Does Maserati’s Feisty Entry-Level Sedan Stand Up to the Competition?

The Ghibli S Q4, with its Ferrari-tuned, 400 horsepower engine, is the antidote to the rudimentary sedan.

Maserati-Ghibli-650-lead
Sung Han & Chase Pellerin

Montauk, for Maserati, seemed like a fit. The coastal town is sustained by the sea and, on a cloudy mid-May day, still felt like the sleepy town it once was. It was pre-Memorial Day. There were no models at the Surflodge, no Manhattanites lining the beaches. A few people dotted Left Hand Coffee, half with a local look, the others clearly visitors misled by lore of early-summer heat. Out in the parking lot, the Maserati sat, a car comfortable in this setting. If you’re looking to meet appearances, the Ghibli S Q4 ($77,900) does that. If you’re here while no one else is around, then you may use the other strength of the car, and let the Trident strike the roads for a hot second.

While the Ghibli S Q4 both looks and drives well, it does the latter very well. The sedan, with a 4,122-pound curb weight and plenty of room for four, is powered by a 404 horsepower engine with 406 lb-ft of torque, and it more than makes up for its size with a Ferrari-tuned engine. Its acceleration is responsive, it holds power throughout the range, and — since it’s not a car you’re running over to the local track for the weekend — it gives all the snappy drive you’d want from a car that can also fit your family. It also sounds fantastic, with the high whine that hints at its Rosso Berlinetta brethren.

It also, if you’re into such things, turns heads. The design has nautical touches that complement Maserati’s Trident, like the porthole-styled side vents, and headlamps that resemble gills. The grille looks something like the gentle yet enormous maw of a whale shark. The hood, as has been noted, is accentuated by a long and elegant line in the “prestige distance”, the space between mid-front wheel and the A-pillar. This elongates the front of the car, while the sharp drop at the rear ends the lines of the car, giving it styling more like a coupe than a sedan. It’s a beautiful car, and with the Maserati badging, it makes a statement: This car is distinctive, and it’s not German.

Under the Hood

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Engine: Twin-Turbo V6
Transmission: Eight-Speed ZF Automatic
Horsepower: 404
Torque: 406 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 4.6 seconds
Top Speed: 175 mph
MSRP: $77,900

These are the things the Ghibli inherits from its more illustrious ancestors — good looks and good power under the hood. The Ghibli is the entrance to Maserati’s line, and there’s a nice trickle-down in design and engineering. Unfortunately, other areas seem to have caused Maserati more trouble when paring back from the more expensive members of its line, like the Quattroporte S Q4 ($106,900) or the GranTurismo Sport ($132,825). Coming in under five figures can, unfortunately, take a toll.

The interior of the car, especially in light of the large infotainment center framed in plastic, feels in places like it has B-level components. The dials of the dash are minimalist at best, an apparent afterthought. The center analog clock, while a nice touch calling to the car’s premium status, is topped in a Hobbiton-roof-looking flap of leather. It feels less than illustrious, and that’s not a good feeling when the price tag is a good part of $100,000. The stereo is also docile; even at the highest volume, conversations continued on, unfazed. The cabin doesn’t have the air of preserved exclusivity that a true luxury car boasts — the feeling that you’re apart from the world and distinct from it. And then, there was the final gripe, which is that it’s loud. Constantly.

It’s a beautiful car, and with the Maserati badging, it makes a statement: This car is distinctive, and it’s not German.

For ripping through tight coastal roads and accelerating onto on-ramps, the Ghibli’s exhaust is a proper soundtrack to the drive. But, on a long, two-hour trip back to Brooklyn on I-495, the car remained noisy, even in the “eco” mode of I.C.E. (Increased Control Efficiency). If you watch the promo video and the whine that runs throughout is something you’d like over your shoulder for prolonged periods of time, then the car is perhaps a match. If not, it can become a bit of a nagging noise maker.

In the context of its British and German counterparts, the Ghibli excels in engine performance and styling, but lacks luxury detailing. The Audi S7 ($82,900) matches the Ghibli best in performance, but outmans it in technology and accommodations. The Jaguar XJ AWD ($77,700) is slower but more cushy. The BMW 650i xDrive Gran Coupe ($93,100) and Mercedes-AMG E 63 ($101,700) both out-cost the Ghibli, but also outperform it.

It’s a tough market to compete in, yet Maserati does offer its own form of Italian flare to the offerings. There’s the thrill of the drive, the thrill of good looks; but like a summer renter in Montauk, the Ghibli comes across more as the appearance and quick thrills of luxury, without the underbelly of true luxurious craftsmanship. The car turns heads, and that’s an accomplishment not to take lightly. It’s also an entry point to an illustrious brand, and a car that guarantees a good time behind the wheel. But if you’re hunting for a sturdy, luxurious vessel to last the long haul, you may look to other harbors. The Ghibli is more of a quick summer fling.

Buy Now: $77,900

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