Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before

What is it?

Maserati is a manufacturer on the move when it comes to sales. Back in 2012 it was selling around 6000 cars globally, but it wants to be selling 70,000 by 2018. That's a believable target given that the car maker moved around 33,000 units in 2015 - and that's before the new Levante SUV arrives later in 2016. For now, its best-selling model is the Maserati Ghibli, and more than 90% of those sold are the Diesel model we're driving here.

To give a little more context, the Ghibli range still consists of three models: the entry-level 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel, the standard 345bhp 3.0 V6 Ghibli, which uses a Ferrari-sourced engine, and the more - and most - powerful 404bhp Ghibli S, fitted with the same, but uprated, motor. The lesser petrol now gets 20bhp more than before and a higher top speed, while all engines benefit from an improved torque curve and come with a more responsive eight-speed ZF automatic.

There have been more considerable changes inside and to equipment. Most notable is a new 8.4in colour touchscreen infotainment system, which has a much higher resolution display, features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and can also be controlled via a BMW iDrive-type click-and-twist rotary controller just behind the gear selector. Safety tech such as lane departure, blind spot monitoring, city braking, cross traffic and a 360deg surround view is now available, too.

Behind that new screen and centre console lies better insulation, which, combined with improved floor mats and carpet, is intended to make the Ghibli a more relaxing place in which to while away the miles.

What's it like?

Taking into consideration all the minor improvements made to the Ghibli since its introduction in 2013, it is a better car than it was then - and even a better one than it was 12 months ago. But it remains some way behind its rivals, including heavy-hitters such as such as the BMW 535d and Mercedes E 350 d, in this Diesel form. 

The main grievance is still the engine, which, despite Maserati's NVH work, still grumbles to life, sends noticeable vibration back through the wheel and pedals and never ceases its gravelly hum once up at motorway speeds in eighth gear. It never really feels particularly brisk, either, neither from a standstill nor from a rolling start, but Maserati's efforts to sharpen the gearbox have resulted in better responses when using the car's (optional) paddles.

The Ghibli's three driving modes, called ICE (Increased Control and Efficiency), Normal and Sport, are fairly self-explanatory, but none really fit their billing. Sport primes the gearbox and weights the steering and, on models with the optional Skyhook damping control, stiffens the dampers, but the Ghibli never feels as eager to change direction or as comfortable being pushed as a BMW 5 Series. New actuators in the Diesel's exhaust also aim to make a 'sporting sound', but it fails to deliver in the same way Audi's and Porsche's systems do.

Dialling back the dampers in Normal mode doesn't help the ride, either. In Sport the Ghibli shimmies and skips sideways over ruts mid-bend, while in Normal the extra breathing space only sends the body shuddering in a more pronounced way, as the wheels pick up on too many scars in the asphalt. 

In short, you'll have more fun driving a 5 Series, and be more comfortable and relaxed in an E-Class. But there is at least some good news inside the Ghibli, where its new infotainment system is a marked improvement. It's far more responsive than before and more logically laid out, while its new rotary controller and shortcut buttons make it quicker to navigate on the move. That it also has the latest smartphone integration is another huge bonus.

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So it's a shame that the materials surrounding it aren't as slick. Maserati prides itself on luxuriousness and exclusivity, yes, but the Ghibli is nowhere near the class-leading leathers and plastics of the Mercedes and even feels behind the long-in-the-tooth 5 Series in this respect. Scratchy surfaces, cheap-feeling switches and creaking trims are all an issue. 

At least the front passengers still benefit from good space, and the driver gets a generous amount of electronic steering wheel and seat adjustment to fiddle with, so the majority of frames will get comfortable. However, those in the back still put up with mediocre leg and head room and a rear window line that cuts away past the side of the head. Behind, the Ghibli's boot is smaller than those of its rivals and harder to access.

Should I buy one?

Credit where it's due: the Ghibli is improved. It is slightly quieter than in 2013 and its new infotainment system makes connecting your smartphone and interacting with its features on the move a far more pleasurable experience. It also comes with a decent standard kit list, including leather seats, sat-nav, xenon headlights and climate control. 

Objectively, though, it's impossible to recommend the Maserati Ghibli Diesel before its more talented and rounded rivals. It's neither as quick, quiet, agile, comfortable, clean, frugal or luxurious as those mentioned, making it just as difficult to justify for somebody spending their hard-earned as it is for somebody persuading the boss to spend his or hers.

That's not enough in a class that sports some of the most rounded models anywhere, bought by people who are used to the best and know exactly what they want from a large executive car. With a new E-Class just launched and BMW's next 5 Series around the corner, the Ghibli will only find it more difficult to make an impression. 

Maserati Ghibli Diesel 

Location Monte Carlo; On sale Now; Price £49,860; Engine V6, 2987cc, diesel; Power 271bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 443lb ft at 2000-2600rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1875kg; 0-62mph 6.3sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 47.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 158g/km, 31%; Rivals BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class

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bowsersheepdog 1 October 2016

Strange brew

It doesn't appear to have much going for it, but it does have rarity value, which, in a world with roads chock-a-block with BMWs and Mercs and Audis, will be just what a small enough number of people to keep it rare will go for. If Maserati can make a bit of profit without overdoing the numbers there's a weird sort of sustainability open to them.
HiPo 289 23 September 2016

Surely all other luxo-barges are obsolete since Tesla Model S?

The petrol Ghibli at least sounds good, whereas all diesels sound like two skeletons in a dustbin.

But that's beside the point, because the Model S has made all other large 5dr saloons irrelevent. The manufacturers already know this, which is why they are all scrambling to make large electric cars. As consumers we just need to do our research and wait 5 years for them to catch up with Tesla.

AHA1 3 October 2016

What's the shelf life of a Tesla?

I've always wondered how update-able the battery tech is on a Tesla (or any other EV)? Battery performance is improving hugely year on year. No issue for a few years maybe but beyond that? How much is an EV worth in 5 years time if it's confined to battery tech that's already obsolete?
Will86 23 September 2016

Good Looking?

It looks like someone sat on the front end and the rear is too bland and bulky. This is not one of Maserati's finest.
ivan_croatia 23 September 2016

front end is just ok...

Side, rear and interior - top class