The dual carriage way twists and turns like a strand of wet spaghetti. Just the right width, with plenty of visibility around corners, it is a road that is easy to carry speed over. The scenery going up this section of the Italian Alps is stunning too, which makes the drive all the nicer. Yes, there are a few blind crests and a few corners that tighten suddenly, but otherwise, this road is just right for Maserati’s new Ghibli S.
The Ghibli S is super comfortable in this environment, and effortlessly picks up the pace. A fast, comfortable Grand Tourer in the truest sense of the word, the new S, just like many of the Maseratis of yore, doesn’t need to be worked hard to get up to speed. I’m only adding power lazily with my right foot, but already the torque from the twin turbo V6 is hurling the Ghibli S forward like you wouldn’t believe. The gearbox always seems to have the right gear on hand, and then, every time I put my foot down, I get a nice squeeze in the back. There certainly seems to be more grunt here than the 404bhp seem to suggest; and that’s because the 56kgm of torque comes in nice and early, at a diesel-like 1750rpm. So, every time you put your foot down, it just goes whack.
What’s also nice is that there’s plenty of linearity here. There’s no big hit of torque suddenly coming in, no big spike in power, and that almost makes this engine feel naturally aspirated. Also adding considerably to the appeal of this car is the noise coming out of the quartet of pipes at the rear. Sounding more like a V8 race motor than a turbo-charged V6, there’s a nice howl emitted from the exhaust every time I pull the engine harder. Yes, there is a bit of bass initially and a bit of rumble too, but this car clearly is more Italian thoroughbred than yank tank. It would be – the engine is built alongside Ferrari’s new-generation twin-turbo V8s in Maranello.
What’s also surprisingly nice on this updated 2016 car is the ride. Set in Comfort, the suspension soaks up big bumps really well. It feels well insulated from even coarse road surfaces and the suspension seems to have the ability to take the edge off pretty much anything; something that’s sure to make it really useful in our conditions. And cabin insulation really feels good too, which only adds to the feeling of luxury.
We stop for a break on a pass where the views are just stunning; good time to take a closer look at the equally stunning lines of the car, penned by ex-Pininfarina designer Lorenzo Ramaciotti. A four-door coupé, much in the same mould as the Mercedes-Benz CLS and Audi A7, the Ghibli features perfect proportions, muscle in all the right places and confident cuts and slashes all over. Also brilliant are the details. The low-slung grille hits the spot, the vents on the fenders are now a Maserati signature and the compact and low-slung cabin is nicely pushed back too. Under the skin is a shorter wheelbase version of the bigger Quattroporte’s chassis (173mm shorter). Consisting of a steel monocoque with additional subframes, the suspension has the same layout as the Quattroporte too, with double wishbones at the front and a multi-link rear end. However, it has its own spring and damper rates and, importantly, a wider track.
It’s extremely nice on the inside too. Quality levels in general are good, the design of the interior with its two big dials works well and there’s clearly a lot of Italian flair mixed in with plenty of practicality and functionality. Quality, however, is not up to the standards of competitors like Audi and Mercedes, and the touchscreen is nowhere near as good. There is, however, a decent amount of headroom in the rear, always a difficulty with low-roof cars like these, and the rear seat is nice and supportive. Legroom is not as generous as in an E-class, but the back seat is very useable, and Indian customers will like that.
The road ahead is even less trafficked. It leads practically nowhere, and the dual carriage way has given way to a narrower two-lane road. Still, as I’m more confident with the car now, I push it a bit harder. Winding the engine up to 6500rpm is a special treat that I indulge in more and more, the blare from the exhausts bouncing off the stone walls feeling just heady. And the level of performance steps up considerably too. In Sport mode, the engine pulls harder and harder as you wind it faster and this eagerness is really quite charming, especially considering the fact that this motor is turbocharged. This road is lined with dozens of tunnels and I take every opportunity to wind the windows down and extend the engine fully, the scream and blare from the four pipes adding massively to the experience as we rocket out of the tunnel into sunshine.
After driving the car over these roads for over an hour, I’m seriously impressed. It feels fast, agile and its various components, like the steering, brakes and gearbox, all gel nicely together. What’s special, however, is the poise and balance that this 2016 car seems to possess. The more I press on over these open, flowing mountain roads, the more confident the car feels. It goads you into going even faster, and because you’re enjoying yourself so much, you generally oblige. And that helps make this a fairly special and involving car to drive.
Things aren’t perfect, however. Yes, the hydraulic steering is good, but it’s not exactly flooded with feel, and it doesn’t feel as precise as some of the best units around. Turn-in also isn’t as sharp and the front end clearly needs more bite. And while performance is great in isolation, you can’t help but compare it with cars like the BMW M5 and E63 AMG which, frankly, are at another level altogether.
Still, Maserati’s new Ghibli is a big step forward. Fast, comfortable, agile and in possession of a sweet-handling balance, it’s a car that lives up to Maserati’s legendary GT ethos. Then there’s loads of Italian character and genuine warmth about the way in which this car drives, it is well-equipped and, to top it off, looks simply stunning. Clearly, the Ghibli S has a lot going for it.
Maserati has re-entered India with the Quattroporte, the GT range and the Ghibli diesel. The carmaker will bring the petrol-powered Ghibli S in India soon. When launched, the Ghibli S will be one of its star attractions.
Maserati’s sedans can be had with a new unique upmarket trim — silk. Supplied by legendary Italian luxury textile maker and fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, the insides feature 100 percent natural silk, which in combination with leather, give a rich, smooth feel to the seats, door cards and roof. Getting the right thickness and consistency wasn’t easy, however. At first, the men and women of Zegna underestimated the task at hand. The silk they provided was robust by their standards, but wore out after only 10 percent of the projected life cycle. They quickly understood the task at hand, changed the weave and made it approximately five times thicker. Wear is not at all an issue now and the centre of the seats feels quite special as a result.