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Maserati Ghibli S: Review - PistonHeads

Take a Maserati saloon. It's smaller and lighter than a Quattroporte, rear-wheel drive with a mechanical limited-slip differential. It has more than 400hp from a turbocharged V6 and is fitted with ZF's brilliant eight-speed auto. The suspension is by double wishbones at the front and a five-link set-up at the rear and the styling...well, it makes everything else in the class look generic. It must be a matter of execution, then, that the Maserati Ghibli S is underwhelming, for in concept alone it has the makings of a great.

First, some background. The Italian marque celebrates its centenary in 2014 and as it turns 100 years old it's well on course to increase its market share by an order of magnitude. With 15,000 units delivered worldwide in 2013 and 171m euros earned in trading profits the company looks to be in good health, but with the arrival of the Ghibli saloon - its competitor in the 5 Series/A6/E-Class category - and, in 2015, the Levante SUV, Maserati is a brand with grand ambitions.

In the UK, which is expected to be its third largest market worldwide, Maserati is targeting a staggering 10-fold sales increase between 2012 and 2016, from 300 units to 3,000. The Ghibli and Levante will count for more than 90 per cent of that growth while an expanding dealer network will service the vast influx of new customers, private and fleet.
From the dark side
The £48,830, 275hp diesel model - a word on which later - will account for 70 per cent of Ghibli sales in the UK, but the most PH model of the range at launch will be the 410hp S, driven here, costing £63,415. The third model is a 330hp petrol, priced between the two at £52,275.


In a dark colour on optional 20-inch wheels the Ghibli S certainly has the aesthetic merit to match the illustrious trident badge. The front is aggressive and familiar to the rest of the range, although the rear is perhaps a little bland in comparison. In lighter colours, the three accent lines that converge just ahead of the rear wheel arch look rather fussy. The cabin, meanwhile, is attractive and distinctive in its architecture and the quality is good. With black and red leather covering the dash, it feels more like a sports coupe than a four-door saloon from within.


Immediately, then, the Ghibli S has stolen a march on its direct competitors for the badge, the styling and the cabin are all just that much more appealing, that little bit less derivative. For many of the 1,000 Ghibli customers that Maserati hopes to find in the UK this year, that'll be enough to seal the deal. A pity, though, that the outlook begins to look rather less sunny once on the move.
Trident too hard
Repeat after me, 'This is not an M5 rival'. So why, pray tell, does it ride like sports car? Around town it's fidgety, over larger surface imperfections it's crashy and there isn't the level of damping quality that you'd expect of a luxury saloon car. A button marked I.C.E. - which, confusingly, the Maserati folk refer to as Increased Comfort and Efficiency, while the dashboard display reads Increased Ctrl and Efficiency - knocks the firmness back a little, but only improves the quality of the ride by the very slightest degree. Tapping that button will become as much of part of the start up procedure as prodding the engine start.


The electric power steering is not one of the more successful systems out there. As Porsche and BMW prove that ePAS can still be pleasant and engaging, the Maserati system feels remote. There is, on occasion, a momentary delay between initial input around the dead ahead and first response from the rack, and there's an artificial weighting that seems to corrupt any sense of connectivity at road speeds. The steering wheel rim itself, meanwhile, is just too fat for comfort.
The poor steering is particularly disappointing because once the road opens up a little, and as a few quick laps of a test track highlighted, there is a keen and agile chassis beneath the bodywork. The masses of the car are kept under tight control, there is grip aplenty in even horrid conditions and it turns in with a darty front end and a neutral stance throughout the corner. It's all so effectively disguised by the sticky, lifeless steering, though, that the driver rarely feels any inclination to explore those qualities.


Ghibli? Gloopy
The drivetrain fails to live up to its tech spec promise. There's no doubting the strength of the engine itself, or the minimal turbo delay, but there is so little responsiveness to throttle applications that you soon believe the sump is filled with treacle. We know this gearbox can be crushingly effective, but in this instance it feels more dim-witted than we've come to expect. Clearly tuned for comfort, it works much better simply as an auto at everyday speeds, and less well in its manual mode when you crave better responsiveness to your tweaks of the column-mounted paddles.
The 275hp diesel engine, also a turbocharged V6, is effortlessly strong and is just about pleasant enough under both hard and normal use to not sit completely at odds with the badge on the steering wheel.
The Maserati Ghibli's greatest strengths - the styling, the badge, the distinction from its German rivals - are all superficial, and for that reason it is, for now, a missed opportunity.
What do you guys think? It's the first review I've read in which someone complained about the steering. Could it have anything to do with the fact that the car they tested was a RWD Ghibli S? He also complained about the gearbox. Personally I found the gearbox wonderful.
 

