Look out German car makers, the Italians are out to hunt you down. Maserati has introduced an all-new model called the Ghibli and it's everything you expect from one of the legendary Italian sporting marques - lovely styling, hot performance and a zest for life that true car lovers will greet with great enthusiasm.
There's one thing missing, though - big numbers on the price tag. For around $150,000 you can have a Maserati Ghibli taking pride of place on your driveway - sports sedans made by BMW, Mercedes and Audi can cost more than that.
Based on the all-new Maserati Quattroporte that arrived in Australia at the start of 2014, the Ghibli is slightly smaller and lighter, but is still a four-door sedan.
The Ghibli, like the Maseratis Khamsin and Merak before it, is named for a powerful wind that blows through the middle east and north Africa.
You wouldn't call the Maserati QP's shape sedate, but the Ghibli is much more extrovert than its bigger brother. It has a large grille that's darkened to highlight the Maserati trident; a high-set window line with the glass emphasised by chrome surrounds; additional trident badges behind the rear-side windows. The sides feature neat swage lines that lead into muscular haunches over the rear wheels.
Rear on, the new Ghibli isn't as striking as the rest of the car, but it does have a sporty theme and the lower area works neatly enough. Inside there are definite cues to the Maserati Quattroporte, particularly in the centre stack area, but the overall theme is stronger and sportier.
The central analog-look clock has been a feature of all Maseratis for decades - it's interesting to note that the big name Germans, and others, have since copied Maserati's idea.
Customisation is a major selling feature of the new Ghibli, with Maserati claiming it can build millions of cars without producing two that are identical. It starts with 19 exterior colours, different wheel sizes and designs, then there are cabins finished in leather of numerous shades and styles, with various stitching. Trim can feature aluminium or timber, again with various designs.
Though some of the initial personalisation can be done online, give yourself plenty of time when you keep your appointment with the Maserati dealer of your choice - you will need it to discuss a full-on tailoring job.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Maserati Ghibli gives you a choice of two V6 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol engines. The model simply called the Ghibli has a 243 kW (that's 330 horsepower in Italian) powerplant. A more highly tuned version of the V6TT, is used in the Ghibli S and produces up to 301 kW (410 hp).
Maserati Ghibli S accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 5.0 seconds and has a top speed - in the Northern Territory of course - of 285 km/h.
If you're that way inclined, there's a 3.0 turbo-diesel engine on offer, interestingly it's the lowest priced model in the range. Its big selling point is 600 Newton metres of torque. Power peaks at 202 kW which is pretty good for an oil burner. Fuel consumption is lower than that of the turbo-petrols.
Maserati had ZF tune its eight-speed automatic transmission specifically to suit the sporting wishes of Italian sports sedan drivers. Naturally, there is a variety of modes that change the characteristics of the engine, transmission and steering. Our favourite was the button simply marked ‘Sport'.
The cabin contains a WiFi WLAN hotspot, there are up to 15 Bowers and Wilkins speakers depending on which Ghibli you opt for. It's controlled through an 8.4-inch touchscreen.
Maserati Ghibli is designed first and foremost to be driven. Preferably hard. Acceleration is nearly free of turbo lag thanks to the use of two small turbos rather than a single large one.
Once the engine is full on song and the ZF auto is in the right gear there's a seemingly endless surge of torque. This makes for ultra-safe overtaking and the ability to deal with hills as though they aren't there.
Then there's the sound, the glorious sound that had us hitting the Sport button and powering down the windows to listen to the semi-race exhaust note. Equally delightful is the way the engine spits and carries on during hard acceleration and braking.
The engine and transmission are set well back to provide 50/50 weight distribution. Naturally, they take power to the rear wheels. The result is a big car that feels almost like a small one in its willingness to respond to the driver's commands.
Road grip is immense, so strong that may we suggest taking it to a track day sometime to get a feel of how good the Maser is at the limit? Feedback thorough the steering and the body is excellent and this Italian masterpiece really does talk to the driver.
Most drivers will be able to find a position that suits them nicely for hard travelling. The rear seats can accommodate adults as they have reasonable legroom. Taller than average drivers may have to give up some legroom if there's an equally tall person behind them and we're not sure we would like to make long trips with four on board.