Maserati conjures up images of Sofia Loren being whisked around the South of France by Carlo Ponti, scarf blowing in the wind and a La Dolce Vita soundtrack. The first Ghibli was born in 1966 and was as beautiful a sports car as any produced. Ghibli actually means a dry hot wind blowing across the Libyan desert. And now it’s back.
No longer intended to be a supercar for the few, this reincarnation of the evocative name has full intentions to take on the Germans at their own game in the large luxury car market. That is a very brave decision as the Germans have held sway over this sector for a very long time and they are a very efficient and dominant force.
Now l have to say, with slight horror in my voice, that the Ghibli sitting on my drive is a diesel! Sacrilege or smart – we will see. Your engine choices are the 3.0-litre V6 272bhp turbodiesel, 3.0-litre petrol offering 325bhp and the monster 404bhp twin-turbo. The petrol units were developed by Ferrari.
Inside you are greeted with superb grain leather seats, frameless glass in the doors and a great 8.5in screen that’s a breeze to use. Due to the rakish lines, there is not a huge amount of space in the back but with the front seats electrically adjusted, all will fit without much discomfort. Having had enough of the digital age, l am delighted to see the real clock sitting atop the dash and the only small gripe l have is the auto gear lever. It is far too easy to grab the wrong gear and rather than becoming intuitive, it takes a tad of concentration to get it right but aside from that, this is a very nice place to be indeed. It should also be said that the 8-speed ZF gearbox is seamless and faultless. It comes with the obligatory paddles and here they are huge and enable you to really yank on them without fear of your fingers slipping or missing that gear.
The standard kit is as expected with climate control, rain-sensing wipers, proximity sensors everywhere and a great Bowers & Wilkins audio system and the boot, whilst a slightly odd shape, is cavernous. It also offers Apple CarPlay and Android auto and various AUX connections.
The suspension offers great ride quality and with a 50:50 weight distribution, it really allows you to throw it around with confidence. Weighting in around two-tonnes, it is a significant achievement that it corners pretty much flat and sudden direction changes don’t unsettle it and it offers great grip. This might well be the result of the decision to avoid electric steering and plump for servo-assisted hydraulic steering with offers a great connection to the road.
I would like more of a throaty roar from the tail pipes but pop it into Sport, and if does offer a satisfying deep grumble that overcomes the diesel rattle. And then we come to the price. With a starting price of £49,620, it is quite unbelievable that you can be driving a Maserati for less than 50 grand.
And then we come to the Germans. The Ghibli will have to go up against the likes of the Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 and BMW 5-series and that’s a trio that have pretty much locked out the sector. The Jaguar XF has edged its nose in there but this is a terrifying sector to enter. The Ghibli makes a good fist of it, better in some areas and not as good in others but there is one screaming fact that cannot be avoided. When you pull into the company car park, awash with German metal, you will be driving something special, something unique and something with an Italian character all its own. You will be driving a Maserati and that my friends, will trump everything in the car park.
Model tested: Maserati Ghibli Diesel
Engine: 3.0-litre turbodiesel
Performance: 0-60mph 6.4 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy: 19.1 combined
Price from: £48,925.00