Italian’s are famous for their clothes and fashion alongside food and wine, the latter of which I will admit to falling in love with anytime I have visited the country, however they are also renowned for cars, luxury performance cars at that.
This brings me to a brisk autumnal morning in Belfast, where the fashion, food and wine can easily turn to a distant memory, though on arriving at the Fitzwilliam Hotel, with masses of luxury and attentive staff with fine food and glorious wine in abundance I could easily have been in Italy.
The reason for this location was to perfectly compliment the cars that lay await in the valet parking area to the side of the hotel, cars that have more class than the combined schools of NI, cars with as much leather as a fashionista’s wardrobe and cars with a driving experience, only the Italian’s could create.
Welcome to the world of Maserati cars, perfectly suited for those of you who do not want to confirm to ‘Joe next door’, for those who want quality and luxury in abundance and for those who feel the need to stand out from the crowd.
I am a personal fan of thinking outside the box and not conforming to what most see as ‘normal’, what actually is normal though, that is the question? Anyway, for me there are a few options when thinking of an executive car.
BMW 5 series, Jaguar XE, Merc E class and most recently the Alfa Romeo Giulia will all offer this segment plenty in regards to spec, engines and options. Once ordered to a high spec with options added, you could easily run to £40k or more, and for what?
A car that looks no different to the school runner that lives two doors down, a school runner that with its poverty spec and lack-lustre engine, cost just over half of what your very similar car cost, and your car won’t drive much better than the lower end of the range.
This is where the Maserati Ghibli comes into the segment perfectly, bringing with it stylish looks, a high spec, a luxury interior, performance and a sports like chassis as standard and all for less than £50k, yes that’s right. I never thought I would ever say it, a brand new Maserati for less than £50k.
This model tested, thanks to Charles Hurst | Maserati Belfast I am confident would come in a few £k more due to larger wheels and a few added options, nonetheless still very affordable for a car that drives as well as it looks.
Outside, this Ghibli looks great finished in the ‘Blu Emozione’ metallic paint with its arch hugging 20” alloys wheels shod in Pirelli’s finest rubber. A low slung nose swoops into the vented wings and around the rear the curvy rear quarter panels draw elegance into the rear of the car.
The rear bumper houses four exhaust pipes which warns other road users of the intentions of the Maserati as a sports executive whilst the massive red brake caliper’s can’t be missed and most certainly look the part as well as being more than fit for their purpose.
The Ghibli has been on the market for a couple of years now and after my hour or so driving the car I can see why it would appeal to many, part of which was the usable boot that would easily hold a week’s shopping for a large family, a set of clubs with trolley or a couple of suitcases.
Inside this Ghibli is as luxurious as expected and the scent of leather would outlive most cars I would imagine, fully heated black leather with white stitching is the spec of choice for this car and the leather continues onto the steering wheel and door cards as well as the dash with a retro analogue clock protruding from the top of the dash.
The sports/luxury feel is added to with dark materials used on the pillars and head liner whilst a very contemporary wood trim has been used on the doors and centre console, the way the wood is finished may not be to everyone’s taste but I think it is a refreshing choice.
Dual climate control, steering wheel controls for audio, telephone and cruise control, all electric windows and a start button for keyless operation are all part of the Ghibli whilst the speedometer and rev counter dials have a digital screen between them to display vehicle dynamic details.
Rear seating is ample for two adults whilst comfort is aided with central air vents and a central arm rest with drinks holders. Child safety is paramount and Maserati have fitted ISOFIX mounting points in the rear also.
If you want a mountain of gadgets and buttons that you will never use then Maserati isn’t for you as they simply don’t fit anything that is not needed and as such, infotainment is kept simple yet offers just enough.
The large screen in dash has DAB Radio, Sat Nav, Bluetooth and an optional reverse camera can be displayed via this system. Overall the system was simple and easy to use via the touch screen whilst this model is the 2017 spec which adds a drive wheel in the centre console, this complicates things and its best to use the touch screen itself.
Engine wise there are just two on offer, both a 3.0 V6 from the Ferrari stable, one being a twin turbo petrol unit which produces 350bhp in the Ghibli whilst the Ghibli S version gets 410bhp and the diesel unit has a single turbocharger with 275bhp and 600Nm of torque.
This model tested is the Ghibli diesel and I must say, for a diesel it was very refined and pulled incredibly well in all gears, right through the rev range. The gearbox is an 8sp ZF automatic with optional paddle shift (as fitted to this car) which provides smooth shifts and performs great.
So with potent engines fitted, Maserati have always been about the driving experience and things are no different for the Ghibli, I would go as far as saying that it is the best driving car in the class (I have not yet driven the Alfa Giulia which could give it a run for its money) and is one of those cars that you don’t need an excuse to just go for a drive in.
With a 50:50 weight distribution (or very close to it for the Ghibli diesel) this, the most affordable Maserati did surprise on a spirited run around the Ulster GP circuit, Dundrod and the balance of the rear wheel drive, drive-train along with the fact that the engine sits very far back, aids the driving experience no end.
Weight is kept to a minimum where possible by using aluminium panels and even a lot of the cast metal components around the engine are in fact cast alloy which have been bonded in place in the name of weight saving and perfect distribution.
Overall the Maserati Ghibli seems to be a great package and one that left a memory for me with its mannerisms and quality. Pricing starts from £49,860 for the Ghibli diesel with the Ghibli starting from £54,325 with the range topping Ghibli S starting from £65,325.
Annual road tax on the Ghibli diesel tested is a mere £185/annum and will return in the region of 40mpg which is more than acceptable.
Words & Photos: Graham Curry