The Maserati Ghibli is Maserati's answer to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6 and the Jaguar XF. Maserati's goal with the Ghibli is for it to be the firm's best seller in order to have made 50,000 sales by 2015. Considering Maserati's 100 year heritage, the Ghibli should be solar systems away when it comes to handling and performance. Maserati have based the Ghibli on a shortened version of the Maserati Quattroporte's platform, it promises to be sporty, comfortable and be incredibly refined. To put all these claims to the test, I got myself the keys to a lovely Maserati Ghibli V6 S to find out.
Let's begin this one with why most people will buy a Maserati: Performance. The Ghibli comes with a choice of 3 engines. A 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel, and two 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6′s with power outputs ranging from 325 horsepower to 404 horsepower. All engines are bolted directly to an eight-speed ZF transmission. We haven't driven the diesel or the 325 horsepower petrol as of yet, but the 404 horsepower Ghibli S was a huge disappointment.
Yes, it's an engine made by Ferrari, but on the road, it feels nothing like one. The engine makes all the noise in the world (a good noise), but no go despite it having 404 horsepower. The engine feels restrained, like something isn't letting rev out happily. The eight-speed ZF transmission doesn't make the power delivery any better, it's dimwitted, slow and can never make its mind up. It definitely makes a better noise than the Jaguar XF S which is powered by a supercharged petrol V6. The XF S has around 340 horsepower, but oddly feels faster than the Ghibli.
So, it's not that good in a straight line, is it any good around the bends? The short answer – no. The Ghibli V6 S doesn't feel as tight as a drum. You can feel movements in the chassis and the car itself rolls quite a bit when taking bends a little too fast. But that can all be forgiven, what can't though, is the steering. Ooh, the steering, that needs a paragraph of its own. What an utter disappointment and shock it was.
Jump into any Maserati, whether it would be a Grant Turismo MC Stradale, or a Quattroporte (previous-gen), the steering is an absolute peach. The communication between the road and you, the driver, is like mustard on a hotdog (yeah, don't ask, I have no idea what that means). The short answer is that, previous Maserati's were full of driving pleasure, whether it would be on a twisty country road or the race track, you knew exactly what the front two wheels were doing at any given time.
The steering in the Ghibli is an inter-galactic catastrophe. I'm sorry to be so harsh, but Maserati should know better. It's so vague, it gives you zero confidence when throwing it into a corner. Did Maserati's test drivers really approve the prototype's poor steering? To balance this harsh statement, I can say it's very light in town, which means you can manoeuvre and navigate in town very easily.
On the note of steering, what usually comes behind steering wheels on a performance car? Paddle shifters. Yeah, they're missing from the Ghibli V6 S, it's actually an optional extra. Wait, what? Paddle shifters on a 404 horsepower super saloon are missing? Yep, for those who don't spec their Ghibli to have paddle shifters (which costs £245), you get the luxury of two fake buttons behind the steering wheel which do absolutely nothing. Throughout your ownership, it'll eat your head off as to why you didn't specify the Ghibli with the paddles, which should come as standard.
So it's not particularly fun to drive, it's not fast or engaging, then is it comfortable? Does it sooth your senses and feel like a cushion of air whilst cruising along the highway/motorway? I'm a bit 50/50 on this one. The Ghibli's suspension seems to bottom out with hard and rough surfaces. It also doesn't fare with potholes too well in the UK, but it does feel very relaxing on the motorway. At high speed, it is very composed with tyre roar and road noise being minimal.
Aesthetically, the Maserati Ghibli does redeem itself. The front-end up to the side's half-way line is pretty much sexy, but as soon as you get to the rear-end of the car, it's a love or hate thing. I've seen comments ranging from, it looks like an Audi A6 to it looks like a Hyundai or Kia from the rear. In the flesh, it looks no better, it looks very boring, only those quad pipes seem to spruce it up a little.
Inside, the Maserati Ghibli is, okay'ish. The seats are nice and supportive, they're also very comfortable. However, with every upside, comes a downside, if you don't specify the Ghibli with extended leather (£810), you get this fake plasticy vinyl'ish kind of material which you'd usually find in a Peugeot MPV. That's unacceptable in a car that costs over £60,000. The infotainment system is okay, but the screen doesn't fair well when the sun is shining.
Practicality – well, again, the rear is extremely tight and the boot is pretty small. So that's practicality out of the picture. Did I mention that the buttons next to the gear shifter on my test car were faded away? Like the sort of stuff you see on old heavily used cars, only that the Ghibli I was in had only done 3,000 miles. Reliability could be an issue.
And then we get onto the topic of value and price. The Ghibli V6 costs £52,290, the Ghibli Diesel costs £48,835 and the range-topping Ghibli V6 S costs from £63,435. The Ghibli Diesel costs £300 more than the equivalent BMW 535d, yet the BMW comes with a lot more know-how and general all-round quality. The Ghibli S shouldn't cost £63,435, it's got barely anymore power than a C63 AMG.
I should be cutting this car some slack, afterall, it is Maserati's first attempt with a proper mass-produced saloon car. Personally, I don't think this is what Maserati stands for. They should know better.