This year's Super Bowl isn't exactly what I'd call memorable.
The Seattle Seahawks dominated the Denver Broncos and it bordered on embarassing. If you need further confirmation of that, just Google images of Peyton Manning's face that night. Ouch.
While the game may not have been particularly exciting, one thing did stand out. You may have seen our subject before as it was the star of a Super Bowl commercial. Known as the Ghibli (pronounced Gib-lee), it's considered the "baby" Maserati because of its lower barrier of entry as opposed to its siblings. But after you drive it, you'll soon realize there's nothing baby-ish about the Ghibli at all.
Right off the bat when you come across a Ghibli you'll note that although its overall size may be smaller than the company's large luxury sedan, the Quattroporte, they both feature very similar designs. This is far from a bad thing. The Ghibli sports an angry "face" with squinted headlights that are asking "You talking to me?" But once you get past its menacing front end you'll see the gorgeously sculpted body that has sensual curves in it that only an Itailian automaker could create.
2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4
Sorry, but if you ask me, the Germans haven't proven that they can design a sedan that oozes sex appeal. They can make really nice looking four doors but not ones you'll dream about or lust for. The Audi S7 does a pretty good job in the looks department until you get to its droopy rear end and the same goes for the Porsche Panamera — the Maserati Ghibli looks good from every angle.
My favorite part is how the bone line trails off and the rear fender bulges out. It's like looking at a 1950s pin-up girl!
Once you find yourself behind the Ghibli's thick, three-spoke steering wheel, you'll start to take in the interior that seems to be upholstered in leather just about everywhere. When compared with its competition from Germany, this is typically something that's not available or requires a very special order via Audi Exclusive or BMW Individual. My test vehicle was optioned with a two-tone peanut butter and black interior, which was complemented with a gorgeous wood trim that has to be seen to believed. It reminded me of some high-end, exotic wood guitars I've come across in my day.
Then there's little details that only someone obsessed with design would execute. For instance, the frameless doors or the large, real metal paddles located behind the steering wheel. Would the Ghibli's enemies do something like this? Probably not. If there's one thing you can't take away from an Italian product it's their style and flare.
2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4
But, if you start to examine the interior bits closer, you may notice some oddities. That's because some of the vehicle's interior bits are lifted from Chrysler. Some examples include the wiper stalk, headlight switch and mirror/window switches. In addition, some trim pieces don't appear to find home in a vehicle of this caliber. Two examples that irked me were the silver-painted trim pieces around the HVAC vents and the plastic triangles at the intersection of the Ghibli's A-Pillar and door frame. For a car that has gorgeous stitching, supple leather and lovely details, why would they make a mess of it with cheap trim bits sprinkled in here and there?
When I spoke with a Maserati spokesperson, he informed me that Maserati did this for reliability. Essentially, the gist I get is that Maserati is somewhat backed into the corner of negative brand perception due to the overwhelming nature of Italian cars finding themselves at the shop more than in your garage. So, some moves were made to keep things simple and wear better over time. You won't find these parts peeling down the road, as you see in Ferraris, that I can assure you.
Now if you're in-market to make this purchase, I'd highly recommend spending a good amount of time in the backseat. That's because when I stuffed two six footers in the front and back at the same time it was a bit tight all around for both parties.
It's not all bad news though as the vehicle's center stack features a massive infotainment display, which is Chrysler's Uconnect system. This is not a negative criticism at all and that's because Uconnect is the best-in-breed infotainment system on the market. It's very intuitive and doesn't have a learning curve, something that can't be said of the overly engineered German setups and Ford's SYNC system. If you know how to use your fingers, you'll be fine.
Although if you're looking to get into a Maserati, you're probably more interested in how the vehicle drives. Rightfully so as the company's legacy is built around a racing pedigree. In short, you won't be disappointed.
Starting with the most important element, the motor, the Ghibli S Q4 I drove is equipped with a bi-turbo V6 powerplant good for 404 horsepower and 406 lb.-ft. of torque. That already sounds great, but it gets better. That's because the motor is built by Maranello's finest, Ferrari. If the prancing horse is known for anything, it's epic engines. This one is not any different.
There's no question that when you're turning over 3,000 revs there's no mistaking that the sound is coming from something different. With this particular set up, I can confirm that there's no six-cylinder that sounds quite like this on the road.
