Maserati has ambitious growth plans, and the Ghibli is leading the charge. That evocative name has had several previous outings on Maseratis, but never on a car of this size or mainstream intent. Effectively a scaled-down version of the huge Quattroporte limo, the UK gets three versions: a 3.0-litre, 272bhp V6 turbodiesel, and single- and twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrols, with 325bhp and 404bhp respectively. (Fact fans might like to note that the petrol units were developed and are made by Ferrari, for unbeatable golf club kudos.)
The Ghibli looks more effective in the flesh than it does in photographs, but we still suspect that it’s designed to appeal more to the very fast-growing Asia- Pacific and Chinese markets than the European one.
As well as being its inaugural upper mid-size executive saloon, the Ghibli is also Maserati’s first diesel. Sacrilege? Perhaps, but it’s a necessary move. Clever exhaust tuning gives it the baritone rumble of a V8 on the outside, but the fact is that most of its rivals all have smoother, punchier twin turbo units that are easily the measure of Maserati’s single turbo diesel in all the key areas. That said, 443lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm is juicy, and with 50:50 weight distribution, a proper mechanical diff, and a talented chassis that enjoys being pushed, the Ghibli doesn’t disgrace its famous badge.
The 325bhp V6 petrol feels more naturally athletic and Italian, while the 404bhp Ghibli S is quite the Q car. Maserati’s engineers specifically vetoed fashionable electric steering in favour of a hydraulic set-up, and it feels linear and accurate. The eight-speed auto ’box is fantastic, the ride quality rather less so.
On the inside
You’d hope that a £50,000 saloon would feel like a high quality product, and the Ghibli has a pleasing depth and integrity to it. But it’s also a Maserati, so it’s essential that it has its own distinct character. There’s frameless glass in the doors, terrific armchair-style seats and leather trim, and the 8.5in multi-media screen and system is logical enough even if the graphics are on the plain side. The gear selector has a hopelessly sticky action, though, and some of the detailing is a little slapdash.
It’s not roomy enough in the rear, either, despite its five-metre length. The boot is also oddly compact given how wide it is: space and efficiency are not Maserati strong suits. Those pretty lines come at a price…
This is where Maserati has a challenge on its hands. The satisfaction you’ll get from going your own way will evaporate if the dealers aren’t up to the job, or the Ghibli suffers cliff-face depreciation. It’s well equipped, although Maserati’s personalisation scheme could prove costly. At least the diesel is green: the 48mpg Maserati is now a reality.