Mediterranean Depression? Hardly.

An irregular current blows through the neighbourhood. 

carbuzz

Maserati: the very name evokes charisma, although broad Yorkshire tones tend to offer a less divine-sounding Mazz-Uratty. The model names themselves convey equally evocative overtones; even a dusty, dry wind from North Africa manages to cleave enigmatic inflections – Ghibli. 

Not the poster boy from the 1960s however – today we pore over the modern, everyday Ghibli – the tipo M157, revealed to the world in Shanghai 2013. Produced in the former Bertone manufacturing plant of Grugliasco, close to Turin[1], life for the new Ghibli began under FCA’s Centro Stile direction, Marco Tencone seemingly responsible for overseeing those dashingly good looks.

Plans were hatched to offer this as an Italian alternative to those oversubscribed German executives – projections being for 50,000 per year within two years on sale. Somewhat contrite when compared against such sales heroes but the Ghibli would nevertheless transform Maserati’s own presence in several marketplaces, especially since engines offered included a marque first – a fleet-friendly diesel.

Yes, for European customers at least, il Tridente could pour the black stuff down the throat of a sixty degree V6 Diesel engine purloined from fellow Stellantis son, Jeep’s oil-burning Grand Cherokee. Ferrari-based Paulo Martinelli garnished a sharper feel to proceedings. Good for 271 HP and over 600 NM of torque, the VM Motori-made graphite iron block with aluminium head unit could cause a license-losing 155mph whilst returning believable fuel figures. A foil to the fünf, an exaltation to the E. 

Rudolph’s motor clearly assisted Maserati break sales records – 6,000 Ghibli’s alone sold in its first year. As of 24th September 2019, 100,000 desert winds of all flavours had blown. With a steel monocoque combined with aluminium subframes, the architecture is shared with the equally rapturous sounding, if less comely Quattroporte.

Ghiblis are 4,971mm in length, 1,945mm wide and 1,461mm high, the wheelbase 2mm short of three metres. Quattroporte’s extend matters overall by 290mm and that car’s wheelbase another 200mm. Ghibli’s suspension is made up at the front by double wishbones, with five-links, aft. Options include the enchanting sounding Skyhook suspension of which your author knows absolutely nothing. 

Whilst that diesel engine subscribes to both sonorous exhaust note and massive grunt, Maserati has always been about petrol power. One expects such an owner unconcerned at trivialities such as consumption or taxes. On a recent lunchtime walk for some urgent couscous for that evening’s tagine, the portend of a V6 reverberating off suburban environs had my eyes searching for its origins. Lo, a black Ghibli burbled around the corner, the unseen driver subtly prodding the throttle to delight my aural senses, as though on demand.

With today’s norm seemingly three cylinder turbo noises or the eerie silence of the electrical chariot, a decidedly fruity yet not wholly intrusive bark from the organ pipes was most welcome. Being greedy, a V8 would have been sexier to listen to. Badge obscured by passing traffic, my untrained ears could not ascertain if this model was just a base model or the S version.

One sees Stuttgart’s E almost everywhere, 5 series less so, the A6 maybe somewhere in between. But this pristine, 2016 model Ghibli, homing into view the remains a sight to behold alongside a joy to hear. Nothing dusty or depressive, here. A semblance of Atlantic meeting North African coast.

Standard petrol Ghiblis[2] keep a 2,979cc 60 degree V6, shoving out 345bhp at 5,000rpm and 369 foot pounds of turning effort under the bonnet. The S nudges up those outputs to 400 for both power and torque. Designed by Maserati, assembled and tested by Ferrari, produced in the Trenton Engine Plant, Indiana under Chrysler’s watchful eye, the F160 is all aluminium. SQ4 models provide AWD, whereas the rare and thirsty Trofeo model shoehorns in that V8 and cracks 200mph. All Ghibli’s employ an 8 speed auto ZF gearbox alongside a rear LSD.

