The Ghibli is the Arabic name for a strong wind that blows down from the mountains, in the Middle East. A natural force that careens through the desert into the Mediterranean Sea – hot, dusty and tempestuous. This exemplifies the fiery nature of Maserati’s midsize luxury sedan.
The Modena carmaker had launched this model back in 2014 in a concerted effort to expand the company’s bespoke origins into something more global. This was certainly achieved, as their sales had jumped from just 500 models, in 1998, up to an annual high of 51,500 by 2017. Over those years of production, the Ghibli had contributed over 40,000 units sales to the ‘Bottom Line’.
Over the intervening years, Maserati had tinkered with the sedan to improve its performance as well as its technological and luxurious installments. By the time the 2020 Maserati Ghibli was available, these refinements had ensured that this was now a worthy compatriot to the overly-competitive executive luxury sedan market.
While, admittedly, this Maserati was not on par with the Teutonic autobahn sedans that boasted better overall performance and specifications, they rose head and shoulders over them with, from their curvaceous and flowing bodywork to the alluring and vibrant luxury interiors. For drivers wishing to break free of these generic and stoic Germanic cruisers, then setting their sights on a racey automobile from the ‘Maestro’s of Modena’ would be too intoxicating to miss.
The 2020 Maserati Ghibli was available in three models – Base, S & S Q4 – and all using the 3.0 liter twin turbocharged V6 Ferrari engine. While the first two versions were both rear wheel drive, the Q4 was fitted with an all-wheel drive powertrain. All models were optional in two different upgraded packages – GranLusso (luxury) and GranSport (sporty). While the GranLusso enhances the luxurious nature of the Ghibli, the GranSport raises the performance credibility of the automobile. The previously separate ‘Driver Assistance’ package is now available as standard to both of these upgrades.
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Shape of Things to Come
While most criticisms had been addressed with the car over the years. Most especially, the introduction of all “benchmark” driver-assist safety aids, there was one still that had not been dealt with – a bigger engine. In July 2020, Maserati made an announcement that would excite their customer base around the world.
Not only were they entering the “modern world” of electric and hybridization engines, as they announced a 2021 Ghibli with a re-tuned FIAT-Chrysler 2.0 liter four-cylinder gas turbo engine attached to a 48-volt electric supercharger “e-booster” and a battery, but also a V8 engine for the midsize sedan.
Maserati were putting seriously powerful engines into all three of their current models: Ghibli, Quattroporte & Levante SUV. Each would be given the moniker of ‘Trofeo’ (trophy in English) and fitted with a 3.8 liter twin turbocharged V8 Ferrari engine. The output, this was purported to give, was frightening as it would provide 572 bhp and 538 lb-ft of torque. They claimed that the 0-60 mph dash could be achieved in just 4.3 seconds while the Ghibli Trofeo could hit a top speed of 203 mph. These figures were almost on a par to the Maserati MC12!
The 2020 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid would offer 330 bhp and 450 Nm of torque and making the 0-60 mph sprint in 5.7 seconds and having a top speed of 158 mph.
But both of these variations would not be available until the following year. potential buyers of a V8 Ghibli would just have to wait.
Ferrari Power Under the Hood
As Maserati were trying to create a midsize luxury sedan that stayed below the US $100,000 mark and to provide a modicum of fuel economy, they made sure to install a smaller engine. All models of the 2020 Maserati Ghibli would have the same 3.0 liter twin turbocharged V6 engine, which was also used in some of the Quattroporte models as well.
The Base engine would have an output of 345 bhp and 369 lb-ft of torque and that would allow it to make 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 166 mph (which was still faster than several of its competitors). The S and S Q4 Ghibli saw better performance as they both made the 0-60 mph sprint in 4.9 and 4.7 seconds respectively while they both hit a top speed of 178 mph.
Though not offered within the North American market, a third engine choice was available in other territories – a diesel engine. But, considering this would be Maserati’s first experience with a non-gasoline engine, they needed some guidance on creating an engine block that had some performance to it. So they sought the expert advice of someone who knew Ferrari engines very well – Paolo Martinelli.
Snr Martinelli had overseen the V10 engines of the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team’s racing cars for Michael Schumacher, as he rode to victory year after year. With his help, they were able to create a 3.0 liter turbo diesel engine that gave out 271 bhp and 420 lb-ft or torque. This gave the diesel engine acceleration of 6.3 seconds from 0-60 mph and a top speed of 155 mph.
Fuel economy for these engines was 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.
Flying Through the Gears
For all models of the 2020 Maserati Ghibli, the German made, ZF, eight-speed 8HP automatic transmission would be installed. This gearbox had three driver settings: normal, sport & ICE.
Using the Ghibli as a city runaround and driving in the “normal” mode, allowed the car to run quietly and conservatively. If the ICE (Increased Control & Efficiency) was activated then this would perform like an ECO function, reducing the engine and transmission for better efficiency and fuel economy.