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Interesting. Think it goes to show that what is "one mans meat is another mans poison" or put another way everybody is entitled to their opinion. I agree this is the FIRST review I have read that mentions the steering, in fact most have been complimentary on that front, ditto the gearbox. On the other hand he mentions minimal turbo lag whereas others have talked about there being a lag. You will also see that he praises the styling and the interior when again other reviews have questioned the use of Chrysler "bin parts". So as I say one mans opinion which by and large is at complete odds with the majority of other reviews. At the end of the day of course as long as you are happy with the car and it's safe, that's all the really matters.
 

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One of the few very few not so good reviews. What I have found is that the professional reviewers never see the product the way I do.........so KRY is right......this is like fine wine........if you like it then it is good.....period.....
 

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I think the review almost sounds like it's torn between the type of ride to be sought after. He complains about the steering feeling remote and loosing connectivity to the road, yet at the same time complains that the suspension is too firm and rides like a sports car. The reviewer appears to be driving it in ICE mode. Perhaps this can explain some of the unresponsiveness to the throttle since in ICE mode the gear changes are at lower RPMs. Personally, we tend to drive the car in Sports mode unless we're just cruising along the highway.

I do agree that there is a remoteness from the steering wheel, but this is in comparison to the steering feel of our 911S. Not exactly apples to apples.
 

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there will always be critics.

buy what makes you happy

I don't like the M5 too much. So regardless of what he sais I still don't like it.
 

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That is one poor review out of so many good ones and from many sources with better reputations, IMO. An audiophile can find B&O top of the line crappy. You have to take in the whole universe of opinions which are positive and focus on what you are buying. Ok the stereo needs work, a bunch of guys did not get mats, the SAT antenna can be defective...more turbo /accelerator lag normal mode etc......I have driven it on a test drive and found it awesome I am getting what I am paying for a Maserati with Italian styling beautiful leather and IMO a lot of power and the sweet exhaust note............I will deal with the rest.
 

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Also, the reviewer got this wrong:

"The electric power steering is not one of the more successful systems out there. As Porsche and BMW prove that ePAS can still be pleasant and engaging, the Maserati system feels remote."

The Ghibli has hydraulic steering.
 

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A very superficial report. He doesn't even write if he drove a car with Skyhook or sport suspension or normal version. Obviously he doesn't like typical driver's cars.
 

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After a second read the writer really does not know what the vehicle could do. ICE mode of course is not sports oriented.........did he even drive it in sports mode? all he could point out is the dash says something slightly different??? Agree with RSM R&T is fair review including the steering which many reviewers agree could be better.
 

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I applaud someone who had the guts to come out vey critical with a review. However, the M5 costs $16K more than Ghibli SQ4 base price and it looks like a 545i with the Bangle Butt persona. If you dont care about buying a car that looks like a car some $40K less expensive...be my guest! The point that is lost on the reviewer (despite his flowery English...no issue there...my grand-dad is an engligh poet) is that the Ghibli has a dual personality -- luxury and performance. It wont satisfy someone who is just looking for performance OR luxury. His criticism is valid to the degree that the Ghibli tries to be both. If you value both in one car, his criticism is not appreciated. Good luck trying to find a car that looks gorgeous, has a 'Gucci' interior, runs a Ferrari engine, can hit the track and highways, is different from what you see all over the place and costs less than $80K. Heck, even the Jaguar is so common these days and the closest to the Ghibli...till you get to the Grille. At the end of the day, negative reviews make the product better and positive reviews dont do that. So, i welcome it but i could not disagree more with his conclusion since his premise is faulty.
 

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This is a pathetic review and amateur at best. Electric steering….really? And this doesn't compete with an M5, E63, CLS64 or M6…those cars are all $95K to $115K…wait for the Ghibli MC for that comparison. That is one of the most obvious misses in his review. Typical British, that's why I don't care for Top Gear either. They miss the mark so often yet will praise a Jaguar…which up until recently were garbage, or an Aston Martin which has one of the worst gearboxes I've ever driven. This article needs to go in the dumpster. R&T's review is much better and honest. C&D recently did a review that was pretty good also.
 
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