The 2014 Maserati Ghibli was introduced to the world during the Shanghai Motor Show, where the car was presented as a smaller and more compact four-door saloon, the little sister of the Quattroporte. After driving the Ghibli S Q4 earlier this year, we wanted to drive the first diesel ever built by the Italian brand. Maserati Benelux gave us the chance to see if the combination of an Italian exotic brand and a diesel engine was really a good idea.

With the Quattroporte being in the brands segment for many years, Maserati of course knew how to create another type of car like this one, but still, a diesel is different and a significant move by the marque.

With that statement in mind, we had to know how the diesel powered car drove. Colleagues from the automotive world gave multiple positive comments about it, so it was time to find out if it really is like they say it is!

The Engine

Under the hood of the 2014 Maserati Ghibli diesel sits a brand new twin turbo 3.0-liter engine which is produced by VM Motori, a company that specializes in high performance diesel engines. VM Motorni has its home in Cento, just a little East of the Maserati headquarters which are situated in Modena, Italy.

This diesel engine is the first of its kind in the Maserati history. The V6 develops a total of 275 hp together with a stunning 600 Nm of torque. This power combination lets the Ghibli diesel sprint from zero to 100 km/h in only 6.3 seconds. Critically for a diesel is of course the fuel consumption, which is as low as only 5.9 litres per 100 km.

The V6 diesel uses a highly advanced Common-Rail direct fuel injection system with 2000 bar of injection pressure. That combined with multiple reduced-dwell-time injectors helps it to deliver highly responsive performance and cleaner emissions, which is another main advantage for any diesel engined car.

An extra feature for this engine is the Start-Stop technology, again something completely new for Maserati. This technology can lower the fuel consumption and the CO2 emissions by up to six per cent, depending on the route and the traffic density. The system turns off when the car comes to a stop and turns on again almost instantly whenever the accelerator pedal is depressed.

Gearbox & Drivetrain

The Ghibli diesel, same as all the other versions, is fitted with the ZF AT8 – HP70 eight-speed automatic transmission that has already proven itself in the new Quattroporte. Pre-engineered for both the traditional rear-wheel drive and the new Q4 all-wheel drive system, the transmission delivers comfort in shifting as well as a sporty feeling when driving hard.

As we are used to from Maserati, the gearbox can be set in five dedicated shift modes; Auto Normal, Auto Sport, Manual Normal, Manual Sport and the extreme weather ICE mode.

Auto Normal is the Ghibli’s default setting and performs its gear changes with fluid shifts at low engine speeds to emphasize the car’s comfort and to minimize fuel consumption. The Auto Sport mode sees the transmission switch character to change gears at higher rpm’s and speeds and provides a sportier feeling when driving the car.

In both of these modes, the car recognises a variety of conditions, such as whether the car is travelling up or down hill, is braking hard or is driving through a corner. It then selects the best gear and the best gear-shift style accordingly depending on the driving.

The transmission can also be controlled manually by selecting the M button on the transmission tunnel. In this mode, the driver can change gear with either the optional gearshift paddles attached to the steering column or by using the transmission lever at the center of the car. The driver is in charge of the gear selection, but the system will intervene when the engine goes into high revs or if the revs drop too low/high when for example driving uphill/downhill.

In Manual Sport mode, however, the gearshifts are at their fastest, giving the driver full control of the powertrain. The system will not intervene, even if the driver strikes the engine’s rev limiter. The only time it will intervene is when the engine’s revs drop too low to be effective in a given gear.

Last but not least is the ICE (Increased Control Efficiency) mode that is designed for remarkable fuel economy, relaxed driving and extremely low grip conditions. The transmission changes gear as softly as possible, both going up through the gears and returning back down.

Performance

A diesel engine in a Maserati, still does not sound familiar to the ears. Therefore the Italians had to make sure that the car had enough power, to keep up the expectations we and possibly all customers for a Maserati have.

The total weight of the Ghibli Diesel is 1,810 kg which makes it not a lightweight but absolutely not a heavy car either. The turbo-diesel engine produces 275 hp together with a crushing 600 Nm of torque. This power makes the car sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 6.3 seconds, which is only 0.7 seconds slower than the 3.0 liter petrol powered Ghibli.

Especially for the Italian market, Maserati also created a 250 hp strong diesel powered Ghibli.

Suspension

It may be closely related to the Quattroporte, but the Ghibli has a character all on its own thanks to its combination of double-wishbone front suspension and a state-of the-art, multi-link rear suspension system with the option of the active skyhook system, part-time all-wheel drive, firm suspension damping and a powerful braking system.

