The new Maserati Ghibli is the car that will, until the launch next year of the Levante luxury SUV, spearhead the Italian company’s ambitious growth plans.
This model is Maserati’s bid to elbow aside the usual top-end executive suspects, and so offers the Italian company's first diesel engine, a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 that generates 271bhp and 443lb ft of torque. The Ghibli is also offered with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine that comes with either 325bhp or 404bhp.
However, it’s the diesel-engined car that is predicted to account for around 70% of the Ghibli’s sales in the UK. We’ve already driven it on European roads, but this is our first chance to try the car in the UK.
What's the 2014 Maserati Ghibli like to drive?
The diesel engine fires to a quiet but distinctly diesel rumble. Put the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox in D, release the brake and, as you accelerate, the soundtrack becomes slightly uncouth and grumbly. The engine pulls strongly once the single turbo has woken up, but the problem is that it doesn't generate decent boost until around 2000rpm, and the car can feel a bit languid if you get caught below that.
Still, performance is pretty strong once everything is up and running, and shifts up through the gearbox are smooth, although it suffers the occasional lumpy downshift when in Sport mode. The most annoying aspect of the drivetrain, though, is that there's a noticeable 'clunk' from the rear of the car almost every time you ease off then reapply the accelerator.
The Ghibli is reasonably quiet on the motorway, where the engine note fades into the background, while wind and road noise are also kept to acceptable levels. However, if it's all a bit too quiet and civilised for you, a press of the Sport button by the gearlever sharpens the accelerator responses and activates two sound actuators in the exhausts that give the car a deep-chested if not especially evocative rumble.
One area in which the Ghibli falls well short of its adversaries is in ride and handling. In Normal mode the ride has a shuddery quality as the suspension patters over the UK’s many road imperfections. At the same time the body is allowed to shimmy and pitch too much, jostling those inside.
There is a button to firm up the suspension, and when this is pressed the Ghibli becomes a properly sporting executive car, changing direction quickly and keeping its body well under control. The ride is also firmed up accordingly, which means you'll only ever use this setting when the sun's out, the road is twisty and there's nobody in front.
The steering is light and accurate, but slower than you might expect, and there’s hardly any information fed back from the road surface to the driver. This is the opposite of what you’d expect in any sporting car, and particularly one wearing a Maserati badge.
What's the 2014 Maserati Ghibli like inside?
As far as the driver is concerned, the Ghibli's interior is a perfectly acceptable place. It looks pretty stylish, there's stitched leather all around, and the dials and instruments are clear.
Downsides are that it's too much of a stretch to the indicator stalk and that the buttons down by the gearlever are tricky to discern at a glance. The 8.5-inch infotainment screen is large enough, but its graphics look old-fashioned and it's slow to respond. Also, the traditional Maserati clock, set in the Ghibli up above the screen in the dashboard, looks like a bit of an afterthought.
It all feels well put together, if not quite up to the standard set by Audi and BMW. There's decent head- and legroom up front, too, so even a tall driver and front-seat passenger can get comfortable.
Things aren't so good in the rear, where legroom and foot space are in much shorter supply; this is quite a failing in a car that will be required to carry adults in the rear seats every so often.
Should I buy one?
The executive world is populated by German manufacturers and Jaguar because their cars are great to live with and they add up as company cars.
This is where the Maserati Ghibli faces its toughest battle, but it puts up a decent fight with carbon dioxide emissions of 158g/km and a 26% company car tax banding. Add a claimed average economy of 47.9mpg and things look pretty good.
Leasing costs will be crucial, and Maserati is confident that, with the help of predicted healthy resale values, the Ghibli will be able to match its main rivals.
Certainly the lure of saying 'I drive a Maserati' is a strong one, and the Ghibli looks the part, too. If you can put up with the unrefined drivetrain, the poor ride and the tight rear-seat space, you’ll certainly cut a dash in the office car park.
What Car? says...
Engine size 3.0 V6 diesel
Price from £48,830
Torque 443lb ft
0-62mph 6.3 seconds
Top speed 156mph
Fuel economy 47.9mpg