Maserati goes green. Or so the model's name states. We'll cover off fuel consumption right away to set the scene.
Around town, the Ghibli Hybrid used 12.0 litres per 100 kilometres. On the freeway, 8.0L/100km. After 400km of mixed driving, its trip computer settled at 9.8L/100km versus the official claim of 7.5L/100km.
It's more efficient than a regular Ghibli V6, which uses around 11.0L/100km. However, a far less complex Toyota hybrid averages in the fives. Seeing close to 10.0L/100km does make you wonder – is the hybrid moniker more of a longbow than a signal of its green intentions?
Before we find out, let's see what we're driving. You can have a Ghibli Hybrid three ways in Australia. First is the Hybrid for $139,990, second the Hybrid GranLusso for $163,990, and third the 2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid Fenice Limited Edition for $198,800. All prices mentioned are before on-road costs and options.
Named after the Teatro La Fenice – or Venice's Opera House – our test car is one of 50 Fenice editions set to be produced worldwide. Over the GranLusso variant, it offers eye-catching Rosso Magma paint, 20-inch wheels, high-quality Italian leather and carbon-fibre interior accents.
|2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 48V hybrid|
|Power||243kW @ 5750rpm|
|Torque||450Nm @ 1500-4000rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque converter automatic|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||7.5L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (tested 2014)|
|Warranty||3 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||BMW 5 Series | Audi A6 | Mercedes-Benz E-Class|
|Price as tested (before on-roads)||$139,990 (as tested $198,800)|
It's a lot to pay for a handful of accenting items and soft trim, but those buying at this level do value exclusivity. Given this is the only Fenice edition arriving here, its new owner will almost certainly not see another on Australian roads.
Despite being seven years from its Aussie debut and three years since its last update, Maserati's Ghibli still looks fantastic. It benefits from the brand's track record of undeniably exotic and timeless design executions.
We also had a BMW M550i in the CarAdvice garage that looked far more modern, but not a whole heap better. Instead of BMW's complex headlights, huge wheels and sharp creases, the Maserati sported a smooth shape, impactful details (like its grille) and grander, far more elegant proportions.
In keeping with the brand's ethos, it still looks expensive and special. The theme follows as you open the door and get a whiff of its Pieno Fiore leather. It emanates from the cabin in an expensive display of what good quality hide really smells like, and feels like, as you get in.
Soft, supple and artfully grained, trim of such quality is rarely found in automobiles. Other areas irregularly clad in higher-end material include everything above your head finished in micro-suede (Alcantara-like) and generous use of genuine carbon fibre on various flat surfaces.
The rest of the front section of the cabin feels traditional. There's no high-tech gauge cluster to be seen, instead, an olde-worlde and ornate set of dials flanking a small colour display. An analogue clock sits proudly on the dash, which is covered by its own cute, leather-stitched binnacle.
Beneath lies a 10.1-inch infotainment system with the usual smartphone connectivity. What's more important is what it pumps tunes through, which in this case is an excellent 15-speaker Bowers and Wilkins stereo. Nothing short of sensational, it staged a gamut of music from 1990s European electronica to the heavy, distorted guitar of modern metal all with relative ease.
The steering wheel is probably the biggest letdown, as it's the only part that looks seven years old. As is the case with the modern Maserati, you're buying quality and materials over a high-tech experience laden with baubles.
Storage and basic elements are not left out. Underneath the stereo lies a slim door, which hides a convenient fold-out tray and USB port for your phone. On the lower centre console sits a pair of cupholders, a 12-volt outlet and another flocked storage area. It loses points for not being large enough for your sunglasses, but it'll take your keys and a small card wallet easily.
The armrest console is decently sized, cooled, and features another 12-volt port. Door storage is close to minimal, which sadly means no bottle holders.
It's a big sedan, but not one that's comfortable in the back. At 183cm tall and sitting behind my own driving position, space was hard to come by. My knees were chock hard against the seatbacks, feet left with some room, and my head close enough to the headlining to be uncomfortable.
