Review: Maserati Ghibli S

Serving as both a family runaround and a gutsy sports car, the new Maserati Ghibli S steers into an already saturated market of jaunty executive sedans. Taking it out for a spin, we find out if the marque has a success on its hands...

Although something of an enigma – even to many petrol heads – Maserati cars have been produced with passion and pedigree in the Grugliasco factory outside Turin, Italy, for the past 100 years. They are treasured by enthusiasts and the cognoscenti alike, attracting those who might be looking for something a little different, and those who may value character over uniformity and excitement over predictability. Due to low sales and the idiosyncratic nature of some of its past offerings, the Italian company has often twitched a little uncomfortably in a rarefied niche of its own making.

In an attempt to change tack and compete with more mainstream rivals, Maserati is now looking to build on a century of tradition, engineering expertise and experience and enter the lucrative four-door sports executive sedan sector that includes illustrious names such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes. Welcome, then, to the all-new Ghibli S that reprises, for a second time, a classic badge from the iconic model first launched in 1967. Based heavily on the flagship Quattroporte and with many common parts and accessories, this possible game changer for the marque is sleeker, shorter, nimbler and more seductive and economical than its elder sibling, and it sits perfectly at home alongside a range of exotic vehicles vying for attention in the showroom. If first impressions are crucial, then the Ghibli S passes its first test with flying colors.

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“The Ghibli S perfectly combines the sexy edginess of an Italian thoroughbred with the sensible practicality of a four-door sedan. It ticks all the boxes in terms of style, feel and performance.”

 

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Ride & Performance

With more than 400 brake horse power, the punchy three-liter, bi-turbo, V-6 power plant is built off-site under Maserati’s supervision by its corporate partner and former owner in the Ferrari factory in Maranello. Responsive and edgy, it sits as comfortably at the red line as in traffic.

Maserati certainly knows how to tune an exhaust; the compact unit does its job beautifully. A press of the wide accelerator pedals produces a throaty, snarly and – though a trifle muted – unmistakably sporty note from the stylish quad pipes at the rear. Drive is powered through the rear and helped by a 50/50 weight distribution, double wishbone suspension at the front and multi-link at the rear, resulting in a comfortable ride that inspires confidence. It may be disappointingly vague at low speeds though, especially on a rough surface.

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Engage the sport mode to attack corners, however, and this sleeping thoroughbred bursts into life. The mechanical rear differential allows the steel chassis to feel that it is firmly planted on the tarmac, and the feedback through the three-spoke steering wheel provides a more linear reactive response than many of its rivals. Minimal body roll and near-zero under-steer make a ride along winding roads gloriously effortless. The car reacts well to a range of driver inputs and the excellent eight-speed ZF automatic transmission behaves impeccably in all conditions. The Brembo breaks are so effective that a cultured foot on the pedal is necessary to avoid decelerating too quickly.

Body & Soul

An aggressive coup-like silhouette is achieved using flowing lines, a sophisticated design language and clever use of subtle style features. The front profile is dominated by a low-slung, brooding front grille that sports the distinctive Maserati trident and draws its inspiration from the current Gran Turismo and classic A6 GCS of the 1950s. This perfectly frames the sharp lines of the bonnet and headlights, while a triangular C-pillar carrying the classical Saetta Maserati logo and the frameless door windows accentuate the sporty look that defies its girth before the eye settles on the muscular rear.

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Step inside the car, sink into the well-padded leather seats with advanced lumbar support, and adjust the steering wheel to suit your driving position. The understated fascia looks a little sparse at first glance, but by keeping distractions and useless gizmos to a minimum it focuses on functional simplicity. A signature Maserati clock adds a classy, retro touch, and a large screen control center adapted from the Chrysler original does its job with the minimum of fuss. Less successful in this regard is the gear selector, which feels awkward at first but works perfectly well with a little practice.

The cabin is dominated by Italian-crafted Alcantara leather and grainy Radica wood paneling. Though comfortable in the rear, the legroom might be called adequate rather than generous. Overall, the car’s Italian heritage and sporting credentials seep from every pore, even including the four shaped air vents on the front wing that add that perfect extra touch. 

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Verdict

The Ghibli S is a risky turning point for Maserati, as it seeks to widen its appeal and compete with established market players without losing its hard-earned, essentially quirky and exclusive aura; it is stepping into a crowded arena where family customers are already spoilt for choice.

The gamble looks to have paid off. This car has genuine Italian pedigree and enough talent to justify its famous badge. It perfectly combines the sexy edginess of an Italian thoroughbred with the sensible practicality of a four-door sedan. It ticks all the boxes in terms of style, feel and performance, and has all it takes to carve a profitable niche into a complex market.

Doubling as a weekend family runabout as well as a gutsy sports car, the Ghibli S will appeal to buyers looking to incorporate accessible daily transportation with ego-boosting power and fun when the opportunity arises. Throw in the fact that there is a four-wheel drive version available and even – incredibly – a less powerful diesel alternative and it is clear that the marque is taking it seriously. The aim is to sell tens of thousands of vehicles worldwide by next year. On the evidence in so far, that should be no problem

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Tech Specs

  • Engine: Three-litre V6 bi-turbo
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with fully manual mode
  • Fuel management: ICE system
  • Power Output: 410 BHP at 5,500 rpm
  • Maximum torque: 550 Nm at 1,750 rpm
  • Top speed: 285 km/h
  • Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in five seconds

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Comfort Zone

  • Vulcano 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system
  • Cruise control
  • Maserati Stability Program (MSP)
  • daptive b-xenon headlamps with washing system
  • LED tail lamps
  • Front armrest with air-conditioned storage compartment and 12V socket
  • Two-zone automatic climate control
  • Velour carpets
  • Maserati audio system with eight speakers
  • Keyless entry
  • Rain sensor
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