Say Maserati slowly. What images fill your mind? Cigar shaped 250Fs dicing on the Monza banking? Or is it the Italian manufacturer’s road cars instead; grand-tourers like the Quattroporte or the sleeker GranTurismo, the Merak perhaps or the Mistral? Maybe it’s the gorgeous Alfieri, named after their founder and built to commemorate this most evocative of motor- maker’s centenary?
Whatever it is that’s occupying your thought it’s unlikely that’s it’s either four-doored or diesel powered. And anyway, aren’t diesel saloons altogether more Eric from accounts than they are Emilia Romagna? Things have changed. Maserati’s Ghibli is available as a diesel. Their first foray with oil-burners is aimed directly at the office car park stalwarts from Mercedes, Audi and BMW. They know their chances of celebrating their bi-centenary are slim if they continue solely as small volume manufacturer of exotics.
Being Italian of course, the Ghibli wears an altogether sharper-styled, if ultimately perhaps not quite as well sewn together suit. The delicate triple vents in the front wings, the oval grille complete with centrally mounted trident badge, and those quad tailpipes all hint towards Maseratis of old. But perhaps the clunk when you shut the door doesn’t feel quite as solid as it should.
Once aboard you’re in no doubt this is a sports saloon. Deep-set dials share space with fine leather trim, (optional) carbon inserts, and a touchscreen that sits centre stage and takes care of everything from the heated seats and entertainment, to the sat-nav, the trip-computer and the Bluetooth.
Four will find comfort easily, five at a push – the transmission tunnel hinders the centre rear seat’s legroom. The boot will happily swallow everyone’s luggage. Practical then, but ergonomically this interior would probably give an Ingolstadt engineer nightmares. And yet there is a certain something about it. It’s flamboyant and feels all the better for it.
What isn’t quite so racy is the engine note. Thumb the starter and the 3-litre turbodiesel settles into a subdued, slightly industrial idle. If you were expecting a high revving, shrieking power-plant, think again. You get 271bhp and a very generous 442lbft of torque, but the redline starts at a conservative 4500rpm. Compensation is the promise of 47.9mpg.
Things get better on the move. Use the paddles to select your own gears rather than letting the auto-box do its own thing, and not only can you avoid the 8 speeder’s somewhat dim-witted nature, but you can also make the Ghibli sound its (albeit diesely) growl. The steering feels beautifully direct, and mid-range acceleration is, shall we say… more than adequate. If you’re brave enough to dismiss the traction control there’s all kinds of fun to be had.
The ride is a little fidgety though; an indication that perhaps the Ghibli is better suited to the autostrada than it is to a British B-road. So, awed it may be, but the Ghibli offers a stylish and welcome deviation from the somewhat sober sports saloon norm.
What other sub-fifty grand rear wheel- drive V6 powered saloons can you think of that wear such legendary badges?
Whether the Ghibli Diesel a left- eld choice or a discerning one, I’ll let you decide. But, trust me, Eric from accounts has never had it so good.
The Finer Details
Maserati Ghibli Diesel
Engine: 2987cc. V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic rear-wheel drive with manual mode
Power: 271 bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque: 442 lb ft @ 2000 – 2600 rpm
0-62mph: 6.3 sec
Max Speed: 155 mph
Mpg: 47.9 (combined)
CO2: 158 g/km
Price: £49,165 (car driven £62,593)
Many thanks to Georgina at Maserati’s UK press office for the loan of the Ghibli