The Maserati Levante, the Italian brand’s first crossover SUV, expands its sportscar offering with two models designed to take you anywhere
Debonair tackles Monaco’s icy mountains in the new 2018 Maserati Ghibli S Q4, a facelifted model that adds sector-leading tech to Maserati’s signature sporty saloon
It’s a cold, crisp winter’s day in Monaco. The bright sunshine beams down from the clear blue sky onto what has to be the most picturesque sight in this most picturesque of cities: a line-up of brand-new Maserati Ghbilis parked invitingly in front of the grand 19th Century building that houses the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
Given an update for the 2018 model year, Maserati has somehow managed to make its new Ghibli even more gorgeous than the original 2014 model, adding a new Alfieri-inspired grille, fresh LED headlights and some choice bumper tweaks to the Ghibli’s beautiful bounty of smooth curves. This isn’t so much a surgical facelift, as a gentle lifting massage — and it’s hard to argue with the results.
But we’re not here just to ogle. Eager to see if the performance matches the looks, we hop into our designated machine and push the engine start/stop button, commanding a resounding roar from the Ghibli’s twin turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine.
It’s a sound that urges us to put the peddle to the metal, but not before we’re given a rather illuminating pre-drive briefing by the man who set today’s route, who just so happens to be former World Rally Championship driver Alex Fiorio. “It’s going to be icy on the roads today,” he says. “And watch out for the pieces of loose slate on the sides of the road. If you cut the corners then you’re really likely to burst a tyre… That’s why I never won a rally here!”
So, it’s with equal parts excitement and trepidation that we set off on our drive.
There are a range of options available, and thankfully we’ve been bestowed with the top-of-the-range, all-wheel-drive Ghibli S Q4, which ekes out 430bhp and 580Nm from the Ferrari-manufactured twin turbo engine — that’s an improvement of 20bhp and 30Nm from the pre-facelift model. Combined with an increased aerodynamic efficiency, the engine tweaks result in minor gains to acceleration and top speed, with the S Q4 doing the 0-100km/h split in 4.7 seconds (previously 4.8 seconds) on its way to a top speed of 286km/h.
In true Maserati grand touring tradition, the cabin is characterised by elegant Italian style, hand-crafted finishes and perfectly organised, generously proportioned design.
The 2018 model comes with a fancy new set of Magneti Marelli-developed adaptive full LED headlights as well as a raft of new driver aids, including Electric Power Steering, Advanced Driving Assistance, Highway Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist and Traffic Sign Recognition. In truth, we could take or leave most of these features, but as we escape from the tight Monaco streets and head up into the slippery mountain roads, we soon see the benefit of all the electronics, as our S Q4 clings on to the road gamely, enabling us to keep on the power through challenging bends.
Much like its bigger brother the Quattroporte, the Ghibli can be specced in either GranSport or GranLusso trims. As you’d expect, the former lives up to its name with sporty body detailing, Skyhook electronic dampers and a sport-inspired interior, with 12-way power full leather seats and a sport steering wheel. Meanwhile, the GranLusso gets chrome inserts on the front bumper, 19” Poseidone alloys, soft-close doors and a luxurious interior trim featuring a wood-finished leather steering wheel and silks by fashion designer Ermenegildo Zegna. Whichever one you go for, there’s no denying that the Ghibli is a pleasant place to be.
Maserati Ghibli S Q4 features a twin turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine that produces 430bhp of power and 580Nm torque. It has a top speed of 286km/h, and races from 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds. It comes with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
But nobody buys a car just because there are a few nice trim options available: there has to be something more for Maserati to hang its hat on — and, for us, the best thing about the Ghbili is how adaptable it is. The sporty side of the car is abundantly clear from an afternoon spent driving in Sport mode, feeling the car’s tyres grip the tarmac through the steering wheel and hearing the roar of the sonorous V6 as we blast through the many tunnels that make up Monaco’s mountain roads. However, switch to Comfort mode for the motorway cruising on the way back into Monaco city centre and suddenly everything mellows, the suspension softens, the ride becomes cosseting, and while you can still hear the gurgle of the engine in the background, you start to pay more attention to the luxurious interior touches that make the cabin such a pleasant place to be.
In truth, it was always a tough ask for the Ghibli to topple the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class, and we don’t expect that it will put too much of a dent in the sales of its Teutonic rivals. However, the facelift and added tech that comes with it has brought Maserati’s best-selling car well and truly into the equation, and, in all honesty, there’s not much we would have swapped it for on our blast round the icy Monaco mountains.