Just back from a Maserati event in Italy – and just about the only SUV I saw in two days was the company’s forthcoming Levante, due out at the end of this year.
Admittedly, that was on a top secret test track near Turin. Photography was banned and I was too slow to snap anything on my iPhone anyway. Profile looks like a BMX X6 though!
And I certainly didn’t see one Santa Fe. The Italians only seem to own Italian cars – they would buy a broomstick if it had FIAT written on the side.
So, it’s home from Heathrow in the Hyundai. I’ve been averaging 41mpg in the big SUV. It’s not as pretty as a Maserati but the Santa Fe is great value for money…
Come September I’m buying a new car. For me, that involves six months of research and delicious car ‘porn’. At least I can now rule the Maserati Gran Turismo out of the equation.
I’m currently in Northern Ireland, driving the Maserati around County Down. Turns out the 2+2 is stunning in the metal – but lacks the drivability of the Porsche 911, Jaguar XKR, or even the Golf R.
The Mazzer is, like all Maseratis, beautiful but flawed. It’s a supermodel with a scar on her cheek, you simply can’t escape the fact that the Gran Turismo has a deep secret – it doesn’t drive well.
Entering the equation instead is the new Audi TT – except I need the RS version to come along sooner rather than later. Razor sharp handling, high tech interior – it’s a no brainer…
For once I seem to be in the right test car for the weather conditions. Usually I have a rear-wheel drive BMW for ice (appalling), an MX-5 two-seater to go on holiday with a passenger AND dog (tight), or a bog standard saloon on a hot day when a convertible would be perfect (boring).
The point is that even with the keys to a candy shop of cars, it’s difficult to plan ahead and choose the right one. In Britain, spring can be a snow-fest, or a mini scorcher. It’s the only good reason to live by the Med, where the weather is always the same.
Which is probably why in 2015, car buyers seem to want multi-purpose vehicles that do everything. A one-size-fits-all, off the peg motor that takes every day in its stride, and whatever you throw at it.
While the XC60 is never going to set your pulse racing, it’s a brilliant family SUV. Fortunately, I don’t have a family to ship around, so I can admire it from afar, tell my friends it’s perfect for their kids – then go and buy an inappropriate Maserati instead….
We said arrivederci to the Ghibli today – and then immediately wondered if driving a German executive saloon would ever feel the same again.
Every motoring writer will tell you how wonderful the BMW 5 Series is as an all-rounder. Others will coo over the biturbo Audi A6, or melt over a Mercedes E Class.
But in some ways that simply isn’t the point here. The Maserati isn’t a better car than any of the others but for people who want to slip out of the driveway of mainstream, it’s something of a gem.
The Ghibli looks different, sounds fantastic and feels wonderfully Italian inside – including annoying off-set pedals, and a black roof lining that’s so oppressive it feels like you are squashed in a coffin.
The boot has a lid that sounds as tinny as a TATA when you slam it, the navigation screen catches reflections in bright sunlight and diesel fuel economy is average at best.
Yet for all this, you have to love the Maserati. Your accountant will hate it of course but I promise, it will set your pulse racing every time you sit in it.
Maserati will launch a new Quattroporte soon, plus an SUV called the Levante. It’s the start of a major push to bring Maserati to the masses – or at least those who pine for an executive saloon with a trident badge of distinction. The new Ghibli is a big part of this and should see them shift 50,000 vehicles in 2015. They sold under 7,000 in 2006.
Our diesel version is certainly the one that will attract most European buyers, helped by that 3.0-litre twin-turbo that sounds sensational and loves to be driven hard. Well, it does if you press the ‘Sport’ button on the transmission.
And when you do, it’s almost possible to see the fuel gauge falling in front of your very eyes. MPG in excess of 40mpg is impossible even in normal driving mode, around 27mpg seems the norm for enthusiastic driving. It kind of makes you wonder what the 404bhp Ferrari-build V6 petrol!
