Photographer: Hannah Elliot/Bloomberg

The New Maserati Ghibli SQ4 Will Turn Heads. But Which Heads?

It may not be besting Audi, Mercedes, or Jaguar just yet, but the latest Ghibli makes a flashy argument for sports car lovers looking for something a bit different.

Last week in New York, Maserati showed its Levante, the long-awaited rig it hopes will grab the brand a piece of the luxury-SUV pie.

The big Levante news overshadowed the latest model from the brand’s successful sedan line, the 2016 Maserati Ghibli S Q4. But that doesn’t mean the Ghibli is a quiet middle child. In fact, it has striking looks and confident performance—and will demand the same of whomever is driving it.

Pricing on the base model Ghibli starts at $70,600, the S variant is $76,640, and the S Q4 begins at $78,550.
Pricing on the base model Ghibli starts at $70,600, the S variant is $76,640, and the S Q4 begins at $78,550.
Photographer: Hannah Elliott

A Polarizing Profile

The Ghibli has been steadily improving over the past couple of years, helping Maserati elevate itself above past periods of subpar reliability and performance.

The 2016 is available in three models: a 345-horsepower rear-wheel-drive base version; a 404-hp rear-wheel-drive Ghibli S; and a top-end Ghibli S Q4 with 404 horsepower on a V6 twin-turbo engine and intelligent all-wheel drive. Pricing on the base model starts at $70,600, the S variant is $76,640, and the S Q4 begins at $78,550.

I drove a $87,750 S Q4 Ghibli in “Bianco Alpi” white around Los Angles on a recent trip out west. If you buy a Ghibli, make it that one. You’ll want the extra power. And the active torque control in that AWD.

The S Q4 Ghibli comes with all-wheel-drive.
The S Q4 Ghibli comes with all-wheel-drive.
Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Reactions to it, even in car-culture California, were polarized: I definitely got some raised eyebrows while driving in the city, or even slight smirks. But I also met a gentleman rancher who drove a Jeep on his daily runs, and saves a Maserati Quattroporte for the weekends—he loved the Ghibli, naturally.

And this dichotomy well illustrates Maserati’s place in the market. The brand is beloved by long-term fans but doesn’t catch many converts from other luxury brands, since the Mercedes E Class, Audi S6, and excellent Jaguar XF beat it in such things as higher horsepower (the $101,700 and 577-hp E63 AMG, for example), better handling (the XF), or tighter craftsmanship inside (the Audi). That’s tough as Maserati tries to go more mass and depends on scale.

This Ghibli costs less than those and delivers a certain flair—both aesthetically and behind the wheel—that separates itself from the others. If you like to make a statement a little different from the rest of the pack, Ghibli is for you. Essentially, if you love it, you love it.  

The four-door sedan seats five adults. 
The four-door sedan seats five adults. 
Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Best Driven Quickly

New to this year’s model are a Start & Stop System, Blind Spot & Rear Cross Path alert, and revised engine calibrations to make for a 12-percent reduction in emissions. Efficiency remains the same: 19 mpg in combined driving. 

I promptly shut off the start/stop function, but the blind-spot warning proved helpful in L.A. traffic. So did the eight-speed automatic transmission, which adapted well as I sped out to Ojai one afternoon. Zero to 60 mph is 4.7 seconds; top speed is 176 mph. Those are nearly equal to the Audi S6, much faster than the 5.2-second XF, and not nearly as fast as that E Class AMG, which does it a full second faster. (And don’t even get me started on the BMW 550 sedan, which—cheaper, more powerful, and faster—soundly beats the Ghibli S Q4 on all fronts.)

The interior of the car is beautifully appointed in red. 
The interior of the car is beautifully appointed in red. 
Photographer: Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

I wish the handling had been tighter—the steering wheel can feel imprecise at times. And the acceleration at the lowest speeds lags, even on that twin-turbo V6 “made in the Ferrari engine factory,” as Maserati executives are so fond of pointing out. This is no 488 GTB, however. You find yourself wondering for a split second, "Wait, why aren’t we moving faster?"

But Ghibli shines at higher speeds (and I’ve got the traffic ticket to prove it). Press your foot on the gas at 50 mph, and you’ll fly.

A Shark Lined in Silk

Though it’s a foot shorter than the Quattroporte, the new Ghibli has the same shark-like details as is its ancestor: gills along the sides, a neatly rounded snout, and a toothy grille with the Maserati trident evoking the maritime scepter of Neptune himself.

The seats are spacious and wide. 
The seats are spacious and wide. 
Source (clockwise from left): Maserati; Hannah Elliott/Bloomberg

Bi-Xenon headlights with LED details, a midsize power sunroof, keyless entry, and 19-inch alloy wheels come standard.

Better yet, it has the stuff on the inside to match that strong exterior. The one I drove had a $2,300 leather interior in brilliant “Rosso” red and with $900 expertly stitched and ventilated custom front seats. New this year are Ermenegildo Zegna interior package options that involve Poltrona Frau leather with real silk inserts on the seats, door panels, roof lining, sunshades, and the ceiling light.

The Ghibli is a foot shorter—and more nimble on the road—than its Maserati Quattroporte sibling. 
The Ghibli is a foot shorter—and more nimble on the road—than its Maserati Quattroporte sibling. 
Source: Maserati

It’s so well thought out that I swear the acoustics have improved, too, since last year’s car. I loved how quiet the car was inside compared with its delicious vociferous engine on the outside. Heady stuff.

My long legs also found themselves blissfully free behind the rear seat of the car. There’s no sitting sideways to accommodate the front seats pushed back, no inadvertent knee bumps during egress. From across the dashboard through the sunlight and past the rear window, the interior feels as wide as a football field.

The Ghibli this year has 12 percent better emissions ratings and improved acoustics on the inside.
The Ghibli this year has 12 percent better emissions ratings and improved acoustics on the inside.
Source: Maserati

If you like, choose the $3,000, 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system, the $750 power-operating trunk, the $800 red brake calipers, and the SIRI-activated personal assistant, too. Details like these help wrap the car around you to feel like a true luxury item where otherwise it might fall slightly flat.

As with the rest of the car’s shortcomings, they’re not for lack of effort or flair. This Maserati is just a bit slighter than it’s competitors. But the gap is narrowing, and this Ghibli is the best one yet.

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