Double wishbone suspension layouts are a race-bred tradition at Maserati and the Ghibli continues with this heritage but also incorporates new technologies for great accuracy and more precise handling characteristics.

All Ghibli’s are available with the option of Skyhook adaptive damping system, where all four Skyhook dampers can now be electronically controlled independent of each other. The computer system in control of the Skyhook dampers monitors an enormous array of parameters, including speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, individual wheel movements, body movement and damper dynamics. The suspension system can also be adjusted by the driver and the system then delivers the perfect damping for each wheel almost instantly.

Wheels & Tyres

The Ghibli, in all versions, comes standard with 18-inch wheels but is also available with the bigger 19”, 20” or even 21-inch wheels. All alloys are crafted from flow-forming technology that reduces the core thickness of the wheels and prioritises minimal weight without sacrificing stiffness and strength.

All the wheels available on the Ghibli have been designed and engineered to enhance both the visual design of the body and to lower the unsprung mass to improve grip and handling. The 18” wheels, installed on the test car, are new and have a 12 spoke-design. Tyres comes with sizes of 235/50 for the front and rear. Only the Ghibli S and S Q4 have bigger tyres at the back, with a size of 275/45.

Interior

When stepping inside the Ghibli we can immediately recognise the new and typical Maserati interior. There are a lot of similarities with its bigger sister, the Quattroporte, but also a lot of eye-catching differences. First of all there’s the new dashboard design that is created to meet the buyer’s needs for a sportier and more youthful experience without losing any of the luxury expected in a Maserati. Its layout provides standard the fine Poltrona Frau leather finish that is the envy of the rest of the premium and luxury contenders. Uniquely, it combines this with the ability to choose two different leather trims for the dashboard.

Even when telling you that the Ghibli is designed to be extremely sporty, its eye-opening how Maserati created the rear head room without compromising the feeling of being in an Italian sports sedan. Also important for a sedan is the luggage capacity, which is 500 liters. Furthermore, the driver and passengers are still able to hide their personal belongings in the spacious centre console compartment, the large door pockets and the large and ventilated glovebox.

Like all Maserati’s in the current range, the Ghibli’s interior is built around a driver interface that is intuitive and simple to use. The instrument board features a large speedometer and tachometer that is flanked by a 7 inch big TFT display where the driver and passenger can control the car’s operational features. Many of the vehicle’s settings are oriented towards the driver and are controlled with the buttons alongside the gear shifter, while other on-board settings can be set by the driver via the Maserati Touch Control (MTC) at the centre of the dashboard.

Design

The Ghibli is a complete new car, but when you absolutely don’t have any knowledge about cars you’ll have a hard time to see the difference with the Quattroporte. Until you get a closer look, then you can easily see differences which make the Ghilbi a completely new and absolutely nice car. Characterising the car is of course is the big trident on the nose of the car.

The new Ghibli body isn’t just about the looks but also about aerodynamic work that is mostly out of sight, beneath the car. It has a flat floor that contains several aerodynamic features designed to optimise performance by lowering the drag coefficient and keeping all systems cool at higher speeds.

Driving Experience

Thanks to Maserati Benelux, we had the chance to drive the diesel version of the all new Ghibli. We had to pick up the car at F.M.A. in Antwerp, one of Belgium’s official Maserati and Ferrari dealers. Needless to say that our eyes were spoiled with Italian beauty from the moment we arrived. But that aside, we were there to pick up Maserati’s first diesel ever built.

When getting behind the steering wheel, we had a similar feeling like when we picked up the Quattroporte earlier this year; luxury wherever you look and all details inside the car drew our direct attention. Time to get the seats in the perfect position to drive, start the engine and get on the road. From the very first moment we were surprised a bit because of the engine sound, but not a problem, because almost forgot we were picking up a diesel.

In the very first kilometers we could feel that the Ghilbi is a lot lighter than the Quattroporte, which is normal as it’s a lot smaller as well. After half an hour of slowly queuing in Antwerp city we reached the motorway; time to see how the Ghibli handles in traffic when a bit of power is needed. It coped surprisingly well although a bit more power would not be misplaced in this car.

With morning rush-hour behind us we could activate sport mode. As we know from the past, this lets the Maserati drive a bit more aggressively without going too hard and forgetting what diesel driving, cruising and controlled consumption is about. The Ghibli Diesel gains speed very easily and behaves like a real luxury saloon. If you would ask us ten times how fast we were driving, we would have been wrong 10 times so high is the comfort level in this car. Honestly however, we didn’t expect anything else.

