The Maserati Ghibli.
The Maserati Ghibli.

Maserati Ghibli road test | ‘Blow in’ is beautiful performer

AFFORDABLE Maserati. Traditionally that's an oxymoron.

Yet driving a new graceful Italian from the marble-lined showroom is more accessible than ever before courtesy of the Ghibli.

It's just landed in Australia priced from $138,900. While no pocket-change, that's still remarkable for something wearing the prized trident badge.

But most importantly, the Ghibli still looks uber sexy and expensive.

For now it's available in the base model with a V6 diesel, while there is a petrol bent six for $139,900 and an uprated version of that donk which powers the $169,900 Ghibli S. Expect three more options in the near future, including the quintessential V8.

The Ghibli, which means "hot dry wind" in North Africa, marks the beginning of a revolution for the esteemed brand Down Under. There are plans to launch a new model every year until 2019, including the Levante SUV late next year.

Although don't expect masses of Masers on our roads.

Being careful not to dilute the brand, sales in Australia will be capped at 1500 units annually…so in a market selling about one million annually you're still likely to turn heads wherever your travel.

And one thing is also certain in the Ghibli's case, demand will outstrip supply.

Comfort

Expectations are met within a leather-clad cabin abound with soft-touch materials.

There is a familiar look to the 21cm colour touch-screen, it's borrowed from Chrysler, but the chunky steering wheel, beautifully trimmed seats offering cosseting in the right spots and a central analogue clock deliver the prestige sporting feel.

Overall length is 30cm shorter than the Quattroporte which means cabin space is reduced.

Four adults still have adequate space although it could mean some compromise for those sitting in the front if rear passengers are tall.

The driver has a well-designed instrument cluster along with electronic rake and reach steering wheel adjustment.

Taking some adjustment are the fixed gear shift paddles (most other marques have them attached to the steering wheel) along the return-to-centre shifter which can take some analysis when shunting between park, reverse and drive.

On the road

It's back…the soundtrack has returned. During our experience in the all-new Quattroporte we were disappointed to find the exhaust tone was difficult to hear, not in the Ghibli. We only drove the "S" but we were rapt with the raspy tune of the V6. In "sport" mode the rorty Maserati music plays from the quad pipes from the get-go, leave it in "drive" and it retains a more sensible tune until you reach 3000rpm.

Each squirt from the right foot is accompanied by a pleasing punch of acceleration and it can corner, too.

Rear-wheel drive with 50-50 weight distribution means it's a wonderful steer, the combination of steel and aluminium materials means the Ghibli weighs just above 1800kg. That makes for a nimble thing.

The suspension feels composed and delivers a comfortable ride and surprisingly there was limited tyre noise - not something shared by the other European marques.

What do you get?

Choice is the name of Maserati's game. Buyers want individuality and personalisation.

Three leather interior configurations are available in 19 colour combinations with a choice of wood and carbon fibre trims. Oh, and there are eight wheel choices varying between 18 and 21 inches.

Basic equipment includes dual-zone air con, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity with colour touch-screen, cruise control, seven airbags and five-star safety.

Practicality

Dual cup holders are next to the gear shifter, and the cooled centre console bin can also house two small bottles.

Boot space is enough for a couple of golf bags or suitcases, although the opening is small so some awkward-sized items may be a challenge - while the rear seats don't fold.

Running costs

There are long servicing intervals, but expect maintenance to be hefty along with insurance.

Maserati has been planning for the upsurge in models, so it has been training more staff and will open new dealerships in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast in the coming year.

Funky factor

There may be a family resemblance with the Quattroporte, but Ghibli has better proportions.

Trapezoidal grille, angry-looking running lights, side air-vents, it's all there, but the one-third glass and two-third door profile design, along with short overhangs front and back provide a true grand tourer appeal.

It's damn sexy.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Maserati Ghibli Diesel.

Details: Four-door rear-wheel drive large performance luxury sedan.

Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel generating maximum power of 202kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 600Nm @ 2000-2600rpm.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

Consumption: 6.0 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 158g/km.

Performance: 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $138,900. 

Petrol

Engines: 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 generating maximum power 243kW @ 5000rpm and 500Nm @ 4500rpm; "S" model V6 301kW @ 5500rpm and torque of 550Nm @ 1750-5000rpm.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

Consumption: 9.6 litres/100km (combined average); 10.4L/100km.

CO2: 223g/km; 242g/km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.6 seconds; 5.0 seconds.

Bottom line: Ghibli $139,990; Ghibli S $169,900.

What matters most

What we liked: True Maserati sound retained, performance and comfort combine, outstanding looks.

What we'd like to see: Option for safety features like blind spot warning and radar cruise control - although Maserati says its cars are for drivers, and doesn't want to intrude on the driving enjoyment even if the technology is already available within the group.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometres. Servicing intervals are two years/20,000km for the petrol engines, and one year/20,000km for the diesel.



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