Ghibli, the test of time

by | Jul 21, 2019 | Lifestyle

Reading time: 4 minutes

Launched in 2012 and with a few updates, where does the Maserati stand among the contested mid-luxury segment?

Brands follow a renovation path that is, pretty much, cast in stone. On launch, they come out with the base models and a bit of a cherry on top. The following year they complete the range, with more engines and more gimmicks. Year later they launch the “limited” sport edition. On Year 4, they do a facelift, changing the headlights, the front grille, a couple of details here and there and that’s it. Year 5 is an upgrade on the specs, with the high-end models getting more power or more luxury options. Year 6 is the last bang, with ultimate editions. Year 7 is discounts and launch of the next gen.

You can go through, pretty much, every brand and that path is quite stable. Most brands cycle a model every 7 years. Others keep it a bit longer. Certain models, such as the G-Wagon and the Wrangler are, well, perennial, and Hyundai shortens the cycle to 5 years.

Maserati is different. The previous Quattroporte stayed the same for 9 years and, since the latest version was launched in 2012, the 7-year cycle should headline a new model right about now. But… no. And when we should be hearing calls for a 2020 NEW Ghibli, it seems the model is going to stay a tad longer with us.

Argue you can that FIAT is in a bit of a revolution, with all that Alfa Romeo talk, the shift to off-road Ferrari’s and that little issue in America with that Chrysler-Dodge-RAM-JEEP extravaganza.

The result? No new Quattroporte, and no new Ghibli.

Hence we decided to take the latest Ghibli out for a spin, and find out how it now compares to the award candidates in the segment. Namely the Germans.

At 430HP, the Ghibli is no longer on the same level playing field as the M5, the E63 or the RS6. These have gone well over 500HP lately, leaving the Maserati to compete with the “almost flagship” in the segment of those brands. Not the best place to be, if I am honest. However, what it lacks in punch, it makes up in style and panache. And in driving sensations.

That said, it is still my car of choice in the segment.

There is beauty in pure V8 engine sound, with a mechanical feel to the throttle and a direct steering that transmits everything to the hands and rear end of the driver. The Ghibli has none of these, but the sensations are as close as it gets in the segment.

Just the Essentials…

Truly, even though we have 3l V6 turbo, the sound is still fantastic. Remember this is, some say, the same engine that gives the Giulia its 507HP, from a trimmed Ferrari V8. And with the exhaust butterfly valve, the music you can make with your right foot is exhilarating.

The interiors show their age, and no amount of leather, noble materials or glossy surfaces will keep your eyes from a center console that is as obsolete as the flip phone. Needs to be said that analogue dials on the dashboard, along with a single traction control button are a plus point at this time. Let’s not forget that to switch off driving aids on current high-end saloons you have to, pretty much, hack into the computer…

The Maserati Family at ease in every condition

On the road it’s comfortable. It’s poised. Feels light and the torque at lower revs is guaranteed to keep you out of trouble. Suspension is a bit on the harsh side but the seats and lateral support are good to keep you in your place.

However, little of this matters when you treat this car the way it deserves. That is, leave the office in style, quietly leave the urban area, find the twisty bit of road, and unleash the Italian-ni Passion-ni.

In the age of computerized gearboxes, when the car thinks for you, the sport mode in the Maserati will let you make actual choices on what gear you should be in. Giving you immediate control over the power to the back wheels. Chassis and suspension work seamlessly to allow you the aggressive approach, apex and exit to the bend, and if you are occasionally “overconfident”, the rear end will depart from its normal position to come alongside you. But it will do so amiably, under control, patiently, and with flair.

Analogue Feeling in a Digital World

Sure you can do that on the 5-series or the E-class but it will take you ages to get the Merc’s 10-gear to obey, or to disconnect the traction control on today’s Beemer. With the Italian, it’s just a button.

A true all-season family GT

However, for all its wonders and all its fable, the Ghibli has two major problems. The first one is the Maserati Levante. With which it shares the engine, and that is sold at a mere 6,000$ more than the Ghibli. True, that amount is nothing to sneer at but in a car that will set you back 120,000$, the difference is just 4%.

The second is the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio. Same segment, almost same size, same umbrella corporation and 6 years younger. And more powerful. And almost 20,000$ cheaper.

That said, it is still my car of choice in the segment.

Photos by: Mr Solo & Maserati archive

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