I was expecting more room given its exterior dimensions. The posture you maintain in the back isn't the most relaxing either, as those with long legs will find their thighs unsupported. There's no door storage either, just a cubby located in the armrest next to another pair of cupholders. The only other extra is a small pair of air vents.
Boot space is 500L, which is plenty for a family car. As a sedan, it suffers from the usual issue of its cargo area being far deeper than it is wide or high. This means that either stacking items or inserting a larger square box is impossible due to a narrow aperture. However, a foldable stroller has no issue slotting in alongside a week's worth of groceries and a gym bag, all at the same time.
As mentioned at the start of this review, the Ghibli Hybrid returned fuel consumption figures well over what you'd expect from a hybrid. Most return numbers closer to five than the 10 we managed to achieve.
The reason for this is nothing to do with the technology package, as it's far more complex than the usual hybrid jigger. Maserati first replaces the thirsty V6 with a four-cylinder engine complete with 48-volt electrical architecture.
The latter enables two new forms of power assistance: a new alternator that can both provide and harvest energy, and an electric supercharger to pre-boost the regular turbocharger. Supporting the new e-hardware is a boot-mounted battery pack located there for weight distribution reasons. Total power output is 243kW and 450Nm of torque spread between 1500–4000rpm.
Maserati claims a 0–100km/h figure of 5.7sec, but our testing yielded back-to-back 6.4sec runs. Even at that slower pace, it's still on par with most 200kW+ hot hatches weighing half a tonne less.
On-roll performance is a better measure, however, as this gives the e-supercharger time to shine. Its immediacy to generate torque makes the petite four-banger feel far more butch than you'd expect. Anyone would be hard-pressed to pick it from a regular six-cylinder.
Most importantly, there's enough briskness to do the badge proud. It feels as if those Modena-based engineers placed a priority on performance, then looked at slightly reducing fuel consumption as a secondary thought. Without getting into semantics, 'sports hybrid' comes to mind as adequate marketing fluff.
The biggest downside to the hybrid option is a lack of soundtrack. One could argue that the twin-turbo V6 Ghibli misses out on the brand's quintessential V8 melody, but at least it's partially tuneful. It's also far less of a compromise than what's found here.
The only sound the Ghibli Hybrid makes is the odd 'parp' as its ZF eight-speed auto shifts gears. It's monotonal, boring and unlike the brand. A disappointing yet expected by-product.
Ride and handling are driveline agnostic, however, and the Ghibli Hybrid's tune remains excellent. You'll find a subtle amount of firmness that underlies the whole experience, but it always feels attractively taut and solid, rather than awkwardly stiff and bumpy.
Its suspension demonstrates enough initial suppleness to lap up the endless number of poor roads that riddle our nation's big cities. I spent the better part of three hours crossing Sydney in gridlock traffic venturing across old, new and somewhere in-between roads. On the other side, I jumped out feeling fresh as a daisy.
It's a physically comfortable experience, but also one that's mentally comforting. I had to notice the myriad changes in road surfaces, which in other cars appear quite obvious. In saying that, it doesn't ever feel overly disconnected or vague, and just strikes a fantastic balance of keeping you in the loop – like a good PA.
An hour out of town, on faster, coarser-chip stuff, it was again composed and quiet. It'll dig in and carry speed, never becoming fussed when having to manage 1900kg and the inertia that follows. Steering is direct and as expected from a brand that's primarily manufactured sports cars.
Our Fenice edition was equipped with extra-thick glass (optional on lesser variants), which does well to filter out any general nonsense occurring outside.
If you're after a mature, sports-themed driving experience, then you'll find most elements here: a soulfully designed package, brand appeal, expensive-feeling touchpoints, and enough performance.
However, at more than $200,000 on the road and with the second row as cramped as it is, emotion is clearly fuelling this purchase. Opting for the hybrid doesn't save the planet much more than the V6 twin-turbo-powered option, but comes with a huge sacrifice in terms of sound and less Maserati character in terms of performance.