Car reviews - Maserati - Ghibli - S
Grand tourer ride, sumptuous leather interior, even more sumptuous engine note in sports mode, quiet cabin, easy-to-master infotainment.
Room for improvement
Steering could be a little sharper
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23 Mar 2018
A MID-LIFE facelift has given Maserati’s Ghibli sports sedan much-needed impetus as it takes on the mainly German opposition in the competitive but struggling large luxury car segment.
Apart from a styling tweak, the Ghibli has gained technologies and safety features that arguably should have been in the model when it was launched in 2014, bringing it closer to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series in this regard.
As a bonus, the jewel in the Ghibli crown, the bi-turbo V6-powered Ghibli S, has scored more power and torque, to get ahead of its most direct rival, the Mercedes-AMG E43, in straight-line wallop.
The question is: does the Ghibli S have the rest of the assets to edge out such esteemed company?
Maserati names many of its models after winds that blow around the Mediterranean region. Ghibli, for example, is the name of a hot wind that whistles across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy, and Levante is named after another that comes from the direction of Lebanon.
So, it was appropriate that when we took the wheel of the 2018 Ghibli S, a near-gale was blasting in off Bass Strait, churning the ocean into white froth and making life less than dandy for drivers – including us – on Victoria’s sinuous but exposed Great Ocean Road.
Unfortunately, the wind that we named Damned Annoying was not strong enough to blow away the road workers holding up traffic at numerous points along the route from Torquay to Apollo Bay, nor the rubber-necking tourists crawling along in second gear.
Still, we had sufficient corners and short straights on what is otherwise one of the great driving roads in the world in a car built by one of the great driving-car brands.
The purpose of this drive was to get a feel for the newly facelifted Ghibli large sedan, in particular the flagship Ghibli S with its newly tweaked twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 that now pumps out 316kW of power and 580Nm of torque – 19kW and 30Nm than before. It also now gets a jump on Mercedes-AMG’s twin-turbo V6 E43 to the tune of 21kW and 60Nm.
It was also a chance to sample the electric power steering that replaces the old-school hydraulics, along with a range of new safety and convenience features.
The styling is every bit Maserati, enhanced by the sharp new-look grille that on our ‘S’ had vertical chrome bars and – as always – the famous trident badge that one of the founding Maserati brothers copied from the tip of a spear held by a statue of Neptune in a square in Bologna in 1914.
Simply stepping into the Maserati Ghibli S is one of life’s sensuous motoring experiences, at least for this writer. Sumptuous soft, sweet-smelling leathers are beautifully stitched on to thoughtfully designed surfaces throughout. The doors shut out the world – and that wind – with a deeply satisfying thud.
There are no sharp edges, hard plastics or try-hard design flourishes here just meaningful, satisfying, supremely comfortably accommodation with sensible ergonomics, intelligent controls and clear instruments, topped by a usefully sized 8.4-inch infotainment screen. A victory for both form and function. Bravo.
Getting comfortable is easy with electric powered seats and steering column.
The latter is controlled by a simple four-way toggle switch for both height and reach.
One oversight is a lack of seat heaters, which we note will be coming later in the year in the Ghibli Nerissimo (Italian for total black) special edition.
Hitting the road, we were impressed by the quietness of the ride, but a car weighing nigh-on two-tonnes and costing $175,990 plus on-road costs should be expected to be suitably tamed.
Only a little jarring over sharp imperfections in the bitumen interrupted the bliss.
Once on the winding part of the journey, a touch of the Sport button on the console and another on the adjacent Sports Suspension button turned the Ghibli from a European luxury car to a Maserati.
Instantly, the ride was firmer, gear shifts more sporty and – most importantly – the exhaust note louder courtesy of a bi-modal exhaust. What is it about Italian V6s that they can provide aural pleasure while many garden-variety sixes sound like scrap iron being stacked in a junk yard?Importantly, the sports suspension setting is sufficiently forgiving to soak up most bumps satisfactorily, and consensus was that it could probably be left in that mode most of the time.
Interestingly, Maserati separates the powertrain and chassis sports modes so a driver can, say, leave the suspension in sports mode while backing off the other controls for more relaxed gear changes and so on. Which is exactly what we did.
The Ghibli rides flat through the bends, but we could not escape the fact that this is a big car. Compared with lighter, more hard-edged packages, the steering turn-in is a little blunted, despite the addition of electric assistance that could sharpen things up.
And although it is hard to tell from a distance, we got the impression that this is one area where Mercedes-AMG might have the edge, providing more bite through the front rubber.
In acceleration, the weight of the Ghibli again comes into play, but we are talking a matter of degrees. Fun? Absolutely. Neck snapping? Not quite.
The Ghibli is a practical car in most respects, offering adequate if not voluminous rear seat accommodation for two people on a long drive and for three around town. The boot is not huge, but will gobble up luggage for four.
The 2018 update adds of a number of safety features such as lane-keeping assist which has been made possible by the new electric steering.
Frankly, we found Maserati’s lane-keeping function over-intrusive in highway driving, even in its medium setting, and switched it off, along with the idle-stop function.
Other items such as rear cross traffic alert – including a wide-angle rearview camera – and autonomous emergency braking are worth their weight in Italian shoes, so they stayed on.
Adaptive cruise control is there to help, and like other luxury cars of today, will come to a complete stop behind another car and then head off again when the vehicle ahead accelerates.
Connectivity includes Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and you can have in-car Wi-Fi for up to three devices if you want to fit a SIM card.
The touchscreen is simple to navigate, and includes a console twist knob with a central ‘OK’ button if you tire of finger marks on your otherwise sharp screen.
Ghibli buyers can ramp up the luxury with either a GranLusso or GranSport package that will set them back about another $20k, adding bundles of features such as SkyHook adaptive suspension and ultra-premium sound system.
In summary, Maserati invented the grand tourer (GT), and the Ghibli is a perfect example of the philosophy in the metal. No, it is not the hardest bad ass in town, but it goes, it slows and it is so, so satisfying in almost every driving environment, including blasting winds.
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