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.