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Maserati Ghibli 271bhp 3.0 V6 Diesel first drive Review | Autocar

Autocar said:
This is Maserati’s glamorous alternative to the BMW 5-series. It’s the first time the luxury sports car maker has offered a car in this class, although this is not the first Ghibli, the most recent predecessor being a startlingly fast 306bhp 2.0-litre Biturbo-based two door that dazzled briefly in the early ‘90s.

Before that, the Ghibli was an exotic, front-engined V8, late-1960s supercar. Three very different animals then, and the latest bearer of the name owes little to this haphazard bloodline except that all three cars are resolutely sporting, and flaunt lavish and classily flamboyant interiors.

Instead, the latest Ghibli is a very close relative of the just-launched and larger Quattroporte saloon. They share the same root architecture, drivelines, suspension and indeed, the same production line. They differ in looks – no two exterior panels are the same, the Ghibli is almost a foot shorter, slightly wider and besides its bespoke cab-rear proportioning bears its own sculptural character. And inside, there’s a more driver-biased dashboard design.

Nevertheless Maserati has a challenge here, in developing a car of more distinctive and more sporting character using the same engines, transmissions and suspension, but without tempting prospective Quattroporte owners into thinking that they might as well spend less money to get a car that in essence, is the same.

The Ghibli offers three engines and two drivelines, the range beginning with a rear-drive 3.0-litre petrol twin-turbo V6 developing 326bhp. Above that sits the Ghibli S with the same 404bhp twin turbo version of the V6 recently debuted in the Quattroporte, this engine available either with rear or four-wheel drive - although disappointingly the latter will not be available in the UK.

The most unusual offering, in a Maserati context, is a 271bhp 3.0 V6 turbodiesel that’s an essential weapon if the Modenese marque is to boost its sales from well under 10,000 units to 50,000.

All Ghiblis come with an eight-speed paddle-shift ZF transmission, multilink rear suspension and double wishbones up front, Maserati’s electronically controlled Skyhook dampers, a limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes and hydraulically assisted steering. And all benefit from 50:50 weight distribution, a model-for-model kerb weight 50kg lighter than the Quattroporte and a 0.31 drag coefficient.

What is it like?
Listen to it kick-off from outside, and the Ghibli diesel has a slightly maritime sound to it. But if you’re inside you hear none of this, the silence instead broken by a low hum. And in the powertrain’s normal mode this hum rises smoothly, but rarely turns penetrating.

It’s not quite as sweet as BMW’s best but it’s civil, and with some subtly sporting rort too. Now press the sport button beside the gearlever, accelerate hard from 1000rpm in second and, after a pause while the revs wind to 1800rpm, you’ll hear a deep-chested, swelling back-beat. Thank Maserati’s Active Sound system for this, a pair of noise actuators heightening the desirable elements of the diesel’s tune.

You’ll want to leave the Ghibli in this mode, because the engine feels unexpectedly indolent in normal mode, despite its fat 443lb ft of torque, which spools from a not-quite-low-enough 2000rpm through to 2600rpm. In sport the diesel pulls with a fair bit of verve – if rather less than the lively 325bhp petrol – to produce a distinctly brisk 6.3sec 0-62mph sprint.

This pace is not wasted when you chance on some bends. The Maserati feels secure, and with its variable-ratio steering plunges into bends with encouraging zeal. Turn the ESP off, pull yourself a lower gear via an aluminium paddle shift, deep-dip the throttle and the Ghibli’s tail will perform a satisfying arc through a curve, and straighten itself with admirable tidiness, too.

Though in the wet we suspect the Maser' may swing like a church bell at midnight. Steering feel? Well it feels real and it’s consistently weighted too, if over-heavy in sport at a cruise. And yes, you can sense something of what the fat front rubber is doing when you charge hard.

The Ghibli’s weak link is its ride, which is very variable, and not only because it can be tautened via a damper button on the centre console. Sharp-edged ridges and shallow potholes cause audible agitation as the suspension patters with effort, while camber changes on hard-charged straights produce a slightly wayward feeling.

On sharply undulating roads, the Ghibli falls well short of mustering the body control exerted by an XF or a 5-series. Yet at other times the Maserati feels as stable and civilised as the ambience of its richly upholstered cabin.

It’s hard to resist the allure of the interior, too. Finely tooled leather, subtly deployed aluminium and wood highlights, supportively sumptuous seats and excellent air-con make long journeys a pleasing prospect. Better still, ergonomic flaws are few and trifling (the row of buttons flanking the gearlever could be easier to read, for instance) and there’s plentiful room up front and decent room in the rear.

Should I buy one?
All-new executive class entries are rare. And it’s a big ask to expect this Maserati Ghibli to match the polished excellence of the 5-series, E-class and XF first time out. In a few areas, such as ride and high speed body control, it doesn’t.

The Ghibli also seems to be a bit of your Italian heart-over-head car. Its muscularly alluring style, aristocratic bearing, classily sumptuous cabin and outright performance are all serious tempters. So is the simple fact that it’s fresh and the compromises so often imposed by Italian cars are less severe.

The numbers turned by its diesel (including its 158g/km of CO2) are highly competitive if not quite class-best. Its performance is engagingly and subtly thunderous, if sometimes languid in the delivery. And the Ghibli has few practical flaws, besides succeeding in its quest to be a sportier drive than the Quattroporte. It is, however, a bit pricey compared to its more commonplace competition.

The one significant worry is its ride, which might just turn out to be a bit busy for Britain’s 3D roads. Otherwise, the Ghibli has to be the most stylish, desirable and exciting executive debut in years.

Maserati Ghibli Diesel

Price £48,830; 0-62mph 6.3sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 47.9mpg; CO2 158g/km; Kerbweight 1835kg; Engine V6, turbocharged, diesel, 2987cc; Power 271bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 443lb ft from 2000-2600rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

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