First drive: Maserati Ghibli is the artist’s diesel

The Ghibli is the first diesel-engined Maserati
The Ghibli is the first diesel-engined Maserati
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Location, location, location. That, they say, is the all-important factor in selling or valuing a house. It also applies to cars.

If you’re going to show off your latest range and talk positively about your expansion plans, then it’s good to do it in a nice place. If you can get a bit of sunshine, that also helps to bring an extra sparkle to proceedings. Fortunately all of that came together on the shores of Loch Lomond when Maserati came north to lay out its plans to take on the might of the German marques with some exciting new models and a larger dealer network.

One of the first is the latest outlet of the Park’s Motor Group, which is selling no fewer than 18 brands at 43 outlets in Hamilton, Ayrshire, Glasgow, Fife and West Lothian. Park’s Maserati will cover Glasgow and West Scotland to complement the service provided in the east by Graypaul and follows on from five other openings in England and Wales to bring the total dealer network to 19.

Over the next couple of years, 
Maserati aim to almost double that figure to support what they predict will be a big increase in their UK sales. The timing couldn’t be better. This is their centenary year, but they’ve had some troubled times since the three Maserati brothers founded the company in Bologna in December 1914 to convert road-going vehicles into performance machines for gentlemen racers.

Since the late Thirties the company has been based in Modena, enjoying Formula One success in the hands of Fangio and a successful link with Ferrari, until the two were separated in 2005, while continuing to be part of the giant Fiat empire after several changes of ownership.

Like other parts of that conglomerate, such as Alfa Romeo and Jeep, Maserati has been given a big shake-up of late and the results are starting to come good. Last year, their revenues rose by 120 per cent over 2012 and trading profit went up by 114 million euros, in spite of selling only 319 cars in the UK.

That’s about to be reinforced with an aggressive assault on the luxury sports market currently controlled by BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Jaguar. They’re also taking aim at the leasing and fleet business, not least with their much-anticipated Levante SUV which is due here next year. Leading the charge will be the all-new Ghibli, a smaller, lighter, more dynamic and affordable four-door 
saloon than the flagship Quattroporte.

It has all the key Maserati design features such as the line of grille vents behind the front wheels, feline-inspired headlights, frameless windows and the classic grille which can be traced back to the A6 GCS of the 1950s, all based around the distinctive Maserati Trident symbol. It has four doors and plenty of room for four full-size adults but with a distinctive coupe-like profile and great stance on the road.

While the brand is renowned for its superb performance cars, especially the top-of-the-range £112,000 Grancabrio MC which has an exhaust note as breathtaking as its price tag, the Ghibli is the one which will carry the Maserati banner more than the rest of the four-car range. Last year, when it was introduced, only five of them took to British roads. This year, of the 1,500 Maserati sales the company are planning, around 1,000 of them will be Ghiblis, and most of them will be equipped with the optional efficient diesel engine to appear for the first time in a car with a Maserati badge.

It also has start-stop technology to help add to the economy and reduce emissions, and not only does it look great with a long wheelbase and wide track, it is also quick, covering 0-62 mph in just over six seconds. The new Maserati Active Sound System improves the performance but, as importantly, makes the engine note sound great too.

The power is put to the wheels through the eight-speed auto transmission which has already proved itself in the larger Quattroporte. It has five dedicated modes – normal and sport in both auto and manual settings, and for extreme weather and more economical driving, the I.C.E. mode.

Inside, amid the latest technology, the finish is excellent and a big jump on the dubious build quality of past Maseratis, although I wasn’t too keen on some of the fake wood trim in the test car. The Ghibli is distinctive and will appeal to the targeted individualists who, according to the marketing people, have a “fear of being thought of as boring”. This car is many things – exciting, stylish, fast, distinctive, luxurious… and Italian. None of those is boring.

VITAL STATS

Price £48,830

Engine 3l diesel unit producing 271bhp and 443 lb ft of torque

Performance Top speed 155mph, 0-62mph 6.3 seconds

Economy 47.8mpg combined

CO2 emissions 158g/km