Both are part of the drive to increase Modena's sales from 6,300 to 50,000 units annually within 3 years. Inevitably, to achieve this target the Ghibli has to be cheaper than Maserati products used to be. It seeks cost cutting by sharing platform and production line with Quattroporte, by using only V6 engines and by outsourcing diesel engine from VM Motori, the Italian diesel engine manufacturer that is half-owned by Fiat. Besides, some less significant bits are sourced from Chrysler. Consequently, the Ghibli range is priced between £49K and £63K, about the same level as high-end 5-Series but cheaper than the 4-door coupes like 6-Series Gran Coupe, Mercedes CLS and Audi A7 with which Maserati reckons it compete. For an Italian car with the trident badge, it looks like a bargain. Does it sacrifice anything to go mainstream?



Certainly not the looks. Although the Ghibli is not the sexiest Maserati (that has to be GranTurismo for sure), its proportion is still more GT than sedan. You can easily see the front-mid engine layout, which separates it from its more conventional German rivals. Maserati envelops the mechanicals with clothes that look sleek and muscular enough. The frameless windows are another implications of its sports car genes. Ditto the single piece of rear side window (i.e. without rear quarter window) that resembles the last generation Quattroporte. The triangular C-pillar with trident logo and the triple side vents are also carried over from that car. My only reservation is the square front grille, which doesn't look as good as the oval one on GranTurismo. I have no idea why its designers opted for this change. Otherwise, this is a very sporty and distinctive design that is worth the highest regard among class rivals.


As mentioned before, the car sits on the same platform as Quattroporte, but its wheelbase is shortened by 170 mm and the overall length shrinks from 5.26 meters to just under 5 meters to fit the class norm. However, its width is identical while the roof is 20 mm lower, so the body profile is sportier than its bigger brother. The chassis is again made primarily of steel but aluminum is extensively used in the front structure (subframe, cross members, suspension towers etc.), the double-wishbone and multi-link suspensions, the bonnet and all 4 doors. That said, the Ghibli is only 50 kg lighter than the equivalent Quattroporte, so its 1.8-ton-plus kerb weight is a little on the heavy side of the E-segment. On the plus side, no rivals can match its balance. The rear-drive petrol models have 50:50 front to rear weight distribution while diesel and Q4 (4-wheel-drive) options have another one percent of weight shifted to the front. Note that it fails to match the old Quattroporte though (47:53 for automated manual or 49:51 for automatic), as the engine is positioned a little forward in the new platform to free up cabin space, and the transmission is no longer rear-mounted.


Just when you think its mechanical layout has become mainstream, Maserati responded by keeping the power steering hydraulic, differing to the EPS that has become industrial norm. It also resists the temptation to use huge wheels – all models ride on 18-inch items. This, combines with the optional "Skyhook" adaptive dampers, theoretically should give it a good ride quality. Meanwhile, the Brembo brakes and standard limited-slip differential also promise good dynamics. Same goes for the Q4 system, which uses a rear-biased, 35:65 torque split at low speed and gradually shifts to RWD at higher speed.

I have introduced the 3.0-liter twin-turbo petrol V6 already in the review of Quattroporte, but never mind to repeat once more. This engine is designed by Ferrari and built at Maranello, just like the old naturally-aspirated V8. Thanks to forced induction, dual-VVT and direct injection, it is capable to produce a remarkable 410 horsepower, and 406 pound-foot of torque across a wide band, more than any rivaling six-cylinder engines. Pairing with the compulsory ZF 8-speed automatic, this gives the Ghibli S 177 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds (or 4.6 sec for 4WD), nearly as quick as the V8-powered 550i, E500 and S6. Performance aside, the Ferrari V6 is just as responsive and flexible as any rivals, but what lifts it above them is a really thrilling soundtrack, which is rawer, angrier and louder when you switch on Sport mode (which triggers the bypass valves in exhaust) and rev the V6 towards the last 1000 rpm. Like a sports car engine, it pops and crackles on the overrun. Ferrari does know how to make an engine emotional, even though with only 6 cylinders to play with!



Lesser Ghiblis get either the 330 hp version of the same petrol V6 or the aforementioned VM Motori 3-liter turbo diesel V6. The former is slightly stronger than 535i and A6 3.0T, while the latter faces a steeper challenge against 535d and A6 3.0 BiTDI. VM's diesel engines have never been the best of the class, as you can see their services on Daewoo/Chevrolet, Hyundai-Kia and Lancia Thema. This single-turbo V6 is no exception. Its maximum output of 275 hp and 442 lbft is by no means bad, but its power band is concentrated to the mid-range, refinement is average and the noise is uninspiring – a sharp contrast to the Ferrari V6. Even though it returns good consumption and emission figures, it is not recommendable to enthusiasts. Moreover, the heavier diesel motor also degrades the handling and ride quality a bit. Good news is: a new twin-turbo diesel V6 is under development now and should arrive within 2 years. It will offer up to 350 hp and promise better refinement...

