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Smaller and less expensive than the larger Quattroporte four-door sedan, more practical and much less expensive than the GranTourismo coupe and convertible, the Maserati Ghibli is the storied Italian automaker’s most important new model in many years. Ghibli was launched as a 2014 model and carries over to 2015 unchanged.
Maseratis are so rare in North America that you’ll rarely see one in most parts of the country. But now that parent company Fiat owns American automaker Chrysler, and some Fiat dealers have begun selling them, increasing numbers are out there. And because it is one of the world’s most beautiful and exciting sedans, yet relatively attainable with retail prices starting well below $70,000, Ghibli has rocketed to the top of the charts for Maserati, accounting for nearly two-thirds of its U.S. sales in 2014.
Most will agree that precious few four-doors come close to the visual appeal of the Maserati Ghibli. The iconic Maserati grille, the triple front-fender vents, the sculpted creases and curves, the fluid coupe-like roofline, the classic trident logos, the muscular rear-drive proportions and sinewy athletic stance, all add up to a unique blend of Italian sportiness and elegance.
Inside the cabin is an equally happy marriage of premium Italian craftsmanship and modern amenities, the latter partly thanks to Chrysler-based electronics. The soft leather-covered seats look as good as they feel, and you can customize it with two-tone leather and wood or carbon fiber trim combinations and upgrade it with even finer Italian leather.
Above the central 8.4-inch Maserati Touch Control display (a version of Chrysler’s excellent infotainment touch-screen interface) is a traditional Maserati blue-face oval clock. On the tunnel left of the gear lever is an array of buttons offering a choice of Manual, Sport or I.C.E. (Increased Control Efficiency) management of the transmission and other dynamic systems. The leather-covered steering wheel has audio and cruise controls on its horizontal spokes and (available) large manual-shift paddles behind them. Between the big, round speedometer and tachometer is a seven-inch TFT screen that displays your selection of driver information and data.
Nestled under that lovely sculpted hood is a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 good for 345 horsepower in the standard Ghibli or 404 hp in the higher-performance Ghibli S Q4. It drives both models’ rear wheels through a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission in normal conditions, or all four of the Ghibli S Q4’s when its all-wheel drive senses a loss of rear grip. The front suspension is double wishbone, the rear a five-arm multilink design. Ghibli S Q4’s powerful Brembo brakes have six-piston monobloc calipers front, four-piston grippers rear.
Stand on the gas from rest, and there’s momentary turbo lag, but after that comes relentless, grin-inducing propulsion accompanied by a muffled animal shriek exhaust note punctuated by distinct turbo huffs with each transmission upshift. And those shifts come quickly and crisply whether automatically or manually with the paddles. The steering is equally quick and crisp, the cornering athletically agile, the ride pleasingly damped and the brakes appropriately powerful. Our average fuel economy was a respectable 21.0 mpg after a freeway trip and 19.8 mpg following a fairly aggressive two-lane test.