With a stellar sporting heritage and a back catalogue featuring some of the most iconic cars ever, few brands can match the mystique of Maserati.
The Levante has grabbed much of the limelight since its launch 2016 as it capitalises on the boom in SUVs, but it’s the Ghibli that’s the luxury marque’s best-selling model ever with some 85,000 delivered since 2013.
Recently refreshed with various design tweaks and technology updates, we took the opportunity to test the latest Ghibli – or more specifically – the GranSport Nerissimo Edition.
Based on the GranSport spec (rather than GranLusso where the accent is more on luxury than performance), the Nerissimo Edition embraces the Ghibli’s dark side.
The sports saloon is cloaked in “seductive, deep black” Nero Ribelle body paint with contrasting black chrome trim on everything from the grille frame and Trident emblem, to the side air vents, boot and Maserati badging on the C-pillars. The grille bars, door handles, exhaust tips and window trim, meanwhile, all feature an exclusive black finish.
Inside the cabin, there are swathes of black leather upholstery with subtle red piping on the seats, plus flourishes of carbon fibre trim in the centre console, the doors, steering wheel and paddles.
The Ghibli is already a stunning, muscular saloon. The Nerissimo Edition gives it a menacing edge and massive road presence. Just look at those big red brake callipers gleaming through the 20-inch Urano Nero wheels.
The basic on the road price is £67,025, though my test car was loaded with extras including the interior carbon package, driver assistance pack, Alcantara roof-lining and Harman Kardon premium sound system, bringing the grand total to £76,710.
At £2,455, we’d say the driver assistance pack is a must-have because it includes features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot alert with rear cross path and traffic sign recognition.
As if the black look isn’t intoxicating enough, fire up the 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol engine and it sounds awesome. Built for Maserati by Ferrari in Maranello, it develops 345bhp and propels this executive express to 62mph in just 5.5 seconds, with a top speed of 166mph.
On the downside, CO2 emissions are 255-257g/km, while fuel economy is 23.5-24.9mpg. However, to dwell on these statistics is to miss the point of the Ghibli which is more about performance and the sheer enjoyment of driving.
As you head off, the power available is immediately obvious. It’s a pussycat at low speeds, but press on and the engine note becomes more aggressive, while the changes from the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic box kick in with military precision.
Tap the Sport button by the new slimline gear selector and the car is transformed into a snarling beast with an unmistakable V6 howl. Ease off and the delicious down-changes are accompanied by glorious crackles from the the quad exhaust system.
Power delivery is smooth and progress is exhilarating. The Ghibli’s ride is on the firm side, especially in Sport, but it’s easy to see why when tackling flowing country roads where body lean is well controlled and it feels superbly balanced. Activate the cruise control on motorways and it becomes an effortless cruiser.
Now featuring electric rather than hydraulic power steering for the first time, a lot of time and effort has gone into making sure there’s plenty of feel and feedback, giving you confidence behind the wheel.
Thanks to 50/50 weight distribution, a standard-fit limited-slip differential and a well tuned suspension, the Ghibli feels genuinely sporty, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – in wet and colder conditions, it should be treated with respect because with all that power on tap, the rear wheels can struggle for traction. That said, those big Brembo brakes are well up to the job, offering hardcore stopping power.
As well as Normal and Sport, an I.C.E. (Increased Control & Efficiency) drive mode is available, aimed at reducing consumption, emissions and noise. It delivers softer pedal response for smooth driving, deactivates the turbocharger’s over-boost function and keeps the exhaust’s Sport flaps closed up to 5,000 rpm. It also adjusts the gear changes to make them softer and slower, and reduces torque at each gear’s take-up point.
In terms of size, the Ghibli has some formidable rivals including the BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. For me, the Maserati is in a different league to the Teutonic trio – it’s a true thoroughbred.
No car is perfect though, and the Ghibli is no exception. It’s on the expensive side compared to its competitors, rear legroom is good, but not class-leading, while some of the switchgear and interior surfaces do not feel luxurious enough, and the 8.4-inch touchscreen isn’t up there with the best.
On the plus side, the build quality and attention to detail is superb. Space up front is excellent with plenty of legroom, while the deep boot has a generous capacity of 500 litres of luggage capacity, plus access to the cabin via the 60/40 folding rear seats.
If you want more power, then there’s a sub 5.0-second 0-62mph 424bhp version of the V6 available, or if it’s economy you’re after, the 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel offers 33-36mpg and CO2 emissions of 184-198g/km. There’s also an all-wheel drive option.
Finally, the Ghibli is safe choice too, featuring the latest driver assistance aids and gaining a maximum five-star rating from Euro NCAP.
Verdict: The Maserati Ghibli proves that an exotic performance saloon with unrivalled badge appeal is seriously worth considering if you’re in the market for an executive express. The Nerissimo Edition makes it even more tempting – a chance to stand out from the crowd in a stunning car with superb driving dynamics that makes you feel special.