|Looks good, sounds good, steering improved|
|Not quick enough beside the class hot rods, expensive|
Maserati says the revised Ghibli is 70 per cent new overall, even though it looks fundamentally the same as the car it replaces. It has been subtly redesigned front and rear, and inside, and it definitely looks better in the flesh as a result.
There are also now two new trim levels to choose from – GranSport and GranLusso – the first bringing more sporting touches such as carbon fibre interior trim and piano black inserts within the front bumper; the second bringing more luxuriant visual touches. Both cars are, however, identical to one another mechanically.
Engine, transmission and 0-100kph time
The engine of the Ghibli S is a 2979cc twin-turbo V6 that’s built for Maserati by Ferrari in Maranello. It has 20bhp and 30Nm more than in the previous car, yet is also a touch cleaner at the same time. It produces 424bhp at 5750rpm and 580Nm between 2250rpm and 4000rpm with a claimed 223g/km.
Despite the similarity in size to Alfa’s 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 – also built by Ferrari at Maranello – this engine bears no resemblance to the Alfa unit because it is a 60 degree V6. Whereas the one in the Alfa is a 90 degree V6 and is essentially a Ferrari V8 with two cylinders removed from one end.
The gearbox in the Ghibli is the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed auto (think anything from BMW 5-series to Range Rover… to Ghibli) albeit tuned by Maserati to behave in its own individual way. You can engage manual by pressing a button in the console, at which point the gearbox won’t give kick down, even if you mash the throttle open at 65kph in sixth gear. Similarly it won’t upshift unless you pull the right hand paddle, to a point where you can bounce it off the rev limiter in a chosen gear and still it won’t change up.
Maserati claims a 0-100kph time of 4.9sec for the S, which isn’t bad for a car that weighs 1810kg and has “only” 424bhp. Top speed is 285kph.
The main news mechanically concerns the steering, which has gone from a conventional hydraulic set up to a fully electric system. Maserati claims, however, that the car steers better than ever in terms of the feel and precision it delivers on the road, while also pointing out that it benefits from more obvious gains in economy and efficiency at the same time.
Also new is a range of electronic safety features designed to make the Ghibli as easy to drive but also as secure as possible on the road. These include adaptive cruise control, clever new “intelligent” LED headlights by Magnetti Marelli, lane keep assist, steering assist and brake force assist, hence the reason the car has just received a full five-star rating from NCAP.
The range consists of two different diesel models, one with 247bhp, another with 271bhp; a base 3.0-litre V6 twin turbo petrol with 345bhp and a more potent 424bhp twin turbo V6 called simply the Ghibli S. That’s the version we tried in Monaco.
What’s it like to drive?
A lot better than it once was, that’s for sure, although there are still areas in which the Ghibli struggles to compete dynamically with the very best cars in this class. And the problem, once again, is the car’s weight relative to the amount of power and torque it generates. In short, it’s a little bit underwhelming on the performance front compared with rivals such as a Mercedes E63 AMG which can easily take care of it in a straight line.
Admittedly the engine makes a tasty enough V6 roar under acceleration, especially if you select Sport mode which opens the exhaust system up nicely. There’s also an impressive absence of lag from the blown V6, but at no time does the Ghibli S ever feel properly rapid, not like an E63 does.
That said, the eight-speed ZF auto gearbox works well enough in practice and the exhaust, dampers and drive train maps can all be tailored to suit your mood individually. Trouble is, even in Comfort mode the ride was far from perfect over the roads on which we drove it above the hills of Monaco, while in Sport the body control wasn’t as precise as it needed to be to truly control all that mass.
What does work pretty well is the new electronic power steering. It’s very light to the touch and is geared to be ultra quick to respond to your inputs, as most Italian steering systems are nowadays, but once you get used to it the Ghibli can be steered with accuracy and precision. For once, the swap from hydraulics to electronics doesn’t seem to have dented the car’s feel. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Inside, the new Ghibli feels like a class act now with a new infotainment system that features an intuitive 8.4in touchscreen display (even if the navigation system made more than a few basic errors during our test drives). Space in the rear seats is no more than OK for the class, however, again not being able to match the likes of the E63 or the hottest BMW Fives.
Price and rivals
This is where it gets tough for the Ghibli S to justify its place in the world because at $97,585 before so much as a single option has been specified, it is priced to compete with some seriously heavyweight rivals. The aforementioned E63 AMG (not the S model) is only a fraction more expensive yet boasts more equipment, a lot more performance and a fair bit more space.
Even the new M5 won’t be a million kilometers away on price once you’ve specified the must-have Skyhook electronic dampers on the Ghibli and gone for a couple more interior options. Truth is the Ghibli is expensive and, although much improved dynamically, struggles to justify its price logically, even if it does have more charm in certain aspects than most of its German opposition put together.
This article originally appeared at evo.co.uk