The last Maserati that graced the Inspired car park was the (then) all-new Ghibli: the first diesel car from the brand. At the time, there were big statements and even bigger promises coming from Maserati, suggesting a Porsche-esque expansion of models. Since then, we’ve seen some evidence of that expansion, with the announcement of the Levanti 4×4 and we hear that there’s more to follow. Continue reading “Maserati Quattroporte: A New Luxurious Way Of Driving”
Maserati has kept the midlife update very restrained. The sub-Quattroporte has brought new levels of volume, and it accounted for 75 per cent of Maser’s sales until the Levante SUV arrived. Messing with the formula was never on the cards.
By 2018 Maserati is hoping to double its sales worldwide. While most of that growth is going to be attributable to Levante, its first venture onto the SUV bandwagon, part of the plan involves a toe dipped into the E-sector saloon pool, courtesy of the Ghibli – a name that’s been in the firm’s stable for 50 years, albeit first used on a stunning GT rather than a modern three-boxer.
Originally launched to a round of polite applause back in 2013, the current car’s lagged woefully behind the big guns in this sector – mostly Germans with a plucky Brit in the mix too – but that doesn’t seem to have phased the powers that be in Bologna. A Maserati is meant to be exclusive, apparently, so relatively lacklustre sales are just fine, and pass the Chianti.
But actually this updated Ghibli really does manage to massage the emotions. It’s mechanically identical to the original apart from some minor gearbox and engine remapping, so still steers with the best in the sector and benefits exclusively from V6 power, despite the CO2 and fuel penalties.
Within seconds you notice the top-class leatherwork, and thankfully a new capacitive 8.4-inch touchscreen now lives in the redesigned dash, performing more functions, faster, and looking classier than ever in the process.
There’s a brace of new options packs to choose from – Luxury and Sport do exactly what you’d expect, adding plushness and athleticism respectively – and the Carbon Pack actually improves performance thanks to the rear spoiler creating a slipperier profile, resulting in – hold on to your hats – 1mph more at the top end.
As with much of the competition, there’s been an onslaught of electronic driving aids, but they’re not anywhere near as intrusive. This is not a company building cars that drive you. The lane-departure safety net won’t steer you back into your lane, for example: it just beeps aggravatingly. Thankfully this can be switched off.
So it isn’t without foibles, chief among which is a set of baffling ergonomic decisions. The indicator stalk is obstructed by the strangely oversized gearshift paddles, and could someone explain why the boot-release button is located on the roof lining? Mamma-mia!
But that’s the appeal here. It wouldn’t be much cop if the Ghibli was as Deutsche as Angela Merkel in an E-class on her way to a schnitzel convention at Oktoberfest, would it?
This is an unashamedly Italian effort, and all the better for it.
Engine: 2987cc turbodiesel V6
Power: 271bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque: 443lb ft @ 2000-2600rpm
Transmission: eight-speed ZF auto, rear-wheel drive, mechanical LSD
Top speed: 125mph
On sale: Now
Classic heart-over-head decission
Italian manufacturer joins the oil-burning premium SUV ranks
Like the Jaguar F-Pace and the Bentley Bentayga before it, this is the car touted to grow its maker’s sales from low-volume mediocrity to something to boast about. It’s a task made harder not only by the quality of the opposition but also by its sheer quantity.
Going by its dimensions, the diesel Levante is a rival for the Porsche Cayenne, but the price for this model puts everything from an Audi SQ5 to a 3.0D F-Pace among its rivals, while our test car’s £70,174 with-options cost gets you a Range Rover Sport.
The Land Rover actually makes for a good yardstick as Maserati claims a similarly broad range of virtues for its SUV. To make good on the claims, the car combines a rear-biased all-wheel drive system with self-levelling air springs on front double wishbone, rear multi-link suspension.
In the UK we get the same 271bhp V6 and eight-speed ZF transmission that feature in the Ghibli Diesel.
The bond is recognisable inside, too, where the architecture replicates much of the saloon’s, but the aesthetic has been tweaked to suit the SUV’s higher scuttle and driving position. Leather is standard, although the premium fine-grain leather in the pictures is a £2650 option, as is the high-gloss carbonfibre trim (£2280).
The added finery doesn’t entirely paper over the Levante’s bottom line. The branded oval clock is drab, the start/stop switch has a Chrysler parts bin feel to it, none of the switchgear would past muster in a Porsche and if you wish to engage Drive or Reverse in a single movement, you’ll need the dexterity of an eye surgeon to work the fiddly selector.
