Is This The Saviour Of Maserati?
May 27, 2014
For me, owning a car is so much more than merely needing transportation. It’s a passion, an indulgence and something that makes you get out of bed in the morning.
I once bought a Maserati for no other reason than I liked the sound of its name. Saying the word Maserati rolls off the tongue so nicely, so in my teens I vowed that one day I would own a Maserati.
That day has come and gone, it wasn’t cheap to maintain, I enjoyed the good times but quivered at the bank statement during the bad times, which was with most services.
Before I continue, I must add that my car wasn’t new and I took it on as a project, so you know the old saying of buyer beware?
I took its ownership on the chin when the little things annoyed me, yet without fail, every time I walked into my garage and saw her pert snout peering from under the dust cover, a tingle ran down my spine.
Lifting that cover to see the iconic blue on silver trident badge with its evocative name signed in red, to my eyes, made the world good again. How could I stay mad at her?
If ever there was an automotive equivalent of a mistress, it was my Maserati.
Until very recently that love/hate relationship has been a core part of owning virtually any Italian car and with classic Alfa Romeos and Lancias before the Maserati, I can say this with authority, but for Maserati at least, all that has to change with this car, the Ghibli.
The reason is that it’s time for the trident to grow up and join the real world and now as part of the giant Fiat Chrysler Automobiles empire, the board wants to see Maserati prosper and grow from 15,400 cars sold globally in 2013 to 50,000 by the end of next year.
While the all-new Levante SUV is confirmed and is on the way to heavily boost those numbers, it will be the Ghibli which will be Maserati’s bread and butter.
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It’s the first time Maserati has entered what they call the E-segment which comprises the likes of the BMW 5-Series and Audi A6 and alongside its flagship Quattroporte, it’s the first time in Maserati’s 100 year history that it has two, four-door cars on sale together.
Our time spent behind the wheel of the Ghibli brought mixed emotions as this was no longer the fickle Italian sports car we’ve grown to love like a recalcitrant child, yet it still had an air of exclusivity that others in its class cannot match.
The base setup is a 330bhp, twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6, rear-wheel drive while the S performance version has 410bhp and all-wheel drive and both engines come standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It is a Maserati after all so performance is paramount and for the base model, that equates to a 0 to 100kmh acceleration time of 5.6 seconds with a top speed of 263kmh while the S covers the same distance in five seconds flat and tops out at 285kmh.
While the company is now part of the giant Chrysler and Fiat Group, it’s nice to know that their cars present and in the future will always be 100 per cent Italian, manufactured in Turin with the Ghibli’s engines cast and built entirely behind the fabled red doors of the Ferrari factory in Maranello.
With that comes the theatre of driving the Trident which begins with a push of the starter button and the trademark, sharp bark from the exhausts on fire up that quickly settles to a loud supercar gurgle in the garage. I pray they never drop this as it’s the defining moment that tells you (and your neighbours) that you don’t drive a fish and chips Jaguar or Mercedes, but a pasta con carné with a sprinkling of chili, Maserati.
The sensation continues once inside with more noise than its rivals that entice you to manually downshift the eight-speed auto so you can hear that crisp crackle and pop from the tail pipes and its computer-controlled throttle blip.
Steering remains hydraulic instead of the fly-by-wire electronics used by others and with that comes better feel and feedback through the wheel making for a more rewarding drive on mountain roads. Its chassis and suspension is borrowed from the larger Quattroporte but has a 173mm shorter wheelbase, is 291mm shorter overall, 50kgs lighter and offers perfect 50:50 weight distribution front to rear.
Selecting sport mode via a button next to the gear selector alters the steering, gearbox, throttle and exhaust settings with a separate control for the two-stage damping.
Steering is light, yet direct around town but returns plenty of feel at pace as it tightens up, while the all-wheel drive S model I spent most of my time in, delivered sensational handling with a slightly rear-wheel bias.
Styling-wise it looks so much nicer in the metal than these pictures convey as it’s classic Coke-bottle hip over the rear doors, combined with the trade-mark three engine vents on the high waisted front guards give this Ghibli curves that would make Jessica Rabbit blush. It’s capped off by the distinctive C-pillar which houses the classical Saetta logo that’s been sitting pride of place between the rear doors and window on each model since 1963.
From behind the wheel, peering over those high front guards is a refreshing change to most modern aero-influenced styles which don’t allow you to see anything beyond the windscreen.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 3-litre V6 Twin Turbo
Power: 306kW @5500rpm
Torque: 550Nm from 1750rpm
Trans: 8-speed auto
0-100kmh: 5 secs
Top speed: 285kmh (est)
Price: AED 285,000
The smell of Poltrana Frau leather welcomes as you open the door and slide in, however unless you are familiar with the new Quattroporte which shares a similar interior and aside from the classic chronograph which has been perched in the centre console of nearly every Maserati for well over half a century, there’s not much else inside that resembles Maseratis of old.
It’s as modern and valid for today’s user as ever with an inbuilt Wi-Fi hotspot for up to three devices to run simultaneously and has a dash dominated by a large 8.4-inch colour display touch control for the infotainment system, while our test car included a 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system.
With a mandate to increase Maserati’s volume six-fold, we have to accept that we will look at this century-old company in a new light with the Levante SUV on the way and four-door family-sized sedans taking the lions’ share of its sales.
But thankfully Maserati has kept its mojo despite the need to tone it down a touch in order to take on the Germanic titans of the E-segment. The company has delivered a product which meets these needs yet retains its vitally important Italian flair.