By 2017, Maserati were on a pinnacle of success. In the five years since the Modena carmaker had launched their brand, for worldwide mass production, they had shifted 178,000 automobiles that included their highly regarded SUV, Levante, their sporty, GranTurismo, and their large luxury sedan, Quattroporte. But 20% of these auto sales would be for their midsize luxury sedan, Ghibli.
Taking its name from one of their 60’s grand tourer classics that was widely regarded as their last great car (prior to their recent resurgence). In the five year period, the Ghibli had sold over 36.000 models while Maserati would see over 8,500 leaving their dealer showrooms in 2017 alone. Maserati’s business plan had been achieved.
But the midsize luxury sedan faced stiff competition and had many detractors for what it lacked. The motoring segment was dominated by the highly efficient German carmakers, Mercedes-Benz, BMW & Audi along with the classic UK manufacturer, Jaguar. All of these cars offered a plethora of state of the art technological interior features and driving assistance aids. In the earlier models many of these were missing but, for the 2017 Maserati Ghibli they would make amends for this.
Not only would they answer their critics, by installing these technologies, they would also offer each model of the Ghibli – Base, S & S Q4 – in different “packages” that gave upgrades to hardware and customized luxury finishes. It was a bright future for the ‘Maestro’s of Modena’.
Power of the Prancing Horse
To ensure that the midsize luxury sedan was sold as a sub-100K automobile and increase fuel economy, the engine for all models was only a 3.0-liter V6 (similar to some of the Quattroporte editions) but still a Ferrari thoroughbred. There were two petrol engines offered; the Base model now had 345 bhp (which was an increase of 20 bhp from its previous output) and 369 lb-ft of torque. While the other two models each had the bigger output of 404 bhp and 406 lb-ft of torque.
Acceleration for the 2017 Maserati Ghibli Base was lively but not impressive. It would make the 0-60 mph dash in 5.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 166 mph (3 mph faster than its predecessor). While the S and S Q4 models had mixed power numbers; while the S Q4 had better acceleration, as it made the 0-60 mph dash in 4.8 seconds as opposed to the 5 seconds of the S, the better top speed was from the S. That model could hit 177 mph while the all-wheel drive Q4 was slightly slower at 176 mph.
Fuel economy for these engines were a respectable combined 19 mpg. All models would make 24 mpg on highways while the Base made better economy in urban driving with 17 mpg and the other two giving 16 mpg.
Though not offered in North America, a diesel engine was vitally important in other territories (particularly in Europe). Something that Maserati had no previous experience with. To ensure they could deliver a high performance diesel engine (an oxymoron, if ever there was one!) they would turn to someone who knew Ferrari engines very well – Paolo Martinelli.
Snr Martinelli had worked closely with the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, as he oversaw the performance of the V10 engines that powered the racing cars for Michael Schumacher, as he rode to victory time and time again.
His expertise would see that the 3.0 liter turbo diesel engine produced 271 bhp and 420 lb-ft of torque. It could reach 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds and hit a top speed of 155 mph.
Going Through the Gears
There would be a standard gearbox on all of the 2017 Maserati Ghibli models, the German made, ZF, eight-speed 8HP transmission. This offered a variety of driving modes – Normal, Sport & ICE.
Running on ‘Normal’ mode, the midsize luxury sedan would perform its duties quietly and effectively, happy to be a “runaround” in town. To increase the efficiency of city driving, it would be recommended to engage the ICE (Increased Control & Efficiency) mode. Functioning like an ECO setting, it reduces the engine and transmission for better economy.
But to enjoy the true exhilaration of the Trident and unleash the power of the Ferrari engine, the transmission must be set to ‘Sport’ mode. Shift changes become more quicker while the revs are pushed higher. Remapping of the throttle makes it more “edgy” and the baffles are bypassed in the exhaust to allow the full throaty growl, pop and bang to escape from the quad pipes at the rear.
The Base and the S models were both rear wheel drive while the Q4 offered all-wheel drive in certain situations. When the engine detected wheelspin, it could divert up to 50% of engine power to the front axle. This model would be very popular in the United States and made up 70% of its sales in the territory.
One thing that Maserati could be relied upon to deliver and that was driving performance. This would be one of the key aspects of the 2017 Maserati Ghibli – unparalleled thrills and excitement that no other luxury sedan could offer. A sports car in a sedan’s clothing.
The automobile grips the road tightly and is very responsive as you steer the car into tight corners and bends. Experiencing very little understeer or drift, the Ghibli is happy to attack these turns and to exit them with explosive speed. Even the more inexperienced driver can enjoy some thrilling, white-knuckle rides without too much trepidation. But, if the ride gets too close to the edge, then a series of driving assistance aids come into effect to make sure the “excitement” does not go too far.
A key factor to this excellent driving ability was because of the car’s perfect balance, which was almost a 50/50 split weight ratio between front and rear. This would be assisted by the variety of driving aids that included both stability and traction control as well as anti-lock brakes.