Though, on paper, the motor may not sound that powerful when compared to the likes of other modern engines, I reassure you, this thing pulls hard, especially when you get over 4,000 revs. There is one little downside, however. There is a bit of turbo lag straight out of the gate if you hammer the throttle.
Paired up with this motor is a eight-speed, automatic transmission. What makes this gearbox great is that it's tuned to be smooth, unlike the Porsche Panamera, which can shift harsh when you're in Sport or Sport Plus. Compared to the Panamera, the shifts are damn near seamless.
Keen observers will notice by the shifter there are three buttons labeled "M," "I.C.E," and "Sport." M is for manual shifting mode, I.C.E. is your fuel efficiency mode and Sport well, that's obvious. I'd wager that approximately 80 percent of the time I had the Sport button lit up as well as M mode engaged. Not only does the vehicle's suspension get stiffer, the throttle gets sharper and the exhaust opens up in the back so you get an even more lovely note. But, if you want to soften the car up and let it do the shifting, it's more than capable of being a more mild-mannered luxury sedan in Normal mode or with I.C.E. engaged
Fuel efficiency was something I'd expect for something in this range, eeking out only 17 mpg during my time with the car. I'll be the first to admit though I drove the car mostly in manual mode in lower gears because I was addicted to the power and sound. I am sure if you babied it you could make it to the low 20s but, realistically, I doubt you'll want to.
There are two very specific places where this car outshines its competition.
First, its ride quality is exceptional for a luxury sedan with serious sporting chops. Before the Ghibli, I'd argue that the Porsche Panamera was the most comfortable without losing its edge for spirited driving; however, the Maserati surpasses it. That's because the Ghibli is more than capable of handling bumps without a loud slam or jostling passengers. Even when you dial up the Sport mode the ride quality doesn't get effected by the stiffer suspension settings. Though it's taut for the driver, your passengers won't really notice you've just dialed in a more sporty setting.
Second, if you drive this vehicle aggressively, you'll quickly realize the "mix" is just right. The Ghibli's steering is weighted on the lighter side and it's very responsive to inputs — similar to my experiences with Ferrari. When you're at speed and entering a corner, body roll isn't a problem as the Maserati feels hunkered down and there's a substantial amount of grip thanks to my test car's all-wheel drive setup. The best way to articulate it is that the Ghibli feels like a much lighter sports car than a luxury sedan when you push it. That can't be said for other sedans that feel heavy and ponderous when you're at the limit.
After getting better acquainted with the all-new Ghibli, I have to say that essentially a buyer really has a pretty simple decision to make at the end of the day. It comes down to emotion.
If you want a car that can do it all but you're willing to sacrifice personality and drive something with questionable looks, go check out the Audi S7, Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class or Porsche Panamera.
But, if you want an automobile that will make you feel something every time you press the Start button, and is easy on the eyes, then there's no question that you have to have the Maserati in your driveway.
Starting at $66,900 for the base model and $76,900 for the more powerful AWD version, it's pretty enticing when compared to the likes of other cars in its class.
The Ghibli is a very important car for Maserati as it ramps up its effort to drive a massive sales increase. To be honest, it's a helluva start. Now the question is whether the company can get in-market buyers aware of their latest effort and if the dealership network is strong enough to support the brand.
Lastly, my biggest concern with the Ghibli is how it will age over time. Not in terms of style or if pieces will come off in your hand, but in terms of depreciation. This has been a sour point for Maserati's products for sometime and it should be a consideration if you're going to be cutting a check for a new set of wheels.
The Good:- It's easy on the eyes
- The ride quality is particularly impressive in all driving modes
- Fantastic handler that makes you feel as though you're piloting a MUCH smaller vehicle than a luxury sedan
The Bad:- A mixture of high-quality interior trim bits and some less-than-stellar plastics that appear a bit too Chrysler for my taste
- It's interior isn't particularly spacious, especially the back seat
- No visibility into how the car will hold value over time — Maserati's history is not particularly good
The Bottom Line:The Maserati Ghibli is an impressive luxury sedan offering that brings the trident down into a more attainable price bracket. As it goes up against standard sedans and four-door coupes at this price range, there's definitely a differentiating factor: the Ghibli is an emotional purchase that will make you smile every time you start 'er up. If you want to feel special, the Maserati will have no problem satiating your request.
2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4