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