Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Maserati Ghibli with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Ah, you've just waded into some seriously fun waters. Serious because it's clear you're looking for something practical with four doors, and fun because it needs to be blisteringly quick, while wrapped up in a high-end package. The Maserati Ghibli is all of these things and it was an instant star worldwide for the Italian brand when it arrived in 2014. We've lapped up this model in Australia, too. Last year, of the 483 Maseratis sold, 330 of them were Ghiblis.
The Ghibli's up against some fierce and established competition – BMW's M3 is the resident icon in the mid-size high performance sedan class and the Mercedes-AMG C63 s is the Beemer's worst recurring nightmare. Then there's the new Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio which looks like it could be the brand's comeback car. All of them are seriously fun in a high-end, practical performance way.
We tested the recently updated entry level petrol Ghibli with the smell of its rivals' upholstery still fresh in our sinuses. So, what's it like to live with – from car parks and peak hour traffic to country road blasts. How does the new update actually update it? Why does the shifter keep doing that? And does just being a Maserati make the Ghibli better?
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
On the outside the updated Ghibli is identical to the previous one. Those C-pillars adorned with the Maserati Trident logo flow down into the hulking rear haunches. The nose turns down supercar style to that stiff upper lip. While the front bumper and splitter are cleanly styled and don't steal any of the spotlight away from the centerpiece - that unmistakable grille which along with the decorative side vents have become the key Maserati identifiers.
This is a stunning car and more emotional in its design than the Alfa,BMW, or Benz. Sure, the rear end looks like just about every other car's bottom and it is a bit stumpy, but that's the reality of a cab-back design also shared by its rivals which moves the cabin rearward to allow the nose to extend like that boat from Miami Vice.
Sumptuous is a word really only ever dusted off and used to describe food and hotel rooms, but it also nails the feel of the Ghibli's cabin.
The Ghibli shares the same chassis and suspension design as its Quattroporte big brother, but is 293mm shorter at 4971mm end to end. That's long for this segment – the Giulia QV is 4639, the M3 is 4661mm and the C63s is 4686. It's wider and taller too, at 2100mm across including the mirrors and 1461mm high, the C63 s for example is 2020mm from mirror to mirror and 1442mm to the roof top.
Sumptuous is a word really only ever dusted off and used to describe food and hotel rooms, but it also nails the feel of the Ghibli's cabin. Modern, luxurious and a bit over the top, our Ghibli was fitted with the 'Luxury Package' which costs the price of a brand new Kia Rio, and adds premium leather.
Not so premium is the touchscreen which looks suspiciously like the same one from the Jeep Cherokee (also owned by Maserati's parent company FiatChrysler Automobiles), right down to the air vents which flank it, and the window switches are also very close to those used in the Jeep.
On this topic of quality the Ghibli wasn't as high up the scale as we'd expect. The windscreen wipers were unusually loud and had less than perfect contact with the window. The top tether anchor points for child seats were housed in sharp plastic wells that felt little piranha mouths and the air vents and plastics in the back row were a bit cheap feeling.
Not at all cheap feeling is the Ghibli's key fob, it weighs about the same as a small cobblestone and feels like one in your pocket. It's surely weighted with concrete or lead or dark matter to give it that solid, quality feel.
Leg and headroom in the back seat depends on where you're sitting. At 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about 30mm of space between my knees and the seatback and about the same distance above my head.
The middle seat in the back is really only for kids – even one of our web developers who's built like an elf complained about the lack of headroom and having to straddle the driveshaft ‘hump'. I didn't mind though, because I was driving.
The fold-down armrest in the back row houses a storage tray with a USB port and a 12 volt power outlet, plus two cup holders. There are another four cup holders up front (with two in the giant centre console bin). The connoisseur of the finer things in life will also be happy to know that a jumbo Slurpee will fit in the cupholders near the shifter.
There is still an apple in the boot of the Ghibli but it's just going to have to stay there because it's so far back I can't reach it even with my stupidly long arms.
The only bottles you'll be able to fit into the tiny door pockets are those little ones from hotel bar fridges. But for the rest of the hotel towels, linen and bathrobes there's heaps of space in the boot, which is massive.
Seriously, there is still an apple in the boot of the Ghibli but it's just going to have to stay there because it's so far back I can't reach it even with my stupidly long arms. That might give you a better picture of the cargo space rather than just telling you that it has a 500 litre volume. But if you appreciate numbers you'll like to know its boot capacity is 20 litres bigger than the luggage room of the M3, C63 s or Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10
The entry-level petrol Ghibli lists for $143,900, and our test car had the optional $16,000 Luxury Package with its premium leather and 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, and the $5384 Drivers Assistance Package which brings AEB and other advanced safety equipment. Both packages are part of the recent update.
