A machine meant to be driven | Fin24

A machine meant to be driven

Nov 05 2018 12:59
Glenda Williams

There is something to be said for playing loud music and ensuring that the exhaust voice adds to those notes – more so when you are a driving an Italian sports car. 

It amplifies the sense of occasion. 

The Maserati Ghibli GranSport’s throaty exhaust snarl is integral to that sense of occasion and the Italian marque’s personality; an authentic sound harking back to Maserati’s racing DNA. 

Sporting Maserati’s famous trident badge and named after a North African wind, the Ghibli was first unveiled in 1966 at the Turin Motor Show.

For its 2018 relaunch, the luxury Italian five-seater sports sedan has undergone subtle restyling, abandoned hydraulic assisted steering for electric power steering, and introduced an array of new hi-tech features. 

The high-powered coupé-like sports car shares its core architecture – chassis, suspension layout, V6 engines and eight-speed ZF automatic transmission – with the Italian marque’s flagship, the Maserati Quattroporte, but is 293mm shorter and 50kg lighter. 

Three Ghibli models, all built in Turin, Italy, are on offer; two petrol models – the Ghibli and Ghibli S – and the Ghibli diesel. 

All come with twin-turbo, three-litre V6 engines. The petrol engines are manufactured by Ferrari in Maranello, Italy.

Maserati offers the Ghibli in two trim options: the race-inspired GranSport and the classically elegant GranLusso. 

Recognisable by their discreetly differing exterior features as well as their distinct stylish interiors, the GranSport is immediately identifiable by its ‘shark nose’ profile.

finweek took to the roads in the GranSport base model, the 350 horsepower Ghibli.

External view

The Ghibli GranSport is a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing until the exhaust rumble is heard. 

This is when heads really start to snap around. 

Dominating the front-end design of this low-slung and powerful-looking luxury sports sedan are steely-eyed LED headlights and a black three-dimensional grille bearing the Maserati trident. 

Potent air intakes, blood-red brake calipers, 20-inch wheels, powerful haunches, sloping coupé-like roofline and dual chrome exhausts on either side of the wide rear bumper add to the forceful silhouette. 

Distinctive, sporty cockpit 

The interior, with its sporty GranSport trim, is beautifully appointed. 

It is an uncluttered cockpit sporting a combination of old-world elegance and racing-inspired dynamism as well as user-friendly instrumentation.

First to catch the eye is rich black leather with red stitching and embossed red tridents on the anti-whiplash headrests. 

Then there is the charm of the analogue clock mounted on the wood-trimmed and high-gloss black dashboard and the Ghibli’s sporty chrome pedals. 

The touchscreen dominates the centre console and offers all the infotainment features one would expect from a luxury sports car, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an 8-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. 

Sinking into the leather sports seats positions you in front of a large, albeit sporty, leather steering wheel, with equally large aluminium paddle shifters. 

The sport seat, while comfortable, is somewhat less figure-hugging for smaller proportioned drivers – particularly felt when negotiating curves at pace. 

And the indicators, located behind the shifters, are difficult to reach for those with small hands and shorter fingers. 

The Ghibli straddles two worlds. 

It’s primarily a sports car. But as a five-seater, it has all the elements of a luxury family car. 

It is roomy for the driver and front passenger, but rear passenger legroom might be less commodious than expected.

The Ghibli boasts a gargantuan boot with enough room to comfortably accommodate an adult, something one finweek colleague can attest to.

Maserati motion

The race-bred Ghibli is a fabulous car to drive. 

Athletic and spirited like a typical thoroughbred, it is refined but not flawless. 

It is this lack of soulless perfection that imbues the Ghibli with personality.

Unsurprisingly, given its V6 engine, it is quick; not blisteringly so courtesy of its 1 810kg kerb weight, but very quick nonetheless. 

And it is 267km/hour capable.

Engaging the sport button changes the personality of the car. It starts with the exhaust soundtrack, the low rumble intensifying into a roar. 

The suspension becomes firmer, steering becomes weightier and the throttle opens up to make accelerating a more blazing affair. 

Helped in part by the downforce from the front spoiler, the rear-wheel-drive Ghibli is surefooted on the straight and snappy out of the corners.

It may be planted on good surfaces, but it is less so on blemished surfaces – noticeably in sport mode. 

The latter also affects the comfort level of the ride to some degree. Both these issues, though, are easily addressed with various dampening systems.

The high-performance Ghibli offers five driving modes; auto normal, auto sport, manual normal, manual sport and ICE (increased control and efficiency). 

Equating to the “Eco mode” of peers, the Ghibli’s ICE driving mode allows for a more economical and sedate mode of driving, as well as better control in all weather conditions.

Most carmakers have switched to electric power steering for the added benefits (like increased fuel efficiency) that come with this technology. 

So too now has Maserati. 

While I lament the loss of the superb communication that comes with hydraulic assisted steering, the Ghibli’s new electric power steering provides good feedback with a decent amount of grip and turning force perceptible through the wheel. 

Steering, too, is direct.

The Ghibli’s ZF eight-speed automatic shifting system is fluid and effortless while manual shifting is a quicker and sharper affair, adding spice to the drive and exhaust note, especially in manual sport mode. 

This is a machine meant to be driven rather than one designed to drive for you, but the Ghibli still comes with all the latest semi-autonomous driving features expected of luxury cars.
Driving assistance package features include active lane keeping and blind spot assist, forward collision warning and a 360-degree surround view camera. 

The Ghibli’s highway assist (HAS) feature allows for autonomous driving on a highway. 

The HAS feature, which combines the use of a radar sensor and camera, keeps the Ghibli in its lane, maintains the speed set for the cruise control, and keeps its distance from the vehicle ahead. 

Operating from 30km/h to 145km/h, the car stops and goes as highway traffic dictates.

The lane-keeping feature of HAS is somewhat ‘interfering’ though – perhaps because the feature is so intent on keeping you dead centre of the lane that a slight deviation from that brings a less than smooth movement back to the centre. 

Apart from the advanced driving assistance features which add to the Ghibli’s safety technology, the Ghibli commands a 5-star EURO NCAP safety rating. 

It is equipped with seven airbags, adaptive LED headlights with glare-free high beam assist, and tyre pressure monitoring system. 

The car also features integrated vehicle control (IVC), a system that prevents rather than corrects loss of car control, and the Maserati stability program (MSP), which can deploy a host of safety and performance systems to maintain handling and grip.
One is reminded of its origins when you drive this race-bred car. It starts on entering, is amplified by the exhaust voice and further imbued when piloting this high-performance machine. It’s not perfect. And that gives it soul and charisma.

Nothing about this car is pedestrian. If personality and excitement trumps refined perfection, then you’ve met your match.

Unmistakably Italian and infused with the passion, history and uniqueness so characteristic of Italian-built cars, the Ghibli is an intoxicating drive.

This article originally appeared in the 8 November edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

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