Despite some interior cost-cutting, the 2014 Maserati Ghibli offers an Italian dose of power, speed and style in an otherwise genteel four-door "coupe" class. The top-trim S Q4 model is even better.
Ferrari power at a German price; Italian style; exquisite tailpipe symphony; sharp handling; legitimate fifth seat.
Underwhelming base model performance; cabin fit and finish not as refined as competitors.
The 2014 Maserati Ghibli is an all-new model.
It's not hard to imagine Maserati executives watching Porsche's recent growth with some envy. After all, Porsche, like Maserati, is a relatively small automaker, smaller than its image and legacy suggest. Maserati, too, has history, prestige and Italian pedigree, all hallmarks of an exclusive sport-luxury brand. With the 2014 Maserati Ghibli, a midsize luxury sedan dressed as a small grand tourer, the Italian automaker descends from the clouds with a car priced near traditional BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes models.
Maserati's ambitious plan to sell 50,000 cars annually by 2015 depends on the new Ghibli, as well as a forthcoming SUV. The Ghibli rides atop an 8-inch-shorter wheelbase (118 inches) than the big Quattroporte GT, but uses many of the same steel and aluminum components. As much as 45-50 percent of the Ghibli's chassis, suspension and turbo V6 engine comes from Maserati's flagship grand tourer, the company's boss says. The new car also shares the same production facility as the Quattroporte, which helps dispel concerns about Maserati's misguided badge-slapping collaborations with Chrysler more than two decades ago.
The rear-wheel-drive base 2014 Maserati Ghibli will offer a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that generates 345 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. But it's the step-up S Q4 model, with its all-wheel drive and upgraded turbo V6 that really shines. The more powerful engine uses different internal components, reworked software and additional turbo boost to develop 404 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, delivering neck-whipping acceleration that we found absent in the base model during a road test. Maserati says the S Q4 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds.
Both engines use an eight-speed automatic transmission, although the S Q4 model's gearbox is tuned for snappier shifts and better performance. Both engines are also built by Ferrari.
For a car that weighs nearly 4,000 pounds, the Ghibli handles remarkably well and exhibits little body roll and imperceptible understeer when driven hard. The AWD-equipped S Q4 does even better. The S Q4 sends most of its power to the rear wheels, but will apportion up to 50 percent up front depending on driving style and conditions.
But in an attempt to lure buyers from the 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS, for example, Maserati has had to wield the cost-cutting knife, unfortunately most obvious in the cabin. While there's ample leather upholstery, much of it is unpadded and lacks the supple feel you'd expect of an Italian luxury car. The center stack design also feels very plain and it's clear that picking from the Chrysler parts bin helped keep costs down. On the upside, the seats are supremely comfortable, whether sawing the steering wheel on a favorite road or settling into a long interstate drive.
Discerning buyers in this segment will judge the Ghibli by the German standard bearers. And while the Ghibli's cabin feel comes up short, its style, sound, power and precise handling should make the Italian newcomer a legitimate alternative to the usual favorites. The 2014 Maserati Ghibli is on sale now starting at $65,600. Check back for a full review of the Ghibli, including specs, driving impressions and buying advice as it becomes available.
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