Maserati Ghibli Diesel review - improved Italian still lags E-class
Stylish and dripping with badge appeal, but off the pace of class best
The Ghibli executive saloon sent Maserati sales soaring when it was first launched three years ago. The Italian marque shifted just 6300 cars in the year before it arrived, but in 2015 that figure had risen to 33,500. Now, the Ghibli has been given a mid-life overhaul.
The exterior is untouched, but there are new Luxury and Sport styling packages while the cabin benefits from a new touchscreen infotainment system. The Ghibli can now be specified with a wealth of driver assistance systems, too, such as automated emergency braking and lane departure warning, as Maserati aims to keep pace with the likes of the Mercedes E-class.
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The company has worked hard to improve the Ghibli’s comfort and refinement, which it now says is a match for anything in the class.
Engine, transmission and 0-60 time
The Ghibli and Ghibli S get Ferrari-built V6 petrol engines, producing 345bhp and 404bhp respectively, but far and away the biggest seller will be the Ghibli Diesel, tested here.
The 2987cc, single-turbo unit generates 271bhp and 443lb ft of torque between 2000 and 2600rpm. The transmission features the familiar ZF eight-speed automatic, revised for faster gearshifts, with a standard-fit limited slip differential.
Driving its rear wheels the Ghibli Diesel sprints to 62mph in 6.3 seconds and tops out at 155mph.
The most notable technical overhaul has been to the suspension, which has been retuned to improve the car’s ride quality. Its weight distribution is evenly split 50:50 front to rear and as standard it rides on passive dampers, but adaptive dampers can be specified.
The chassis uses a sophisticated double wishbone arrangement on the front axle, with a multi-link setup at the rear. In line with customer feedback the Ghibli resists the trend for electro-hydraulic power steering assistance, instead using a more traditional hydraulic system.
The new infotainment system, which features an 8.4-inch touchscreen, is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
What’s it like to drive?
Although the car’s interior quality is generally good and the dashboard design very stylish, the cabin is rather let down by its seats. They are mounted too high for one thing, and for another the padding is very firm. The steering wheel, meanwhile, feels uncomfortably fat in your hands, which, it must be said, is a common affliction throughout the industry these days.
Early Ghiblis were somewhat compromised by unpleasant steering and a harsh ride quality, particularly on bigger wheels. In both respects the new version does deliver useful improvements, and while the steering is far from communicative it is preferable to the increasingly common, synthesised electric systems.
The ride quality, meanwhile, was generally good on the smooth roads of the Cote d’Azur launch route, but there is still some uncertainty over how well the revised Ghibli will deal with a more challenging British road. Its long journey refinement is very good, though, bettered only by the rather exceptional new E-class.
Maserati bills itself as a manufacturer of GT cars, which alludes to a certain level of dynamic capability. In sport mode, with its optional adaptive dampers switched to their firmer setting, the Ghibli is competent and composed across a winding road without ever being really thrilling. The Pirelli P Zero tyres find good grip and body control is strong, but the balance is so benign that there’s no real incentive for chasing the car to its limits.
The diesel engine returns effective performance, but despite that impressive torque figure it never feels as urgent through the mid-range as some competitors. Being a single turbo unit the engine runs out of muscle before 4000rpm, meaning this isn’t one of those rare and unusually satisfying diesel burners. The soundtrack is at least reasonably subdued, however.
Although Maserati has sought to improve shift times the ZF gearbox still isn’t quite as responsive in this application as it is in some others, most notably the Ghibli’s Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio cousin. It is refined and unfussy in auto mode, though.
Price and rivals
The clear class leader for the time being is the Mercedes E-class, which is a technological tour de force. With a new BMW 5-series and Audi A6 on the horizon, however, that may be about to change. In the strictest objective terms the Ghibli falls short of the very high standards set by the E-class, but there is undoubtedly a great deal of appeal in the Maserati badge, its distinctive styling and, perhaps more importantly, the Italian’s class leading residual values.
The Ghibli Diesel costs from £49,860. The petrol-powered Ghibli and Ghibli S will make up just a tiny fraction of the car’s sales, but their lusty, energetic engines are overwhelmingly more satisfying.