Maserati Ghibli S Q4

Emblem stands out

"Ghibli originates from Libya's hot and dry, south-western blowing desert wind"

"Ghibli has a coupe-like profile, not exactly though"

"That's all you need to shake the German rivals real hard"said Ershad

"Q4 is aimed at young sporty drivers who once thought the brand was too expensive; it is now on a reachable luxury sports sedan ladder"

We took out Maserati's new all wheel drive sedan, the 2015 Ghibli S Q4. I must say, Maserati is very ambitious. It's the first time that it has two four door sedans out at one time, and going by the target figures set for 2015, I think it is seriously on it. Looking back, they've had so many ownership handovers and are now finally in the safe hands of FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) group. As is their customary way of naming cars after the wind, "Ghibli" originates from Libya's hot and dry, south-western blowing desert wind.

Ghibli as a model is a short wheelbase version of Quattroporte. Starting off as a two door, two seater grand tourer back in 1967, it reappeared in 1992 as Maserati Ghibli II. Made in Grugliasco, which is close to Turin, the new Ghibli is Maserati's four door sports executive sedan.

Trident emblem on the fascia stands out and is if not the best thing on it. Ghibli has a coupe-like profile, not exactly though. As we move towards the rear side, I thought the portion just under the carved unique Saetta Maserati logo could look better with a little more trimming done to the hips. We like the air vents seen just behind the front wheels and the curvy lines around are appealing too. The unique headlights are fitted with Bi-xenon and LED DRLs.

As you would expect in a Maserati, the cabin was designed with lavish amounts of premium leather, wood and metal linings. Our tester had a cool contrast of blue and brownish leather on seats and doors. With large door pockets, glove box and a nice center console compartment, there is plenty of room for daily baggage. The analogue Maserati clock in the center dash was cute. Back seats can house up to three passengers and if one pulls out the center elbow supporter that is integrated with two cup holders, it can be reduced to two. A 7 inch TFT display with large dials could be seen in the instrument cluster and the center of the dashboard features the 8.4 inch Maserati Touch Control (MTC). There's an Aux-in slot, a USB port and a card reader for all types of inputs. MTC can host controls to CD-/DVD-player, radio, navigation and Bluetooth mobile connections. There are some buttons below, but almost everything can be controlled on the display. Oh, did I say the MTC is sourced from Chrysler? It's a nice system, by the way, with decent feedback.

Lighter than Quattroporte, Ghibli shares bits and pieces of Quattro's chassis, suspension, the V6 engine and the 8 speed automatic transmission.

Under the hood, we have the new generation twin turbo-charged 3.0 liter V6 engine and an 8 speed ZF automatic transmission. While a normal Ghibli delivers 330hp, Ghibli S can offer 410hp. Our tester is an optional Ghibli S with an all wheel drive system adding an extra initial, "Q4", to the name.

So what's with this Q4? It's all about traction control and timing based on a sophisticated algorithm to monitor and act according to the speed, steering action, power output, braking and wheel grip. In normal conditions, the car runs a RWD setup and the moment it loses grip, the system activates traction to the front wheels in no time. It's a nonstop process applied as the conditions demand.

Ghibli S Q4 gets a sporty double wishbone suspension layout and the brakes are a tad smaller than on the V8 twin turbo: ventilated and cross-drilled dual cast brake discs and six piston fixed alloy Brembo callipers on the front axle and fixed alloy Brembo rear brake callipers. Maserati Stability Program (MSP) is the in-house system to enhance handling by controlling engine output and braking. Further, we have an array of safety elements like ABS, EBD, anti-slip regulation (ASR), brake apply sensor (BAS) and hill holder. To quash sudden impacts, the car features seven airbag system and anti-whiplash front headrests. Other features include rear view camera, keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and automatic front lighting system (AFS).

We enjoyed the music thanks to Bowers & Wilkins high end audio system with 15 speakers.

Seating position was upright; the type you would expect in a sports car. There is an eight-way electric adjustment seating setup with memory settings. I still couldn't figure what made me feel as if the cabin was a bit cramped… or is it really so? The massive metallic gear shifter under the steering was an absolute joy to hold and control, but it disturbed my access to the turn signal stalk right underneath it.

On a straight line, gear shifts appeared to be very smooth and as we sped up, the sporty zeal was established. There are two drive modes, namely ICE (increased control and efficiency) and Sport. ICE mode is more like an ECO mode in the Maserati where the car engine tries to offer a softer and slower torque at each upshift. It cancels the turbochargers over boost function and in the end reduces emission and noise, which is good for the daily drives when you don't need to burn so much fuel.

Poking the Sport button releases a conflict of snarls and growls. It opens the exhaust valves to achieve Ghibli's maximum performance with a cracker of a shout. The S Q4 uses an electronically controlled multi-plate wet clutch for torque distribution. Some quick slalom sessions done and I was convinced of its stability. Switch to manual control using the steering column's big metal paddles and drivers will love Ghibli's powertrain. As I said earlier, on a standstill the car acts like a RWD. I was able to try out the initial slippery burn-out and as we sped up, the AWD stepped in to take control from there. We didn't notice any turbo lag in low gears. In high speed corner maneuvering, the body roll was kept in check; curbs are stiff. I would love to see more aggressive steering at a sooner point at times, as I felt as if I wasn't getting the actual road feel but rather a bit of a soft run. With the all wheel drive Q4 option, Ghibli is stable, offering every bit of confidence with the grip on road in every condition.

Verdict
Design and style apart, it has a nice pot, the turbo charger is great and the Q4 setup works well especially in manual mode. Some adjustments in the cockpit, improved sports steering - that's all you need to shake the German rivals real hard. Levant and Alfieri will soon join the lot, so I can see there's no lack of resources. The new baby Maserati with the Q4 option is aimed at young sporty drivers who once thought the brand was too expensive; it is now on a reachable luxury sports sedan ladder.

Pros: turbo growl, decent grip, comfortable ride, manual gear ride is fun
Cons: steering lacks feel, tight access to turn signal stalk
Rivals: BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-class
Engine: 3.0L twin turbo V6, 410hp, 550Nm
Transmission: ZF eight speed automatic gearbox, AWD
Performance: 0-100 kph: 4.8 sec, 13 L /100 km, top speed: 284 kph
Chassis: 1870 kg
One word: Italian
3.5 STARS

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