Even with forward motion finally engaged, there’s another problem: the Levante isn’t terribly fast. Pull away with only moderate gusto and the car ambles forward in a way that might feel a little pedestrian to a Macanor SQ5 driver. The reasons aren’t complicated: the car weighs 2205kg – over 300kg more than a 3.0D F-Pace, which produces 73lb ft more. Several years ago we called the equivalent Ghibli’s performance adequate; toiling under the SUV spread has done the unexceptional V6 no favours and it seems less worthy of a Maserati trident than ever.
Ironically, its stodginess is quite well suited to the inconsistent chassis. The fundamental dynamic identity is sensibly plagiarised from the premium SUV rulebook, creating a typically thick-set and thickly steered presence to command from the driver’s seat. But too often the generally satisfying experience is hampered by the air suspension’s tendency to gripe at intrusions rather than flatten them, while the primary ride gently roves about looking for an equilibrium that it apparently cannot locate on British roads.
Next to a Range Rover Sport, it makes for a mildly unpolished experience and, when the pace increases, one unable to make quite the same virtue of its size and weight. Driving the Levante briskly is, at best, uneventful. There is certainly sufficient grip and balance to nonchalantly deliver the V6’s potential, but the car rarely feels overtly rear-driven or encouraging in the way an F-Pace or a Macan would, and inconsistent steering makes it hard to place with much confidence.
The lack of vigour is a problem, because so much of the competition extols it as a basic asset. Whatever you think of powerful, pricey SUVs, they are very much in the business of seriously expediting family journeys, and the bubble of tranquillity, comfort and composure in which they do it has become ever more convincing. The Levante manages all three, but none at a level to usurp its rivals on this first look. Perhaps the leaner, faster petrol V6 might have faired better, and almost certainly it would have made a better Maserati.
Good-looking and capable enough but not near the top of a segment crowded with potent rivals
Engine: V6, 2993cc, diesel
Power: 271bhp at 4000rpm
Torque: 443lb ft at 2000-2600rpm
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight: 2205kg
Top speed: 143mph
Economy: 39.2mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 189g/km, 35%
Rivals: Porsche Cayenne Diesel, Range Rover Sport 3.0 SDV6
Maserati is a manufacturer on the move. Back in 2012 it was selling around 6000 cars globally, but it wants to be shifting 70,000 by 2018. That’s a believable target, given that the car maker moved around 33,000 units last year – and that’s before the arrival of the new Lcvante SUV later this year. For now, its best-selling model is the Ghibli and more than 90% of those sold are the Diesel.
The range still consists of three models: the entry-level 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 Ghibli Diesel, the standard 345bhp 3.0-litre V6 Ghibli, which uses a Ferrari-sourced petrol engine, and the most powerful, 404bhp Ghibli S, fitted with an uprated version of the same petrol motor. The lesser petrol unit now gets 20bhp more than before and a higher top speed, and all engines benefit from improved torque curves and come with a more responsive eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. There have been more considerable changes inside and to equipment. Most notable is a new 8.4in colour touchscreen infotainment system, which has a much higher-resolution display, features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and can be controlled via a BMW iDrive-type click-and-twist rotary controller. Lane departure warning, blindspot and cross-traffic monitoring, city braking and a 360deg surround view are all now available, too.
Behind that new screen and centre console lies better insulation, which, combined with improved floor mats and carpets, is intended to make the Ghibli a more relaxing place in which to wh ile away the miles.
Taking into account all of that, the Ghibli is a better car than it was. But it remains some way behind its rivals, including heavy hitters such as such as the BMW 535d and Mercedes- Benz E350d, in this Diesel form.
The main grievance is still the engine, which, despite Maserati’s revisions, still grumbles to life, sends noticeable vibrations back through the wheel and pedals and never ceases its gravelly hum once up at motorway speeds in eighth gear. It never really feels particularly brisk, either, but Maserati’s efforts to sharpen the gearbox have resulted in better responses when using the (optional) paddle shifters.
TheGhibli’s three driving modes – ICE (In Control and Efficiency), Normal and Sport – are fairly self- explanatory, but none really fits its billing. Sport primes the gearbox, weights up the steering and, on cars with optional Skyhook damping control, stiffens the dampers, but the Ghibli never feels as eager to change direction or as comfortable being pushed as a 5 Series. New actuators in the Diesel’s exhaust also aim to make a sporting sound, but it fails to deliver in the same way that Audi’s and Porsche’s systems do.
