2018 Maserati Ghibli S GranSport first drive: Italian charm

It would appear that the Germans have the executive saloon formula cracked. A quick scout around any business car park reveals hordes of Audis, BMWs and Mercedes. And why not? All three produce accomplished kit. For those who want something a bit less, well, German the new Maserati Ghibli S is an interesting alternative.
First impressions
The Maserati Ghibli was launched back in 2013, but has since had several facelifts to keep it competitive with the likes of BMW’s 5 Series. A new addition for 2018 is the GranSport trim that adds a hint of aggression to the Ghibli’s sophisticated shape. Wider grills on the front bumper are accompanied by piano black details giving the car a wider and more aggressive appearance. LED lights are integrated into the chiseled front end while a reworked rear bumper completes the design. Red brake calipers peer through the 20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels hinting that this isn’t your average Ghibli.
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The 3-litre, Ferrari-developed V6 that lives under the bonnet gets a 20bhp hike over last year’s car, bringing total output up to 424bhp and 443lb ft of torque. That grunt allows this Maserati to do 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and go onto a top speed of 177mph. An all-wheel drive Q4 variant will do the sprint even faster, but sadly it’s forbidden fruit for the right-hand-drive market.
GranSport models get a set of supportive sports seats that nestle within a characterful cabin. Beautiful leathers, intricate stitching and an analogue clock are all Maserati hallmarks, and while the responsive 8.4-inch touchscreen might not feature flashy graphics, it’s easy to use and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also integrated.
The rear seats are just as lavish, but space in the back is at a premium. Headroom is good but legroom isn’t as generous as that in a Merc E-Class. The boot opening is also on the narrow side, meaning that bulkier items might need a bit of persuading to get in. That said, its 500-litre capacity is pretty good by class standards.
How does it drive?
The big talking point isn’t this car’s increase in power, but its move from a hydraulic to an electrically-assisted steering system. Many brands have fallen at this hurdle as they transition to this more efficient method, but Maserati has made a success of it. While there might not be much in the way of feedback, it’s predictable, well-weighted and precise.
The new steering also brings a few added safety systems with it, including Lane Keep and Blindspot Assist, which now puts the Ghibli more in line with the advanced tech found on rivals.
Its eight-speed automatic transmission deserves some praise, too. It’s responsive when commanded manually and refined when left to its own devices.
When it comes to driving modes, the Ghibli S keeps things simple. None of this multiple menu nonsense, just a row of buttons that toggle on and off. The ride is firmer than rivals in its natural state, but it does just enough to take the edge off rutted surfaces, and road and wind noise don’t bother you, making this a strong GT car. Things firm up for better body control with the suspension in Sport, but there’s still notable body roll through fast bends.
Engage Sport mode for the rest of the car and the responsive V6 clears its throat and unleashes an orchestral sound that enthusiasts will relish. You can almost play it like a musical instrument with the optional wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
It’s a shame, then, that the sense of speed doesn’t mimic the drama of the Ghibli S soundtrack. The car is brisk, but its hefty kerbweight means it lags behind competitors for immediacy. Its weight also leaves it wanting in terms of handling prowess. Initial turn-in is good, but the kilos count and as a result, the Ghibli just isn’t as agile as a Jaguar XF or BMW 5 Series.
Should I buy one?
That depends upon how you perceive your car. If it’s just an efficient means to get from one place to another, rivals present a much more complete proposition. However, the Maserati brand is an emotive thing, brimming with charisma and ‘want one’ appeal that the likes of BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar fall short of. Some will be willing to overlook this car’s shortcomings in favour of having something on their driveway with a greater sense of character. Mind you, at lb72,585 for a Ghibli S in GranSport trim you’re inching towards the lb80k Mercedes E63 AMG, and that is simply a better car on just about every front, and is hardly short of emotion and aural drama.
Or we might also point out that the rather smaller, but equally Italianate and dramatic, Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio could also be yours with many thousands in change, for the price of the Ghibli S. And it’ll seat four adults, sounds extraordinary, goes like stink and handles beautifully. Food for thought, eh?
Ultimately, the 2018 Maserati Ghibli S GranSport is far from perfect, but it does bring a dazzling aura of desirability and design flair to an otherwise rather Teutonic class. So if you’re after emotion above all else, the Maserati should be on your shortlist.


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