The standard suspension would be a little firm and unresponsive for some people’s liking. But there was an opportunity to upgrade this to the adaptive ‘Skyhook’ suspension which worked in tandem with the driving technique and the transmission mode that was engaged. While allowing a softer and more comfortable drive in most situations, it could be firmed up when placed in the ‘Sport’ mode. This provided the car with a more aggressive, sportier feel. Compensating as the Maserati attacked corners and adjusting each wheel, as necessary, to ensure there was minimal body roll and discomfort for the driver and occupants.
But there would still be criticism of the steering, as it was too light and gave the driver no “feel” for the wheels in front of him.
But even when the car was standing still, the 2017 Maserati Ghibli would be a thrilling car. Its elegant shape and seductive lines would make it a standout amongst the over saturated luxury sedan market. The shapely sides, contoured front wheel arches and sloping nose, that morphs into the iconic Trident grille, make it an irresistible alternative to the array of Teutonic autobahn machines. A car to stir the heart rather than the mind.
Though the 2017 Maserati Ghibli is 11 inches shorter than its Quattroporte sibling, it still manages to provide decent space inside. Space for five passengers, the two front seats are well padded and comfortable. They provide good lumbar and lateral support which is put to good work when driving the sports sedan aggressively. Headroom is well catered for both front and rear though the rear passengers will find it tight around their feet and gaining access into the backseat.
Storage space is very generous with the trunk providing 17.7 cubic feet of space and this can be further increased when folding the rear seats in a 60/40 format.
As befitting any Italian car and especially a Maserati, the interior was a testament to sumptuous luxury. Leather and other refined textures and finishes would cover all surfaces of the cabin. Fine leather, from Poltrona Frau, would overlay all the seats, side panels, central panel, dash and steering wheel. Poltrona Frau only allowed their finest hides to be installed in just two brands – Ferrari and Maserati – and this would come in a variety of colors and a choice of a two-tone scheme for the dash.
A choice of wood finishes, in high gloss and open pore, or carbon fiber would complete the interior surfaces. Alcantara suede could be added to the headliners and a whole variety of different color hand stitching and piping rounded off the interior color coordination.
However, for reasons only known to the Modena factory, they would raid the accessory shelves of FIAT Chrysler as they installed knobs and switches that would be more commonly found in economy cars.
Exterior color palettes were just as varied for the 2017 Maserati Ghibli. The bodywork paint came in multiple hues while the 18 inch alloy wheels could be customized to 20 or 21 inches and accessorized by several different Brembo brake caliper colors.
The 8.4-inch touchscreen Infotainment System has been given an upgrade, now referred to as the ‘Maserati Touch Plus’. This now allows full smartphone connectivity with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto while still offering USB and other auxiliary ports. The screen gives easy accessibility with large icons at the bottom of the screen. With one touch you have control over the satellite radio, CD player, sat nav and dual climate control
The standard speaker set up is with the eight surround sound speakers from Harman & Kardon. Though this can be upgraded to ten speakers or a 15-speaker system from Bowers & Wilkins.
The 2017 Maserati Ghibli would offer upgraded ‘packages” for each model. The Base Ghibli would have the ‘Luxury’ Package while the S & S Q4 offered the ‘Sport’ Package and there would be a ‘Driver Assistance’ Package to round off the deals.
The Luxury provided ventilated front seats, hands-free power trunk, 10 speaker Harman Kardon system and driver aids such as: blind-spot monitoring; rear cross-traffic alert; front and rear parking sensors and a surround view camera.
The Sport provided 19-21 inch alloys, adaptive suspension, sport seats, shift paddles, blind-spot monitoring and front and rear parking sensors. A Carbon fiber package for the S models increased the number of interior finishes with this surface instead.
For added refinement, there was still the Zegna edition. The famous Italian fashion house had designed bespoke color tones in leather and silk for the seats and side panels.
The Driver Assistance Package consisted of everything that people had been crying out for: adaptive cruise control with a Stop/Go feature; forward collision alert; automatic emergency braking; lane departure warning and a 360-degree surround view camera.
The cruise control maintains a pre-set distance between itself and the car in front. The Stop / Go feature, by adjusting to the target vehicle’s speed, it allows the car to automatically slow down and come to a stop then automatically begin moving again within two seconds of the other vehicle moving.
The Forward Collision Warning & Advanced Braking System warns the driver of a possible impact and, once the brake has been applied, will apply the appropriate braking pressure automatically. The Automated Emergency Braking will autonomously apply braking if the driver does not respond fast enough.
Though the basic price for these models was between US$72,000 and $80,000, these “package” upgrades would push the price up to the 100K mark. This would place the higher priced 2017 Maserati Ghibli into the ultra-competitive market that consisted of the Mercedes-Benz CLS Class, BMW 6 Series and the Audi RS 7.
But now that Maserati had matched their driving technology to those of their nearest rivals, this made the Ghibli even more attractive to the executive luxury sedan customer base. This would place the Trident at the forefront of driving excellence.