Enter the cabin, you will be delighted with its leather, wood and aluminum-intensive surfaces. Its expensive materials and simplicity in design distinguish it from the mainstream class norm where wood and leather are more the decoration over large surfaces of soft plastics. It simply feels more special in the mass production world. Admittedly, some fits and finishes are not as good as German cars, and some switches come from Chrysler 300, but this is not much of a surprise for a cut-price Maserati. The cabin offers ample room for front passengers, less good but decent for rear ones. Rear legroom isn't remarkable, but at least headroom is far more generous than those luxury 4-door coupes. Unexpectedly, the ergonomics is good, too. The instrument readings, controls and infotainment touchscreen are user-friendly, something Maserati used to ignore.

On the Road



So what attracts people to buy the Maserati executive saloon? Its GT looks, special interior and unique engine sound are definitely important factors. What about driving dynamics?

If you talk about performance, it is not a strong reason to buy the Maserati. Although the fastest Ghibli is already quicker than the old Quattroporte, it is not necessarily as fast as German machines. German executive cars these days can be very quick – for example, Car and Driver timed Audi S6 finishing 0-60 mph in an astonishing 3.7 seconds, who could imagine this in the days of Porsche 959? Fortunately, the Maserati's loud and addictive exhaust note can lead you believe it was even quicker. As we always say, performance is nothing if you cannot feel it. The Italian just does this better than German.

Inevitably, the flipside of the louder exhaust note is the lack of cruising refinement. Wind and road noise are also more than class norms, blame to the frameless windows. This is still tolerable to keen drivers, but less so is the harsh ride. Despite of the aforementioned small wheels and Skyhook suspension, the Ghibli rides firmly even in Comfort mode. It fidgets over expansion joints and crashes over potholes. On undulating roads as well as high-speed cornering, it is not as composed as Jaguar XF or BMW 5-Series. I believe the problem can be sorted out by further tuning to the adaptive damping software, but as it is now, it can't quite match the best rivals in terms of ride and handling.



However, the Ghibli is more entertaining to drive than its mainstream rivals. It does feel agile, better balanced and more willing to turn in, although the hydraulic steering is not as feelsome as you would expect. Should you switch off the ESP, it will power slide cleanly in a controlled manner, thanks to the standard LSD. No, the driving experience isn't as magic as the old Quattroporte with its lighter nose, more transparent steering and razor-sharp throttle response, but it is still entertaining enough to distinguish itself from most rivals.

In the end, BMW 5-Series is still the most versatile in the class, whereas Jaguar XF is still the best driver's car. The Maserati is not going to threaten their positions. However, in my eyes it is truly special in the executive car class thus it is worth every buyer to think seriously. While the early cars are flawed in some areas, I expect Maserati will have them polished in the next couple of years. This car has potential to be great.
Verdict: 
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis

Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Ghibli diesel
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque, aluminum sub-frame
Aluminum + steel
4971 / 1945 / 1461 mm
2998 mm
V6, 60-degree, diesel
2987 cc
DOHC 24 valves
VTG turbo
CDI
275 hp / 4000 rpm
442 lbft / 2000-2600 rpm
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
-
F: 235/50ZR18
R: 275/45ZR18
1835 kg
155 mph (c)
6.0 (c)
-
Ghibli
2013
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque, aluminum sub-frame
Aluminum + steel
4971 / 1945 / 1461 mm
2998 mm
V6, 60-degree
2979 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
Twin-turbo
DI
330 hp / 5000 rpm
369 lbft / 1750-4500 rpm
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 235/50ZR18
R: 275/45ZR18
1810 kg
163 mph (c)
5.3 (c)
-
Ghibli S (Q4)
2013
Front-engined, RWD (4WD)
Steel monocoque, aluminum sub-frame
Aluminum + steel
4971 / 1945 / 1461 mm
2998 mm
V6, 60-degree
2979 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
Twin-turbo
DI
410 hp / 5500 rpm
406 lbft / 1750-5000 rpm
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
F: 235/50ZR18
R: 275/45ZR18
1810 kg (1870 kg)
177 mph (c) (176 mph (c))
4.8 (c) (4.6 (c) / 4.7*)
(12.0*)




Performance tested by: *C&D





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