That centralised trident placed within a dozen vertical chromed slats makes for a bold statement. The DRG is a shade under aggressive, more assured, expectant of something less mundane than a shopping excursion. Sculptured headlights seek out apexes, not potential roadkill or diversion signs, although the late be-jumpered one obviously saw Ghibli as the model to ply the intercity routes of the world. One’s memory of witnessing another example stretches back some time – years, maybe? But isn’t that the eternal compromise? Maserati’s should be exclusive – not found on just any given street corner or company car park. As always, a difficult balance.

The be-chromed DLO excites – the body sides themselves could be from cut glass – the elegant up-kick toward the rear wheel, where the power swells is the isobar to the far from languid leading front edge. Whether the extra egg-shaped surrounding trident motif found above the rear wheel arch and fuel filler is necessary is down to personal opinion. Personally, no – I prefer the three minuscule ventiports along the front swage-line. Definitively bold, uncompromisingly ostentatious – and blithely pointless. But jolly well there. 

That rear end is gallant; lines cleave where they should, the subtle Kamm tail, the chrome underlining the Ghibli’s family name should you find yourself unsure of its origin. The lights conform nicely but perhaps the best rear area being the four exhaust pipes –  subtle in looks and melodious. From launch, the car’s cd factor was 0.31. A mild 2020 facelift saw this down to 0.29 along with the option of a hybrid powertrain. 

Whereas the Germans keep their presumed air of indifference, Ghibli, akin to a Coventry cat, associates itself with a clientele more discerning, more considerate in their bearing and deportment. Which is also probably the reason for the car’s apparent rarity. Examples eight years old (and plenty younger) are no longer found within the safe confines of the approved dealer.

From an independent dealer (caveat emptor), twenty thousand pounds Sterling should ensnare this rakish four door take on the norm if you’re suffering that Mediterranean mood. Might even make the neighbours curtains twitch. As a desert wind blows through the neighbourhood, a cri de Coeur, nothing sinister.

[1] The former Bertone plant in Grugliasco was acquired by FCA in 2009. Renamed and re-inaugurated as the Avvocato Giovanni Agnelli plant (AGAP) in 2013, it is currently the home of the current series of Maserati models. (ED)

[2] From launch, the base engine produced 20bhp less

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

15 thoughts on “Mediterranean Depression? Hardly.”

  1. Good morning, Andrew and thanks for your article about the Ghibli. Soon after this car was launched I spotted one on my morning commute. I wasn’t expecting this and thought, well maybe this car is going to sell in good numbers. I forgot, of course, that I was within a couple of miles from a Maserati dealership. I didn’t see much of them after that.

    Much to my surprise I stumbled upon this Ghibli, last Tuesday. This is an oil burner, sadly not a petrol V6 or V8 and it was parked outside my apartment building at a disabled parking space. You can barely make out the disability card in the corner of the windscreen. A welcome change to the more boring, more practical cars that usually occupy this territory.

  2. Good morning Andrew. What a lovely, lyrical essay in appreciation of Maserati’s finest. I would have no use for either the Ghibli or the Quattroporte, but for those who need a large luxury saloon, those beguiling looks make the German premium trio seem very mundane indeed. You would enjoy exclusivity too: only around 22k Ghiblis have been sold in Europe since the current model was introduced in 2013. Compare that with the E-Class: European sales over the same period were 853k.

    Here’s another image of the Ghibli in that glorious metallic rosso colour:

  3. Overall, I do find it a pleasure to see a Ghibli on the road, and it does look at its best in that red. However, for me the styling is a case of ‘nearly’. I find it hard to put my finger on what exactly isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s all a bit overwrought and trying too hard; that over-obvious rear haunch, the uptick to the headlamps. Maybe it’s because, ultimately, I think a Mazda 6 creates a similar effect and does it much better.

    I think it also suffers in comparison with the excellent previous generation Quattroporte – a bit like Jaguar with the original XF being replaced, in some respects, by the slightly smaller XE and larger XF II, something got lost in the translation when that Quattroporte gave way to the larger latest version and the slightly smaller Ghibli. All that said, I did dream at one point of replacing the C6 with one, but I am glad now that I could never have afforded it.

    1. I know what you mean S.V.

      Andrew wrote: “ventiports”.

      Quite!