Dialling back the dampers to Normal doesn’t help the ride,either. In Sport, the car shimmies and skips sideways over ruts mid-bend, but the extra breathing space in Normal only sends the body shuddering in a more pronounced way. In short,you’ll have more fun driving a 5 Series and be more comfortable in an E-Class.
“There’s good news inside, where the new infotainment system is a real improvement”
But there is good news inside, where the new infotainment system is a marked improvement. It’s more responsive and more logically laid out, and its new rotary controller and shortcut buttons make it quicker to navigate. The latest smartphone integration is another bonus.
It’s a shame the materials around it aren’t as slick. Maserati prides itself on luxuriousness and exclusivity, but the Ghibli is nowhere near the class-leading leathers and plastics of the Mercedes and even feels behind the long-in-the-tooth 5 Series.
Front seat occupants still benefit from good space, but those in the back must still put up with mediocre leg and head room and a rear window line that cuts away past the side of the head. Behind, the Ghibli’s boot is smaller than those of its rivals and harder to access.
Credit where it’s due: the Ghibli is improved. It is slightly quieter and its new infotainment system makes connecting your smartphone and interacting with its features on the move a far more pleasurable experience than before. It also comes with a decent roster of standard kit, including leather seats, sat-nav, xenon headlights and climate control.
Objectively, though, it’s impossible to recommend the Ghibli Diesel over its more talented rivals. It’s not as quick,quiet, agile, comfortable, clean, frugal or luxurious as those mentioned. That’s not enough in a class that sports some of the most rounded models anywhere, bought by people who are used to the best and know exactly what they want from a large executive car. With a new E-Class just launched and the next 5 Series around the corner, the Ghibli will only find it more difficult to make an impression.
Maserati Ghibli Diesel
Incremental improvements raise the Ghibli’s game, but not by enough to pose a serious threat to its key rivals
Engine: V6, 2987cc, diesel
Power: 271bhp at 4000rpm
Torque: 443lb ft at 2600-2600rpm
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1875kg
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 47.9mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 158g/km, 31%
Rivals: BMW 535d, Mercedes-Benz E350d
Maserati has revised its future product plans and switched the launch dates of the new Granturismo and Grancabrio 2+2 GT cars with the two-seat Alfieri sports car, Autocar understands. The Granturismo and Grancabrio are now slated to be replaced in 2018-2019, followed by the Alfieri in 2020-2021, as Maserati rejigs its forward planning. At one stage, the Alfieri, shown as a well-received concept at Geneva in 2014, was scheduled for a 2016 launch and the future of the Granturismo was in doubt. However, Giulio Past ore, general manager of Maserati Europe, has told Autocar the Granturismo and Grancabrio are vital elements of the Maserati line-up. “The Granturismo and Grancabrio will not be dropped,” he said.
“We won’t forget that Maserati is very well known in its history for beautiful 2+2 GT cars and we will replace them, then the Alfieri.” It also looks as though the future of the Grancabrio is now assured. A previous product plan had it ending production and being replaced by a soft-top Alfieri. Key decisions on the platform and styling of the Alfieri are also yet to be taken, Pastore said. Maserati could leave the design sign-off until 2018 for a 2020 sales launch. The Levante SUV took 22 months to get into production after it received the green light, Maserati’s exterior design chief, Giovanni Ribotta, told Autocar. Ribotta also designed the Alfieri concept and the Ghibli and was part of the design team on the new Quattroporte.
THE Maserati Ghibli has been tempting business folk out of their BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class saloons on looks alone for the last three years. But has this update for 2017 finally added some substance to the undisputed style? Almost all of the changes are beneath the skin, so visually the Ghibli remains as it was – chiselled and suitably handsome. You can even have the Ghibli with a Ferrari-developed 404bhp 3.0-litre V6, yet – as appealing as that sounds – 90 per cent of Ghiblis sold in Europe are 3.0-litre diesels. However, nobody will be able to detect your penny-pinching lifestyle, as the diesel looks identical to the higher-powered petrol versions. The lavish, elaborate and leather-clad cabin is a refreshing change to the often clinical feel of the German alternatives.
The improvements made inside are most welcome, too, with the 8.4-inch colour display getting a thorough overhaul. There are new graphics, Apple CarPlay, a more responsive menu system plus a new rotary controller that allows easier access to the car’s functions. It’s a big step up over the old system, but not as slick as BMW’s iDrive. The Ghibli’s looks may not have changed but it feels much improved, and at only a few quid more than an equivalent BMW 535d, it is a thoroughly tempting option. But we’d stop short of putting down a deposit just yet. Maserati says it benchmarked the 5 Series and E-Class when developing the Ghibli. Thumb the starter button and the V6 rumbles into life, but never really settles. Push on and it lacks the smoothness and finesse of the six-cylinder BMW. It’s quick enough, with 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds, but the German cars are faster and feel it.