Thankfully, the diesel does return low emissions, which might compensate if you are a company car driver…
There’s a very special moment in the Ghibli. It happens when you press the ‘sport’ button on the automatic gearbox and an executive saloon becomes a sports car.
It’s what Maserati is all about – and probably the main reason why many exec buyers will opt for this car, rather than a Jaguar or something German.
Suddenly, the car wants to pull and there’s a lot more urgency about the response from the throttle response. The four tailpipes grumble and, well, it actually starts to ‘feel’ like an Italian super car. Albeit a diesel one.
Car Couture was meant to be testing the petrol S model but there was a cock up with the paperwork. I can only imagine that will provide the sort of non-stop performance that even diesel buyers lust after…
Why did the incredible, bearded lady win the Eurovision Song Contest for Austria? The song wasn’t that spectacular but the singer turned heads Maybe that’s what the Ghibli has in its arsenal – the ability to stand out from the crowd.
I’ve just been down to pick up the Sunday papers and the bearded one is on most of the front pages. When I stepped outside from the newsagents, there were two guys and a kid on a bike peering inside the Maserati.
Now as bold as the Ghibli is in design, it can’t claim to be any more attractive than other four-door saloons, like the Audi A6, or the Mercedes E-Class.
So, I can only conclude it’s the fact the Ghibli has a Maserati badge on the grille. Like the bearded lady, image is everything these days…
I had to put some diesel in the gulping Ghibli today – it may be a diesel but achieving anything over 30mpg in everyday driving is darn near impossible. You can get into the high 30s on the motorway but the ‘official’ 40+ mpg must have been done downhill with wind assistance.
It’s a rare treat to find an independent garage in 2014. You know the sort – with a mechanic in oily overalls and receipts written on paper. I worked in one as a teenager, until the manager decided to burn it down with a discarded cigarette.
Anyway, there were three mechanics working on a Citroen Xsara inside and I could see they were all staring at the Maserati. It was only when I went inside to pay, that one of them asked if it was a Jaguar.
When I told then it was the new Ghibli there was genuine excitement. They were crawling all over the car and keen to know how it performed. And I guess that is the Maserati’s number one selling point – it’s different from the rest and it is an Italian thoroughbred. You won’t get that in a Mercedes, BMW or Jag…
It’s tough at the top, especially when you are trying to steal customers away from the likes of BMW, Mercedes and a revitalised Jaguar. Is there a better executive saloon that the BMW 5 Series diesel? As an all-rounder, probably not.
So, with Maserati launching their first diesel executive car, you could forgive them for falling short with the Ghibli. In fact, the 3.0 version is a very good drivers car, loaded with equipment, supremely powerful and eye-catchingly different. The question is, is that enough?
I’d really like to think so, except the Ghibli has some niggly issues which you probably wouldn’t find in the competition. While I love the interior, the roof is low for tall drivers and the black lining makes the cabin feel claustrophobic.
The navigation screen is angled upwards and reflects the sun badly. With sunglasses on, it’s impossible to read. The single stalk that operates the wipers and indicators is located behind the gear paddles and is hard to reach.
Finally, the automatic gearbox is super sensitive to select the correct mode. I’m light of touch but I’m constantly missing the correct mode, then cursing as I have to go back through the options again.
All minor faults but at the top, the competition is tough…
There’s something very cool about the F-Type. Our convertible is a headturner but of the two, I think the latest coupe version is the more iconic. It’s no E-Type but I can think of few cars that have attracted as much attention as the Jaguar.
Today I saw a bright yellow Maserati driven down the high street of Stow-on-the-Wold by a dashing young chap with model looks. In his mirror sunglasses and ‘Maserati’ leather jacket, he managed to make a great car look quite ridiculous.
Somehow I just can’t see that happening in an F-Type. There’s a finesse about the Jag that is pretty hard to find. It’s the sort of rare refinement that comes in a 1930s Bentley, or a gullwing Mercedes.
Just how you bottle that and inject it into your newly designed sports car Lord only knows. Jaguar and designer Ian Callum have managed it…