I do not feel like I am on the way to Tridente Automobili to review a mere executive sedan. Those things are boring. Even the words “executive sedan” conjure images of airport transfers in grey, steel-and-glass metropolises.
No. I am here to review a Ghibli. And that is a drive through the mountains for Lingua di Manzo and wine at a sun-drenched vineyard.
All this goodwill, before I have even arrived at the showroom.
That is what the Maserati has been banking on since the Ghibli first tarantella-ed onto the scene in 2013.
Maserati looked at the German establishment in their stoically bespectacled eyes and pitched romance against remorseless capability.
It sees your alphanumeric mumbo-jumbo, and raises you sultry syllables. Bold move. The 5 Series is nothing if not unerringly excellent, even more so in 2021 now that it is a whole new generation on.
To compete, and live up to my anticipation, the Ghibli has to strike Maserati poses, make Maserati noises, and pull off Maserati moves.
Maserati Ghibli Hybrid: Pulling glances
Approach the car from the rear, and in a modern age of curated and complex light graphics, the Ghibli’s butt comes across as a bit unremarkable.
Regard the car at any other angle, however, and the car’s lusty lines make it hard to tear your eyes away. That thrusting snout, proudly wearing the oh-so-desirable trident, evokes giggly, tingly feelings more than any kidney grille or three-pointed-star can.
These naturally seductive proportions feed timelessly into the mind’s idea of grace, and so will likely remain beguiling well beyond the eight years they have already existed.
Lever yourself into the driver’s seat through the frameless doors and for your coin you will discover a car that is laden to the gills with equipment.
At least, equipment that Maserati has in its armoury. A new 10.1-inch system that plays nice with your smartphone, from Cupertino or otherwise, sits in the centre console.
Soft close doors make an appearance, and a thumping Harmon Kardon system pumps out tunes with crisp highs and tight lows.
A pleasing lounge
Notable by their absence at this level, however, are a head-up display and fully digital instruments. Good. Clear and delightfully decorated analogue gauge clusters deliver all the information you need in a classier fashion.
Instead of pulling the acres of leather taut in a Germanic display of sobriety, Maserati lets it bunch up in pudgy squidginess, then wraps them around the driver in dramatic swishes.
It will not be long, however, before you realise your index fingers are clicking steering wheel buttons that feel a little bit Fisher Price, and that you are looking at plastic switchgear that have since attained a whole new level of ornamentation in the equivalent German.
The cubbies in the centre console are also trimmed, as they are in the Quattroporte, with wood surfacing that is pretty to the eye but sharp to the bare finger in its edge.
Yet, there is enough pageantry in the aesthetic of lush swishes to dominate your perception. It is less substantial in places, but more flamboyant and all the better for it, and no less welcoming a driving environment.
Maserati Ghibli Hybrid: Still a sharp trident
It is a balmy weekday evening, and I jab the Trident aggressively out onto Alexandra Road.
In my hands is a steering wheel that feels surprisingly light at parking speeds but soon weights up as the speedometre needle rises. The tiller does not take long to convince you of weighting that matches nicely the chassis’ intimations at tautness.
Acceleration is reasonably rapid, if not explosive as one might expect from 330hp. Blame the stonking 1800+kg weight for that. Missing also is the swelling growl that saturates u like a tidal wave in Maserati’s more extroverted multi-cylinder models.
It’s only in a smidge at the very top of the rev range that the engine here cracks a smirk and just briefly chortles.
The electrical assistance is not strong enough to propel the car independently. But its work in filling the inevitable torque holes of a small, turbocharged, engine is perceptible and highly effective indeed, delivering throttle response that feels perky and satisfyingly alert.
Put one rear wheel over tarmac broken by an underlying tree root and you will hear and feel the hind leg shimmy more than you will in a 5 Series. This is not the kind of executive car that aspires to sheer insulation as an ideal.
What it does, is feel smaller than a BMW 5 Series. Which comes as a surprise when I discover that the Maserati Ghibli is actually a little longer and wider than its German rival.
Ghibli ready to dance
Perhaps the more wraparound interior engenders that impression, or perhaps it is the absence of that tomb-like sobriety and substance that pervades the aura of every high-quality German luxury saloon.
While other mid-size executive saloons have matured to into distant feeling continent crushers, no doubt for resolute stability at autobahn velocities, the Maserati Ghibli still feels more up for a little boxing match in tighter confines.
Or maybe it is the knowledge, somehow bestowed by the proportions of the car and the sensations through its chassis, of exactly how big and fat the four wheels at the corners are.
On a wet, greasy, inclined road, I instinctively knew where the line of peril was. Try to tease those boundaries a little, and the rear contact patches will scrub the bitumen in a controllable, playful fashion.
It is ultimately easy, and more importantly entertaining, to keep pointing in the direction you choose.
Singapore offers vanishingly few opportunities to really stretch a 330hp car, but on the fleeting occasion there was a chance to be a bit violent, the Maserati Ghibli hinted at being little more unruly than an uber-disciplined Bavarian would allow.
In this way, the big Maserati may not have the absorbency or breadth of operating range that the Germans have achieved, but what it gives back in vividness is worth the trade-off.
It is a car that asks more of your inputs and your senses to guide along a varied and rutted route.
One might perceive that as dynamic inferiority to the “executive express” norm. But without actually taking such cars to a track or consistently challenging the envelope, there is no way to tell if either approach is faster in absolute terms.
I came away charmed in a way that reminded me of the E60 generation BMW 5 series from two, more raw generations back. It could be just the thing the interested driver is hankering for.
Maser. Ati. MA. serAti. Let it roll off your tongue. You wouldn’t say “Honey I’ll go bring the E-Class over would you? But you will find every excuse to say “Maserati”.
Were you to want a car with every last element fussed over and finessed, then the Ghibli might not feel as complete.
There is no more concise embodiment of that than the Maserati’s warning chimes being startlingly loud, unsubtle bongs to a Lexus’s melodious, brand-specific trill.
Today, however, I am telling my friends that I am going to pick them up in a Maserati. Not a “car”, not a “mid-sized luxury saloon”. A Maserati. And no sharp-edged trim nor shrill chime will make me feel an iota less excited about that.
Maserati Ghibli Hybrid 2.0 (A)
Engine: 1998cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged 48-volt mild hybrid with eBooster
Max power: 330hp at 5750rpm
Max torque: 450Nm at 4000rpm
Power to weight: 183hp per tonne
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic with manual select
0-100km/h: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 255km/h
Consumption: 14.3km/L (combined)
Price excl. Coe: $338,800 (after $20k VES surcharge)
Agent: Tridente Automobili
This article was first published in Torque.