An active sound system in the exhaust is designed to give a throatier note in Sport Mode, but in reality it just enhances the harshness of the diesel engine. At least it’s efficient; it’s capable of almost 50mpg. Perfect 50:50 weight distribution means the Ghibli always feels balanced mid-corner, although it’s not the most agile of cars. The steering doesn’t offer all that much feedback and often feels inconsistently weighted. In short, a Jaguar XF is the pick if you want to be entertained behind the wheel.
When it comes to refinement and comfort the E-Class has the Ghibli licked, too. Even on the relatively smooth roads of southern France, the Maserati seemed to pick out surface imperfections that weren’t visible. The ride has an overly sharp and brittle edge to it, sending big thuds and vibrations through the chassis when you hit a pothole. Adaptive dampers are available for £2,045, but would appear to do little more than put a serious dent in your bank balance. In terms of practicality, the Ghibli is larger than most of its rivals but doesn’t appear so inside. Space is good up front, while legroom is at a premium for anyone over six foot tall in the rear. The 500-litre boot has a narrow opening and is down on size against rivals.
The 1970s produced some true automotive lemons. It was a decade when barefaced badge engineering and gluttonous V8 engines were all the rage, and nobody cared that these big bruisers cost three arms and a leg to run. The Kyalami is one such monument to excess, a copy of the De Tomaso Longchamp with Maserati’s all-alloy V8 on board instead of Ford’s 5.8-liter cast-iron lump.
Many believe the Ghibli is the greatest of all road-going Maseratis. It was the sensation of the 1966 Turin Show, and over 30 years later is widely regarded as Maserati’s ultimate front-engined road car a supercar blend of luxury, performance, and stunning good looks that never again quite came together so sublimely on anything with the three-pointed trident.
This 2+2 fixed-head coupe launched in 2007 shows Pininfarina’s design expertise at its most refined and elegant. The masterful Maserati Gran Turismo has a prominent front grille above a downforce spoiler that hints at the car’s outstanding performance, combined with classical flowing lines that are both aerodynamically efficient and a delight to those discriminating eyes that note a certain similarity to the Gran Turismo’s Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano stablemate.
The decision was bold, brave and as it turned out, almost catastrophic. After 50 years of success in building fast and fancy GT and race cars, in the 1980s Maserati risked its reputation by attempting to straddle the line between mass production and hand-crafted luxury. The Maserati Biturbo sought to blend Ferrari-standard technology and style with BMW practicality, at the price of a superior Fiat or Alfa-Romeo. Continue reading “Maserati Biturbo Spyder – 1984”
At last, even if not by intention, a woman’s supercar — a high-powered car that didn’t need the strength of Hercules to handle it. It can take real brawn to operate the hefty clutch in a high-performance car because the pressure needed increases directly in relation to torque; but, thanks to Citroen hydraulics, the Khamsin’s clutch could be engaged with the lightest of touches. The rack-and-pinion steering was also power-assisted (using the same recently developed DIRAVI system that was in Citroen’s flagship SM model). Continue reading “Maserati Khamsin – 1974”
After the runaway success of the Ghibli, in order to stay ahead in the game, Maserati set its sights on the production of a mid-engined sports car. Chief engineer Giulio Alfieri was over the moon — he had long dreamed of building an RMR-layout road car and here was his chance. Giugiaro, designer of the Ghibli, was asked to style a two-seater that would be ‘innovative but not revolutionary’. Between the two of them, they came up with a masterpiece. Continue reading “Maserati Bora (Tipo 117) – 1971”
Maserati quit racing in the 1950s to concentrate on producing road cars, but failed to come up with a real winner until the mid-1960s. But the debut of the fabulous Ghibli coupe at the Turin Motor Show in 1966 changed all that.
After the Maserati family sold out to Adolfo Orsi and the factory moved from Bologna to Modena, World War ll intervened and car production was suspended. But Maserati returned vigorously to the postwar fray with exclusive cars that were built around the company’s powerful straight six engines. The A6 Sport (also known rather more laboriously as the Tipo 6CS/46) was a barchetta (open-top two-seater racing car) prototype by Ernesto Maserati and Albert Massimino.