Maserati has had a troubled history in recent times, living in the shadow of Ferrari and never being allowed out on its own to forge its own destiny. Now with Alfa Romeo’s renewed funding, Maserati is again at risk of being cannibalized from within the FCA group. But Maserati has one thing Alfa Romeo doesn’t – a rival to the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E Class that goes by the name of Ghibli. It’s every bit a scaled down Quattroporte, right down to the strong shoulder line and abundance of Chrysler switchgear, but is the trade-off in part sharing worth the gains elsewhere?
Seating in the Maserati Ghibli is a plush affair fit for 5 occupants all with good amounts of head and leg room, except for rear foot room which is impeded. The luxuriant leather is soft and envelops you, with good lateral and lumbar support that make the Ghibli feel like a true thousand-mile tourer. The seating position is good and offers good visibility in spite of the Ghibli’s size.
Sadly, that’s where the good stuff ends for the big Italian. The interior may look plush, but it’s an ergonomic nightmare, with a steering wheel too large for its own good, and gear shift paddles that interfere with indicator stalk operation. Then there’s the part sharing, which sees most of the switchgear inside the Ghibli lifted directly from an array of other Chrysler products. It cheapens the feel of the Ghibli immensely, making it feel less Maserati, and more, well, Fiat.
But perhaps the trade-off is worth it if Maserati used the spare funds to develop exceptional ride and handling instead. Thankfully, they have.
The steering is a bit of an off point – it feels rubbery and unnatural and too light. You’d think it’s electric, but it’s actually hydraulic, much to our chagrin. But that’s where the negatives end. The chassis is truly sublime, a master class in balance and poise – precise, eager, and easy to control. Even at its limit, the Ghibli responds near telepathically and rides the neutral line of resisting understeer exceptionally.
Ride comfort may perhaps not be as good as the handling, but it’s more than fair for the class. Adaptive dampers are a must have option to improve ride quality over choppy surfaces in Normal mode. In Sport mode, things get substantially firmer and more resistant to body lean.
You can have your Ghibli in 3 flavors, with one engine. The base Ghibli is rear-wheel driven with outputs from the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 healthy, but not mind-blowing at 350 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. S models get a bump in outputs to 410hp and 406 lb-ft, with the standard S diverting power to the rear, while the S Q4 makes use of all wheel drive. All models utilize a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic gearbox. If performance is what you’re after, nothing but the S models will suffice, as the base model offers ample, but rather ordinary performance.
Equipment and trim lines are linked to engine derivatives, with the base model receiving automatic xenon headlamps, 19-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate, a sunroof, rear-view camera, and an 8.4-inch touch screen. The Ghibli S and S Q4 get upgraded brakes, automatic high beams and additional leather dash and door trim. A Luxury package adds ventilated front seats, Harman Kardon sound, blind spot monitor and 360-degree camera. A driver assistance package boosts safety to give the Ghibli Good ratings from the IIHS, with the addition of adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, and lane departure warning.
The Maserati Ghibli is the driver’s car in segment – an immersive experience and a teaching in how a chassis should be balanced. But it’s offset by sub-par ergonomics, poor material quality, and at time a choppy ride. It needs to go to finishing school, and right now that Italian flare just isn’t quite enough to see off German competition.