  4. Mr Miles is on top form today – Bravo! But in writing about one of the very few 21st century motor cars that I find attractive, he’s reminded me that my view of such things is of a forgotten age. And it’s all down to wheels and windows…..

    In my father’s time we progressed from solid tyres to pneumatic and I grew up understanding that tyres formed an essential part of a vehicle’s suspension; certainly so far as passenger comfort was concerned. Low-profile tyres (when viewed side-ways on) so resemble solid tyres that they just look wrong. I can read and understand why that is not so, but a part of my brain refuses to process the information.

    Similarly the glass area. As anyone who has driven professionally knows, all-round vision is the ultimate safety aid. Windows like slits with lower edges at shoulder level are an anathema – as are massive A, B & C-posts. Cameras and audible warning devices are pathetically inadequate substitutes for glass areas out of which you can actually see.

    Despite my jaundiced and outdated notions, this Ghibli manages to transcend them with ease. It just looks right – I love it and if money were no object I’d go and find one to buy today. Which brings me to a final conundrum: what is it that prompts our intuitive (as opposed to reasoned) choices? Be they coffee or tea; Dickens or Mayhew; VHS or Betamax; Microsoft or Apple; Alfa or Lancia; Ferrari or Maserati….?

  5. Good morning Andrew. What a beautiful looking car particularly in that colour. As Daniel said it does make other similar size vehicles look quite ordinary although that may be because of number of folk buying Mercs and Beemers.
    I know someone who had a Quattroporte but he sadly couldn’t resist hitting the loud pedal once too often. Made a mess of the bodywork when he hit the central barrier on a dual carriageway but fortunately survived.

  6. What a nice essay, Andrew. I really like the Ghibli design, too, and would love to have the means to get a used one and drive the heck out of it – especially crossing European highways.

    By the way, does anyone know how do Ghibli’s cost of ownership compares to, say, the perennial taxi favourite from Sindelfingen when powered by a V6, or a 530?

    1. If you count depreciation into the cost of ownership the Ghibli (especially the diesel) was a financial nightmare for first owners. I think the tyres are somewhat wider as compared to what the Germans generally use along with some wear&tear parts that are also a bit more performance-oriented and higher priced.
      The real tricky part though is finding an official repair shop – it’s either Ferrari dealers working in luxurious hourly rates or upmarketed Fiat & Alfa shops which are just not used to premium cars (and their owners), thus generate tons of customer complaints for the brand. Though on paper the Ghibli shouldn’t be a problematic design – it’s family ties to certain Chrysler models are no secret -, but it’s difficult to assess how much a decent service network is worth to one.

    2. Thanks, Laszlo. I thought about getting a second-hand (or third-) one. Risky business, but I wonder whether it would be feasible…

    3. Tww or three years ago I visited my preferred tyre provider for the seasonal change to winter tyres. Our local Ferrari-cum-Maserati dealer is aboug five hundred metres away. Two guys in Ferrari-branded clothes were loading Maserati wheels onto their Fiat Strada pick up and I asked the tyre man what these wheels did cost. “The price of the tyres is negligible, the four alloy wheels alone were 15,000 EUR”.

  7. I thought note [2] might apply to the errant apostrophe. Sadly not.

    Please, a plea for accurate grammar. The plural does not require one, only the possessive. DtW is one of the few corners of the English-language internet where authors still strive to get this right.

    1. Dear Jacomo, I can only apologise for our uncharacteristic oversight. In our defence, we enjoyed a very convivial sherry-tasting evening at DTW Towers and, as a consequence, our proof-reading skills might have been a touch under par.

      The errant apostrophe has been banished to Hades.

  8. In that colour, it could’ve been the Alfa Romeo Giulia’s bigger brother. Are you sure they aren’t built from the same platform?

    1. The exteriors of both cars were designed by Marco Tencone, who is also credited with the Lancia Dialogos concept (which led to the Thesis), the 2003 Fulvia Concept, the Alfa 4c, and the Maserati Alfieri Concept.

    2. Well, that explains it, I had no idea it was the same designer. I wonder why they just didn’t make it easier for them and make the two cars off the same platform as they very well could have been.

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