It used to be easier to make sense of the auto industry. There were mainstream manufacturers, and there were niche sports car manufacturers. That was before Porsche
starting selling more crossovers than it does sports cars, Lamborghini
began preparing to go down the same road, and Ferrari
introduced an all-wheel-drive hatchback. But long before the arrival of the Cayenne
, the unveiling of the Urus
and the advent of the FF
, the storied marque that is Maserati
was already bolstering its sports car offerings with four-door sedans.
In fact, it's now been half a century and six generations since the launch of the original Quattroporte
. So the idea of a four-door Maserati shouldn't come as any surprise by now, but the vehicle you see here has the Modenese automaker breaking new ground in another way entirely. And it's not the size, either: although the new Ghibli
is smaller than the current QP, it's roughly the same size as the aforementioned original – not to mention the Dodge Charger
, a corporate stablemate which similarly revived a coupe nameplate for a four-door sedan. No, what makes this Ghibli 'special' is what resides under the hood, because the model you're looking at packs the very first diesel Maserati has ever offered in its hundred-year history.
Sacrilege, you say? Maybe, but as so-called performance brands have turned their attention to four-door sedans and crossovers, they've also begun to embrace diesel propulsion. In Europe these days, even Porsche, Jaguar
, the BMW
M division and Audi
Quattro GmbH are burning the midnight oil. So while it may be new territory for Maserati, the Ghibli is far from the first high-end, performance-oriented diesel on the Old World's market. It's also a vital addition to the brand's portfolio, particularly in Europe where the advantageous price of diesel fuel over gasoline (and the smaller volumes of fuel a diesel engine typically consumes) makes offering a model so equipped vital to the Trident marque's ambitious growth plans. The question, then, is whether it delivers.
- The basic parameters of the Ghibli should be familiar from our first drive in Italy and our subsequent review back on American roads. We won't go into the same depth in this short report, because this engine isn't coming to North America, and this diesel model is visually almost indiscernible from its benzine-burning stablemates. Suffice it to say that its evocative shape is a welcome addition to a segment that typically appeals to conservative tastes with cookie-cutter uniformity, but such non-traditional styling won't be for everyone: the shape may whisper "Italian Riviera" to some, but the detailing will say Buick Riviera to others.
- The interior is a nice (if somewhat plain) place to be, the infotainment system is a marked improvement over those found in older Maseratis (thanks, Chrysler), and the seats are comfortable and supportive (if teetering a little too high for a proper sports sedan), but the cabin doesn't feel as special as a Maserati should, especially all in black like our tester.
- Power in this least potent, most fuel-efficient Maserati comes from the same 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel as you'll find in a variety of models under the Fiat-Chrysler umbrella, which has by now fully absorbed the VM Motori engine manufacturer that supplies it. In the Ghibli (as in the diesel Quattroporte), it's been retuned to produce 271 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque – which is, by both measures, more potent than the same engine as fitted to the Chrysler 300, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500.
- Relative to the diesel versions of the BMW 5 Series, for comparison's sake, that puts it smack in between the 535d available Stateside (with 255 hp and 413 lb-ft, sold overseas as the 530d) and the more powerful Euro-spec 535d (308 hp and 465 lb-ft) but well shy of the more performance-oriented M550d (376 hp/546 lb-ft). Clearly there's room for improvement, and we hope Maserati aims higher next time around.
- Compared to the gasoline versions available in the US, the diesel Ghibli is down on power but up on torque, netting a (comparatively) lethargic 6.3-second 0-62 time versus to the 5.6 seconds quoted for the 345-hp base Ghibli (which gets a lower power rating overseas at 325 hp but the same torque and performance figures), and the 4.8 quoted for the top-of-the-line S with its 404 prancing horses (which comes standard with Q4 all-wheel drive in the US, available in Europe but not in the left-hand UK market). That's a hefty penalty in performance, which partially comes down to the difference in weight: the diesel model tips the scales at 4,045, which is heavier than either spec of the rear-drive gasoline models (but less than the all-wheel-drive version) - the diesel's extra torque failing to overcome the added weight under acceleration.
- What you get in return, however, is far better fuel economy: 37 miles per gallon in the city, 56 mpg on the highway (by European standards) easily trumps the 20 mpg the base gasoline model gets in a European metropolis and 40 mpg between them. Factor in the diesel fuel that's cheaper in Europe and you're looking at a substantial savings at the pump.
- The relative drop in performance, however, is not helped by a transmission that seems determined never to hold the gear selected, controlled (in addition to the paddles) by a console shifter that, to put it charitably, takes some getting used to. Naturally, the turbodiesel doesn't sound quite like a Maserati should, though the synthesizer engaged with the Sport button makes up for it, at least in part.
- With the added weight in the nose – and on the punishing Hill Route at the Millbrook Proving Ground where we drove it – we didn't experience that perfect 50/50 weight balance Maserati's been crowing about with the gasoline versions. (Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to compare them back to back since the gasoline testers on hand, rather tellingly, ran out of fuel early on.) The impression with which we were left was one of a reasonably solid chassis, well damped from the surrounding environment, but saddled with a lackluster engine. We weren't entirely convinced, either, that a "reasonably solid chassis" can keep up in such a competitive segment – an impression further reinforced when we drove a diesel Panamera later the same day and a diesel Jag XF just a few days later, both of which (though based on older architectures) gave a better impression of the driver's connectedness to both machine and road.
- The diesel Ghibli, however, is still new, and represents new territory for Maserati – one to which we trust it will become better adapted as development progresses... especially when a new diesel engine arrives. In the meantime, the current diesel, arguably better suited towards trucks than performance sedans, isn't one which American buyers should pine for when there are newer, better gasoline options available from Maserati and better diesels offered by the competition. At the end of the day, the diesel Ghibli's greatest achievement may very well be the more realistic proposition of actually driving one in Italy, where a troubled economy and high fuel prices – currently hovering at around $9 per gallon for gasoline and $8.50 for diesel – have made the sight of a Maserati on the road a tragically rare one.