First Drive: Maserati Ghibli Diesel
Sector: Executive Price: £48,830 Fuel: 47.8mpg CO2: 158g/km
Maserati might sound like an unlikely contender for fleet sales, but Ghibli is the start of changing times. As the carmaker chases a ten-fold volume increase in the UK, a diesel executive saloon with fleet-friendly running costs is an inevitable addition for a premium brand.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Maserati has built a niche for itself as a manufacturer of grand tourers and sports saloons. Both are ideal for retail sales but, with only petrol engines, there’s never been much fleet potential or opportunity to grow from a niche brand.
So, with 50,000 global sales as a target by the end of next year, the range is growing. The Ghibli saloon and forthcoming Levante SUV are both launching into sectors with a high fleet content, and Maserati is laying out the groundwork with an extended dealer network and ongoing work with leasing companies, RV setters and SMR experts to get the cars onto choice lists.
The Ghibli isn’t a car aimed at toppling the BMW 5 Series from the top of this sector, but it’s Maserati’s most efficient model yet, and brings the range entry point under £50,000. Engine options are all turbocharged V6 units, with the 275bhp diesel expected to be most popular in the UK. It’s a rival for high performance diesels in German rivals’ cars, rather than low-carbon units, returning 45.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 158g/km.
This is as much power as most drivers could need. The diesel is incredibly refined, paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox with an even smoother comfort setting for motorway cruising. Yet it’s still a true Maserati in Sport mode, holding onto each gear for longer, changing quicker and sharpening throttle and steering responses to enliven the drive. Maserati purists might miss the petrol exhaust note, but the Diesel makes a purposeful growl in Sport mode which is almost as addictive.
Mechanicals aside, it adopts Maserati’s new family styling complete with a wide oval grille and aggressive headlights similar to the new Quattroporte’s. The cabin is awash with soft leather and can be heavily personalised – it’s fairly well laid out, though the large transmission tunnel can make the back seats feel a little cramped. Its infotainment system with Garmin navigation is almost identical to the Chrysler 300C’s.
Aluminium panels up the power-to-weight ratio and contribute to remarkably sure-footed agility on sweeping roads for a car of this size. However, it’s worth testing the standard suspension setup before choosing one – the former is far more suited to day-to-day driving and barely blunts the handling compared to the much stiffer sports option.
So is the Ghibli Diesel a compromise? Perhaps, but only slightly. This is a great executive car, and feels every bit the downsized Quattroporte it should. With sensible targets in mind and no plans to blur the brand identity with eco-friendly models, but with running costs low enough not to scare fleets away, this is a convincing first entry into a very demanding part of the market.
Not the cheapest in its segment to run, but the Ghibli is an attractive entry point into the Maserati range with plenty of aspirational fleet appeal.