It could be said that if you buy a Maserati, you’re making a statement. You could have bought any number of other cars, but you chose one of the Italian brand’s models because it has cred, status and style.
That exact case could be made for this car, the 2017 Maserati Ghibli, which we’ve got in entry-level petrol guise – and at $143,990 plus on-road costs, there are any number of sporty mid-size Euro sports-luxury sedans that could otherwise float your boat. For less money you could choose a Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic, or a BMW 540i M Sport, or an Audi A6 Bi-Turbo diesel.
And if you’re after performance, you could presumably push the boat out a little further to get a Mercedes-AMG C63 or a BMW M3. But maybe that's not what you want. Maybe, just maybe, you really want a Maserati.
And look, there’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed, the 2017 Maserati Ghibli has seen some equipment additions, including a new 8.4-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the engine has been tweaked for extra go, too.
The 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 Ferrari-built petrol now develops 257kW of power at 5500rpm, which is 11kW more than its predecessor, while torque remains at a chuffing 500Nm (at 4500rpm). The power bump sees this spec of Ghibli drop its 0-100km/h sprint time by 0.1 seconds to 5.5sec, while top speed is 267km/h, not that that matters in Australia.
It’s quite an engine: there is a really solid amount of push being sent to the rear wheels through the standard eight-speed automatic, and the drivetrain roars to life and pushes you back in your seat under hard acceleration. It’s properly rapid.
The sound that accompanies that acceleration is a bit muted in the normal driving mode – but at 4200rpm the exhaust silencer flaps open up to let out an almighty roar. It’s not V8 Maserati special, but it’s certainly something worthy of the price of admission. And the best bit is that if you put it in sport mode, the exhaust stays loud all the time.
Sport mode also adjusts the way the adaptive dampers react to the road surface below, firming them up for better body stiffness through bends. And because the steering is direct and offers good feel, you can move through corners at a brisk clip despite the fact this thing weighs a hefty 1810 kilograms. That fat could also have an effect on the fuel use, though: we saw 17.2 litres per 100 kilometres during our mixed driving loop, which is almost double the claimed consumption of 8.9L/100km.
It hangs on and tucks in better than you might expect for a big vehicle in the tighter twisties, and the steering inspires confidence with its weight and reactivity. Through wider radius corners it can show its weight if the speeds are on the high side, but the paddle-shifters are big and that means you can make mid-corner up/downshifts as required.
It brakes with confidence for some time, but after a repeated series of loops up and down a mountain pass on test, the brakes were starting to smell, and we noticed there was some graunching and grinding at low speeds after the fact, too.
While it was a hoot when you were asking a bit of it, the engine felt really sluggish at times around town. It was as though the fuel system had some gunk in it because it chugged when cold – hardly a high luxury experience. The gearbox, too, could be clumsy at times, shifting harder and even thumping into gear occasionally despite it being based on one of the better gearboxes around, the ZF eight-speed. In urban running, in the standard driving mode, it didn't feel exciting or enticing – which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.
On the highway, too, the gearbox could be a little unsettled – instead of sticking in eighth gear and relying on torque, it'll shuffle a bit between sixth, seventh and eighth. And when you’re on the highway you might want to use the adaptive cruise control system (optional – details below), but if you do, then decide to disable it, the driver information screen won’t reset to the speedometer, meaning you have to fiddle with the steering wheel controls more regularly than you might find pleasant.
Another unsettled component is the suspension. Even on smooth surfaces the suspension is busy – not sharp or crashy, just not luxury plush. It is a ride that is firm yet composed, and it must be said that while it's a bit busy on surfaces you’d expect it to be settled, it is well sorted over pockmarks and potholes, though we noticed a little bit of steering kick over big sharp edges, and over rougher surfaces there was a very un-premium rattle from the dashboard.
As mentioned, our car was fitted with the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems Pack (ADAS) ($5384) which comprises autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop/go function, lane departure warning, a surround-view camera system with front and rear dynamic and an air quality sensor (standard on all models) that determines whether the air outside is too polluted or toxic and prevents that air from getting in. The cruise system worked well despite my qualms with the driver screen, while the surround-view camera was a handy assistant during tight parking moves, because this is quite a wide-hipped car.
The Ghibli has seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee), and if you don’t get the safety pack there’s a standard rear-view camera and front/rear sensors, too. It hasn’t been crash tested.
In the cabin everything feels plush, despite obviously borrowing some parts from parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. We particularly detest the Jeep buttons and switches, but if you haven’t sat in a Jeep, you probably won’t know, or care. It has to be said, though, that the fit and finish is exceptional, and we particularly liked the suede-like headlining.
That said, the Ghibli makes use of one of the worst gear selectors on the planet. It’s the same type involved in the Jeep recall – you know, the one that meant people didn’t know if they’d selected the correct gear? Yeah, it’s painful – if you try and slot it into D, you’ll invariably end up in N or R instead, while a quick parking move where you might want to select R will instead see you slam it into P. It’s diabolical for the impatient.
The media system is borrowed from the parts bin, too, and while it has a Maserati trident emblazoned on the graphics, it is exactly what you’ll find in a Jeep, Fiat or Alfa product. That isn’t to say that it’s no good. The screen itself is quick to load, and while it controls the vast majority of functions, it is easy to learn and there are supplementary buttons for the ventilation and stuff, so you don’t have to fiddle with the screen to make quick adjustments. The screen itself, though, can require a bit more pressure than you might expect when making selections.
The seats offer good support and reasonable adjustment, but the fronts have an annoyingly high bolster that pushes your spine forward – and it's not comfy. Rear seat space is not great. It’s more a four-seater due to the narrow back seat and the large transmission tunnel that cuts through the floor of the cabin. With the driver’s seat in my position (I’m six-feet tall), my knees were resting against the backrest of the seat in front, and while the headroom was fine, the toe-room was tight. Put it this way – it has E-Class exterior dimensions, but C-Class cabin packaging.
The back seat has a flip-down armrest with cup holders, plus there’s a small storage area with a USB charging point and 12-volt outlet. The rear has mesh map pockets, too, but door storage is poor all around. There are no bottle holders in any of the doors, so those who prefer larger bottles of water or fizzy may not be happy.
The centre bin is flocked, and ventilated to keep it cool on warm days, and while it has cupholders, they are not big enough for big bottles, either. And we’re not sure what the small storage nook in front of the centre bin is supposed to store: the smart key fits, but it’s so heavy (like, seriously; we know that heft and tactility is synonymous with luxury handheld items, but it needs to go on the Michelle Bridges plan) that it might fly out around corners.
The boot spans 500 litres, which is acceptable for this class of car, but the physical opening is narrow, meaning awkwardly shaped items mightn’t fit. The cavity is deep, though, and it has automated opening and closing for the boot lid.
The brand has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and three years’ roadside assist is included. There’s a pre-purchase service plan that buyers can add to their bill, but the dealer sets the price, so be aware that you may have to bargain hard if you want a good deal on maintenance.
In conclusion, you could buy any of the aforementioned luxury offerings, and in most cases you’d get a better-rounded, more luxurious model. You mightn’t get something as involving as the 2017 Maserati Ghibli – it certainly has engagement high on its list of priorities.
Still, unless its equally high on your list of musts, or you’re just sold on the badge, you should probably consider some of the other offerings in the segment.
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