Road test: Maserati Ghibli

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Maserati Ghibli, 16 Jan 2014  MASERATI PR HAND-OUT  Photograph: James Lipman // jameslipman.com

Maserati has revived the Ghibli name, but this time it appears not on a two-door GT car ( a la 1967) but a four-door, BMW 5 Series rival. But is it any good? AOL Cars headed to Ascot to find out

What is it?

We know it and Maserati knows it: You've got to be a petrolhead to truly appreciate this Italian badge. The company celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and despite having a plethora of beautiful models with romantic-sounding names and the 1957 Formula One World Championship trophy in its cabinet, the Maserati moniker has traditionally been for discerning types who like to go their own way. For the past few years, Maserati has produced a two-door GT car called the GranTurismo, a two-door convertible badged the GranCabrio and a four-door sports saloon-cum-limo called the Quattroporte - an all-new model arrived last year. But that's all set to change. Thanks to this, the new Ghibli sports saloon, and a luxury SUV dubbed the Levante arriving soon, Maserati wants to hit the big time and appeal to more customers. The Ghibli is the Italian sports car brand's BMW 5 Series rival – an E-Segment car that's designed to take Maserati into environments its never really been before, namely the corporate world full of men wearing non-iron shirts and machine washable suits.

What's under the bonnet?

Well, Maserati wants to make the car appeal to all so there's a petrol available in two power outputs for the enthusiasts, and a thoroughly level-headed diesel for those who have an eye on the pennies. While the 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol is jolly nice in either the 325bhp Ghibli or the 404bhp Ghibli S, it's the 271bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel which will take up 70 per cent of UK sales. Maserati's first-ever engine to drink from the black pump is a mixed bag, though. It's all very clever – what with the two sound actuators fitted in the exhausts to make it sound like a Maserati V8 petrol – but catch it below 2000rpm in the wrong gear and it's a bit like a dithering old relative. But get it right and it flies, with 60mph coming up in 6.1 seconds and a really rather rapid top whack of 156mph. A combined MPG of 47.9 is quoted and the Ghibli Diesel will emit an impressive 156g/km of CO2.

What's the spec like?

While the Ghibli has corporate world drudgery in its sights, the car's interior is pleasingly interesting. Unlike the larger Quatrroporte, the Ghibli uses what Maserati calls a 'two-cockpit' design – the driver and passenger sides are split into different 'zones'. All Ghibli Diesels come with beautifully supple leather upholstery, a six-way electrically-adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, Bi-xenon headlamps, wood trim, 18-inch alloys, an 8.4-inch touch screen (that looks like it's been pinched from a Chrysler 300C) which controls everything from heated front seats and the sat-nav system (which looks like a Garmin system), and the all-important almond-shaped Maserati clock perched on the dashboard. There's a multitude of colour and even-more supple leather options making it possible to chose from boring black leather to flamboyant Italian red cow hides. It's priced at a whisker under £49k.

Maserati Ghibli

Maserati Ghibli


Any rivals?

Unsurprisingly there are loads – and most of them are exceptionally good. Maserati says chief rivals are saloons and four-door coupes which only adds to the list of competitors. So there's the Audi A6 and A7, the BMW 5 Series and 6 Series Gran Coupe, the Mercedes E-Class and CLS, and of course the Jaguar XF.

What's it like to drive?

Before I drove the Diesel, I had hurtled around a test track in the full-fat Ghibli S and thought what a fine sports saloon it was. Sadly, the diesel was a different affair. Perhaps it was the greasy roads and the odd flooded village to contend with on the test route, but the Diesel was a tad disappointing. A fidgety ride was only made more unbearable in Sport mode and the steering system was endowed with hardly any feel whatsoever. Having said that, the brakes were sharp, the chassis well-balanced and there was a general sense the Ghibli Diesel is one of the most agile sports saloons around. It's by no means bad – it's just that cars like the BMW 535d are virtually faultless.

The AOL Cars verdict

Maserati wants to crack 50,000 units a year by 2016, and the Ghibli is the first car in its masterplan to achieve that goal. The large executive car market is no easy thing to break into and is dominated by the Germans with the odd Jaguar and Lexus thrown in for good measure. But, to a certain extent the Italians have done it. The Ghibli Diesel isn't the German giant-slayer Maserati wants you to believe it is. But while it many not excel in any one area, being able to say 'Let's take the Maser' even when you're on your way to a strategy meeting in Basingstoke, is enough to capture anyone's heart.

The knowledge

Model: Maserati Ghibli Diesel
Price: £48,830
Engine: 3.0-litre V6, twin-turbocharged diesel
Power: 271bhp, 600Nm
Max Speed: 156mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
MPG: 47.9mpg
Emissions: 158g/km CO2