The fact of having such controlled fuel consumption is also impressive in the Ghibli. When driving at a set speed in 8th gear, with the I.C.E. mode activated, the car’s engine was only doing 2100 rpm with a fuel consumption as low as 6.9 liters per 100 kilometres. Some small city cars are worse.

On our second day of the test we took the Ghilbi to the outskirts of Ghent where we found a local road with almost no traffic. We though it was the perfect location for a photoshoot until the only resident of the street came out and started shouting at us to leave. We did nothing wrong, so it must have been the evil looking day-time driving lights, of course LED, that scared off the man! Luckily, a bit later, we came across the owners of a restaurant with a beautiful garden; the perfect location for a bunch of pictures.

A few relaxing hours later, at least for me as the photographers were busy taking pictures, we could get back on the road. It was the perfect moment to see how the rear wheel driving Ghibli behaves when driving over small and sometimes dirty country roads. With sport and manual mode activated we were off for some intensive driving. Striking is the way the car keeps the perfect line when cornering fast, even when the revs and speed go up. We had a constant feeling of safety. Once the traction control was turned off, this changed slightly as the Ghibli slightly lost control in some corners, but that isn’t different for any other rear wheel car with 275 hp in the nose.

That brings us to the power of the engine. As said before is an output of 275 hp together with 600 Nm of torque. When driving in a straight line or doing some cornering work, the Ghibli gains speed very easily but we have to say that sometimes we forgot we were driving a Maserati. Diesel engine or not, for an Italian brand with this reputation, we believe there’s a lack of at least 75 hp. If the Ghibli Diesel would have 350 hp, it would be more a Maserati luxury saloon. As it is now, we can talk about a luxury saloon that has the looks it needs but not really has the Italian style when it comes to power.

From the very first moment the Ghibli was presented to the world we knew that it would be a car that makes heads turn. Of course we had to find that out and we headed to the city center of Ghent. When driving slowly in the city traffic, even with sport mode activated, the car is absolutely silent, as long as we were not flooring the throttle. Still, that means people are not looking around when they hear a deep growl, because at low rpm’s there isn’t any, but when passing pedestrians we could see in the rear view mirror that they looked up.

Time to park the Maserati, get a coffee and discuss the looks of the car. The nose looks aggressive and has the typical Maserati look. That attracted bystanders with several people taking pictures of the car. The back of the car, with 4 exhaust pipes, you can easily recognise the rather potent character of the brand, but maybe it would have looked better with only two, big oval, exhaust pipes. That of course is a personal opinion.

Monday morning and the weekend with the Ghibli Diesel is over. Time to head back to Antwerp and bring the car back. The most impressive part of this car is the cruising speed and fuel consumption when doing long distances on a motorway. Exactly what Maserati was looking for when entering the diesel market.

Once we arrived in Antwerp, we parked the Ghibli between two of its sisters, a Quattroporte GTS and a GranCabrio Sport. Both very nice petrol engined cars which confirms again that Maserati has taken a complete new path with Ghibli diesel.

What to spec?
During our weekend with the Maserati Ghibli diesel we had a look at the various options available for the four door saloon and these are the most important options if you ask us:

• Bowers & Wilkins premium Surround Sound system: optional sound package with 15 speakers and a 1280 Watt amplifier. Something not to miss when you’re cruising down a motorway over a long distance or driving home after a stressful day.
• Double laminated acoustic glass: main reason for this option are the large door window areas. This reduces the noise and creates an excellent temperature stability, along with more robust windows, all of which increases the passengers’ comfort and safety. In addition, all three rear windows can be fitted with darkened glass for greater privacy.
• Steering wheel shift paddles: strangely enough this isn’t standard on the Ghibli diesel with no small buttons on the steering wheel either. When driving more sportively this is an option that must be in the car. It’s just wrong to handle all manual shifts with the gear leaver in the center of the car.

What about the competition?

Is there competition for the Ghibli diesel? We believe the Ghibli created more competition for the range of cars in the current segment. With its 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, it can easily be a rival for an Audi A6 which is less expensive but will definitely come close to the Maserati’s price when you get some options. It is the same story for BMW’s 530d and Mercedes-Benz’s 350 BlueTec. Of course the history and known quality the German brands have, will save them from a lot of competition. Last but not least there’s also the Jaguar XF 3.0 D, but this one doesn’t come even close to the Maserati when you’re looking at the price.

Conclusion

For a completely new car we have to say that Maserati did their best. The quality of driving combined with pleasure from sitting in a Maserati is very nice. When choosing some extra options, of course only as you want yourself, you get a perfect saloon car for daily use. Maybe the only negative point is a lack of power. We believe, for a Maserati, it should at least get another 75 hp. Maybe an idea for a Ghibli Diesel S?


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