Also new for the 2017 Ghibli is the 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there's now an air quality sensor which Maserati reckons will stop pollution from finding its way into the car and may even stop toxic gases.
Standard as well are the 18-inch 'Alfieri' design rims, rear view camera, auto-headlights, kick-open automatic boot, front and rear parking sensors, proximity unlocking, dual-zone climate control, aluminium shifting paddles, leather-wrapped steering wheel, powered sun shades for the rear and back windows, wood trim on the centre console and power adjustable front seats.
Our test car had the optional $2477 mica paint and the $777 collapsible spare wheel.
The Ghibli exhaust note is unmistakably a Maserati with its high-pitched, smooth sound.
What's missing from that standard features list? Well, it would be good to see a head-up display, but you can't even get that as an option, and three-zone climate control is becoming the norm in prestige cars.
There are three grades of Ghibli – the Ghibli Diesel which lists at $139,900, then there's our Ghibli test car above it, and topping off the range is the Ghibli S which has a more powerful version of the V6 petrol engine and lists for $169,900.
The BMW M3 Competition is $144,615, and while it doesn't have a virtual instrument cluster and AEB it is a more potent animal with more power and an excellent level of fit and finish.
The Giulia is the same price as the Ghibli, but it's better value with more power and torque, more standard features and comes with the Ghibli's optional advanced safety equipment as standard.
The C63 s is $155,510 and is beautifully hardcore in looks and performance.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 9/10
The C63 s has its bellow, the M3 screams, the Giulia's voice is deep and loud and the Ghibli exhaust note is unmistakably a Maserati with its high-pitched, smooth sound.
In that long nose is a Maserati-designed, Ferrari-built 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 making 247kW/500Nm. Compare that to the Giulia QV's 375kW/600Nm, or the M3 Competition's 331kW/550Nm, or the C63 s's 375kW/700Nm and the base spec Ghibli seems underpowered.
The eight-speed ZF automatic transmission is smooth and a bit slow, but perfect for highways and peak-hour city driving. I find it preferable to the dual-clutch in the M3 which while super quick isn't too smooth in heavy traffic.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Maserati says the Ghibli should consume premium unleaded at an average combined rate of 8.9L/100km. Ours needed 19.1L/100km which is higher because most of the 250-odd kilometres we drove were in the city, and in Sport mode, and with me shifting manually, and mainly holding second gear almost all the time to impress/offend bystanders. You too can more than double the recommended fuel usage and annoy people if you drive like me.
What's it like to drive? 9/10
The first impression is how large that steering wheel is, the next is the exhaust note and then long nose out in front. The Ghibli feels light, the steering is smooth, the suspension is soft even in sport mode and the ride is comfortable even on the 19-inch rims shod with wide and low profile Pirelli P Zeros (245/45 front, 275/40 rear).
The Ghibli is a chatterbox in that the feedback from the road through the steering and the seat is excellent; handling is exceptional and is helped by a (mechanical) limited slip differential.
These factors along with the comfortable ride make the Ghibli easy to live with – more so than an M3 or C63 s.
But in this base grade it lacks the brutal punch of its more powerful rivals, you'll also need to drive it harder to get it to shout louder and that could obliterate a driver's licence instantly.
The turning circle isn't bad at 11.7m (the same as a Mazda CX-5), steering is light and visibility (forward and rear) is good, while the transmission is smooth. These factors along with the comfortable ride make the Ghibli easy to live with – more so than an M3 or C63 s.
I never could get used to the shifter. It looks normal enough but the lumpy mechanism meant I nearly always overshot reverse and had to concentrate to select my gear.
All doors have a central locking button – sounds appropriate for a limousine, but it provided unending amusement for my toddler who locked and unlocked the doors constantly and all we could do was demand that he "stop it for Chrissakes!"
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The Ghibli scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating and has seven airbags The update has brought the new 'Advanced Driver Assistance Pack' which adds adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, AEB, and a surround view camera.
For child seats there are three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the back seats.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 6/10
The Ghibli is covered by a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months/20,000km.
“The entry grade petrol Ghibli is more placid than its rivals, with a plush cabin, comfortable ride, and an engine that doesn't have an anger management problem. The Ghibli's looks like nothing else from the front, but like everything else from the back, there are a few areas where the quality feels like it should be better, but the Maserati brand still adds a superhero aura to the Ghibli and that exhaust note is one of the sweetest soundtracks to come from a V6.”
Would you choose a Ghibli over its hardcore four-door mid-sized rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments below.