But to fully enjoy the exhilaration, that only an Italian-made luxury car can provide, the automatic transmission must be engaged to ‘Sport’. Shift changes become quicker while the rev count is pushed closer to the redline. 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 of the Ferrari engine to escape from the quad pipes at the rear. If the ‘Skyhook’ suspension is onboard, then this will automatically stiffen up in anticipation of the more aggressive drive.
To further enhance the experience, select ‘manual’ mode which allows the driver to have full control over gear changes and are applied through the gear stick or via the shift paddles on the steering column.
While both the Base and S models provided the powertrain with rear wheel drive, the S Q4 offered all-wheel drive performance. The intuitive driving system, sensing any wheelspin, would divert up to 50% of the power to the front axle to counteract it. This was, by far, the more popular option in North America as it accounted for 70% of their sales in the territory.
Maserati held great pride in the racing pedigree and made sure that high performance handling was standard on all models of the Trident. The 2020 Maserati Ghibli was no exception. Its unparalleled handling and driving performance at high speed was thrilling and made this executive sedan seem more like a sports car.
As if riding on rails, the Maserati grips the road tightly and performs instantly to your steering commands and allows you to attack all cornering with vigor. With almost no understeer or drift, the car glides through the turn and explodes out of it with ease. Even for inexperienced drivers, they can still find great enjoyment from the thrilling ride and complete these turns with confidence. With the installation of several driving aids, it ensures that the “excitement” will never get out of hand.
One of the major contributing factors to this great handling is the almost perfect balance of the 2020 Maserati Ghibli. With a 50/50 weight distribution ratio making sure the balance of the car allows it to move with the steering precisely. The added driver aids included both stability and traction control as well as anti-lock brakes.
While the standard suspension system would be regarded as a little too firm for some, there was the option to upgrade it to the adaptive ‘Skyhook’ suspension system which could even out a lot of the rigors of high speed driving and rough road surfaces. To minimize the level of body-roll and lateral movement within the cabin to make sure the passengers enjoyed the ride.
The 2020 Maserati Ghibli would easily turn heads as its alluring contours and bodywork ensured it stood out from the crowd. Flowing lines, from the rear, around the side and over the front wheel arches to the dropped down aggressive nose with the iconic grille, made this automobile stir the heart unlike the other conservative and amorphous German rivals.
The Maserati can sit five passengers while the front seats were exceptionally comfortable with extra padding and lumbar support. Headroom was reasonable both front and rear (3.4 inches more than the inside of a BMW 5 Series) while the legroom was adequate (2.5 inches less than the same BMW) but the foot space was quite tight.
Generous storage space in the trunk as the 2020 Maserati Ghibli provided 17.7 cubic feet and even more space when the rear seats were folded down in a 60/40 split.
As you would expect from an Italian luxury automobile, the interior is a symphony of opulence. With the finest leather and other high finish surfaces covering all aspects of the cabin. Poltrona Frau leather (their finest only provided to Maserati and Ferrari), Pieno Fiore natural leather or Zegna silk would adorn the seats and side panels, depending on what “package” was bought. These were offered in a variety of different colors while the dash could be given a two-tone combination. High-gloss or open pore wood was available as well as carbon fiber to cover other areas.
Alcantara suede would be available for the headliners as well as the door panels. A variety of different coloured hand stitching and piping allowed for a multitude of contrasts for the interior.
However, Maserati was still utilizing the cheap looking knobs and switches from other Chrysler models which really detracted from the luxurious look on closer inspection.
Exterior bodywork paintwork palette came in 14 variations (though only two were free of charge) and the alloy wheels could be fitted with 19 to 21 inch rims and four different colors for the Brembo brake calipers.
The Infotainment system was fitted out with the Chrysler Uconnect system (known here as the ‘Maserati Touch plus’) and had a 8.4 inch touchscreen. Very easy to use with large icons that enabled a single touch access for all interior controls. Satellite radio, CD player, sat nav and dual zone climate control were all readily accessible. Connectivity was assured with Bluetooth, Apple Carplay, Android Auto and a USB port.
The standard speaker setup was with the eight speakers of Harman Kardon, but the GranLusso and GranSport both offered the ten-speaker system. If preferred, a 15-speaker system from Bowers & Wilkins could be installed as extra.
The 2020 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 while the ‘Driver Assistance’ Package was now inclusive to both.
The Luxury provided ventilated front seats, hands-free power trunk, 10 speaker Harman Kardon system and driver aids such as: adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring; rear cross-traffic alert; front and rear parking sensors and a surround view camera.
The Sport also provided the same driver assistance aids as well as 19-21 inch alloys, adaptive suspension, sports wheel, sport seats and shift paddles. A Carbon fiber package for the S models increased the number of interior finishes with this surface instead.
The 2020 Maserati Ghibli was now an executive luxury sedan to be reckoned with and it was really only a matter of personal choice whether you made the decision to have one or not. While some drivers may prefer the ruthless efficiency of the Teutonic autobahn cruisers, there would still be many who wanted to feel their blood race as they got behind the wheel of a Maserati.