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