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- Shapely, tailored look
- Luxurious, modern interior
- Strong turbo V-6 engine
- Available all-wheel drive
- Shy on back-seat space
- Whuffling V-6 exhaust just isn't a V-8
- A heavyweight in its class
The 2016 Maserati Ghibli has tight back-seat space, and handling isn't best in class, but it has panache to burn.
The Maserati Ghibli has a name that throws back to the Italian automaker's past, but in its current form the Ghibli sedan is just two years old. Re-introduced in the 2014 model year, it's based on the bigger Quattroporte sedan, and shares a showroom with it and the GranTurismo coupe.
Today's lineup of Ghibli sedans includes the base car, the rear-drive Ghibli S and the all-wheel-drive Ghibli S Q4. A diesel variant is available outside of the U.S.
The newest Maserati is a rival for vehicles like the Mercedes-Benz CLS, the Audi A7, BMW's 6-Series Gran Coupe, and the Jaguar XF. It's priced from about $72,000 and runs up to more than $78,000 for the all-wheel-drive Ghibli S Q4.
The Ghibli's power comes from a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine shared with its bigger brother, the Quattroporte. It comes in two outputs: 330 horsepower in the standard Ghibli, and 410 hp in the Ghibli S and S Q4. One of our favorite features of Maseratis is absent—the mellifluous roar of a potent Ferrari-derived V-8. In its place, the turbo V-6 makes some thrilling noises of its own, just of a more throaty, whistling nature, with some resonance at mid-range engine speeds that echoes in the tight back seat.
Maserati says the Ghibli accelerates to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds, topping out at 177 mph.
An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard on all Ghibli models, and it offers a manual-shift mode that keeps the car from over-revving, but otherwise lets the drive choose the shift points either by the shift lever or the paddles. The standard car is rear-wheel drive; Maserati's Q4 all-wheel-drive system was new for 2015, and adds just a touch over 100 pounds to the car, distributing torque from the rear to the front when wheelspin is detected.
There's also a choice of driving modes, from economy, normal, and sport to a mode with all stability control turned off. You may not want to venture that far out of safety's range, but if you do, the reward is very good handling. The Ghibli has good weight balance for a sedan, and rides on a double-wishbone front suspension, and five-link rear suspension.
In a brief drive of the Q4 on bone-dry roads outside Malibu, the Ghibli was able to carve up tight canyon roads we'd left warm from runs in the hot Alfa Romeo 4C. The Alfa's able to squirt through these roads with needle-like accuracy; the Ghibli's bigger and heavier, of course, but still tackles the same pavement with zest. In normal driving modes, the transmission's shifts were smooth and the twin-turbo V-6 was docile and quiet. Flipped into Sport, the Ghibli's throttle and shifts picked up the pace with the reflexes you'd expect from a sport sedan.
As for handling, we'd wait to sample it on smoother, less byzantine roads before calling it muddled. Our Ghibli S Q4 was shod with summer tires and rode very firmly—more sport than sedan, something a softer set of all-season tires might resolve, while giving up some ultimate grip. It's damped less fervently, and leans into curves with more grace than hardcore flatness. The hydraulic-actuated steering system doesn't have a super-quick ratio, and it takes a lot of turn at the wheel to carve up corkscrewing roads in the proper Italian way.
The Ghibli's exterior is another exercise in simple yet brilliant design from Maserati. The Ghibli is scaled down in size, but the silhouette shares much with the bigger Quattroporte. It's relatively compact for its class, but brilliantly rendered, with a deep shoveled nose bearing a trident badge and grille, sleekly sculpted fenders, and a pert rear end with a roofline that's the chief link between it and the Q-Porte.
The interior is a more sober environment, a generation advanced from the bigger Maserati sedan, just slightly more technical and modern in appearance. There's a reason for that: the dash is shaped like one of its relatives from the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group, the Jeep Cherokee. It's distanced from its origins with layers of leather and opulent trim choices like open-pore wood, and fitted with huge, cold-to-the-touch paddles for shifting. One of the true joys of owning a Maserati is the walk through the color and trim palette, selecting headliners, wood and carbon-fiber trim, gorgeously dyed Poltrona Frau leathers. Still, some lesser cues show up in some plastic trim, in the parts-bin switches and buttons.
The Ghibli's not a small or light car—it checks in with a 118-inch wheelbase, an overall length of just over 195 inches, and a curb weight hovering in the 4,100-pound range. It cossets the driver and front passenger beautifully, with fine leathers and well-finished plastics edged in metallic trim throughout. The front bucket seats could use more lumbar support, but the backrests are wonderfully bolstered, and slathered in leather with piping and embroidered logos, just like the rest of the cabin.
The NHTSA hasn't crash tested the new Ghibli, but the brand says it has targeted a five-star NCAP crash safety rating by including a third force load path and seven standard airbags in addition to its high-strength chassis. A rearview camera and Bluetooth are standard. The IIHS has given the four-door "Good" ratings in moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints.
For the 2016 model year, the Ghibli comes with stop-start, a hands-free trunklid, blind-spot monitors, a 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system or a Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system, and new Zegna-penned trim packages. Others features available in the Ghibli include a Bowers & Wilkins 15-speaker audio system, in-car wi-fi internet, adjustable pedals, and the Maserati Touch Control screen.
The base, rear-drive Ghibli and top of the line S Q4 version manage 16 mpg city, 24 highway, 19 combined, according to the EPA. In the middle, the Ghibli S earns 17/24/19 mpg.