10/02/2014 16:15 | By Tim Pollard, managing editor, MSN Cars

Maserati Ghibli Diesel review (2014 onwards)

Our first UK drive in the cheapest Maserati yet – the diesel 5 Series-rivalling Ghibli

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Model: Maserati Ghibli Diesel
Price: £48,830
Bodystyle: executive saloon
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, 275hp, 443lb ft
Transmission: eight-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Efficiency: 47.8mpg combined, 158g/km CO2
Performance: 0-62mph in 6.3sec, 155mph top speed
Date of test: February 2014

On Bing: see more photos of the Maserati Ghibli
Buy a second-hand Maserati on Auto Trader

What is the Maserati Ghibli Diesel?

The Ghibli is the latest addition to the Maserati range – a smaller executive car to slot beneath the Quattroporte limousine. Think of this as a rival to the BMW 535d and Jaguar XF Diesel S saloons and the slinkier four-door coupe models, such as Mercedes' CLS and Audi's A7 Sportback.

The Ghibli name has been used before, on a 1970s saloon and then a 1990s coupe, but now it's back for a third time on this new-for-2014 four-door saloon. It's in UK showrooms now and prices begin at £48,830 for this diesel model, which will make up 70% of sales, while the more powerful turbocharged V6 petrol models start at £52,275.

Maserati Ghibli review (© Maserati)

Where does the Maserati Ghibli fit?

At 4,970mm long, the Ghibli is a useful 290mm – or 12 inches – shorter than its Quattroporte big brother. It's a little longer than a Merc E-Class and is available only in this traditional three-box saloon bodystyle; don't go expecting a shooting-brake-style estate any time soon.

Standard equipment is generous, including six-way electrically adjustable seats, climate control and an eight-inch digital sat-nav and entertainment touchscreen. But Maserati will still encourage you to spool through the extensive options list and our Ghibli Diesel test car's list price included £12,497 of options for niceties such as adaptive xenon headlamps (£660), extra carbon trim (£1,710) and electric seats (£980). You have been warned...

Maserati Ghibli 2014 side profile (© Maserati)

Is the Maserati Ghibli Diesel for you?

If you're bored with the (largely German) executive car hegemony, then you should certainly consider the Maserati Ghibli. Its fresh, elegant design alone instantly renders most premium saloons stale, and with a maximum of 1,500 Ghiblis expected to be sold in Britain in a full year you're guaranteed to stand out from the crowd.

It's a practical proposition, too. Space is abundant in the front and the 500-litre boot is a useful size, if rather shallow in layout. The only restricting factor may be the rear seats, whose legroom is noticeably worse than you'll find in the back of an E-Class or 5 Series. There's a whopping great big transmission tunnel robbing space for feet, too (blame the four-wheel-drive option available on the continent but forbidden to right-hand-drive markets).

We can see many company car regulars being tempted out of the established brands to try the Maser

If rear-seat space is a priority, you won't be disappointed by the rear compartment in the Ghibli's big brother, the Quattroporte.

What does the Maserati Ghibli Diesel do well?

We've already touched on the looks of the new Maser saloon. To these eyes it looks gorgeous and we can see many company car regulars being tempted out of the established brands to try something new - especially with that eye-grabbing entry price of £48k. The slick style continues inside, where you'll feel special every time you slip behind the Trident badge on the chunky steering wheel and see that diamond-shaped Maser clock.

The diesel engine used in the Ghibli was developed for the growing Maserati family and is also destined for the Quattroporte and forthcoming Levante SUV. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel is refined enough and you'll rarely notice you're driving an oil-burner; the eight-speed automatic slushes through the gears with a treacly smoothness.

If you engage the Comfort mode on the Skyhook suspension, the Ghibli plays the motorway cruiser card with aplomb. But you can throw it around, too, as you'd hope with a Maserati – the Ghibli proves fleet of foot and agile of chassis. During a brief thrash on a private test track, the saloon could be thrown around with abandon and the limited slip differential improved traction in slippery conditions. The back end will slip if you provoke it too much. This is a Maserati, after all.

Cabin of Maserati Ghibli (© Maserati)

What doesn't the Maserati Ghibli Diesel do well?

For all its sporting intentions, the Ghibli TD doesn't actually feel that quick. Its 275hp is hardly show-stopping when you consider that Audi's 3.0-litre TDI bi-turbo manages 313hp and the stopwatch confirms that suspicion: the Maser dispatches the 0-62mph sprint in 6.3sec compared with the Audi's neck-snapping 5.1sec. Perhaps Maserati should be working on a more powerful Ghibli Diesel S...

The Sport pack makes the 20-inch wheels crash and thrash

The ride and handling of the Ghibli depend very much on how you spec your car. We would avoid the Sport pack, which lowers the ride height by 10mm and adds stiffer springs and dampers; it conspires to make the 20-inch wheels crash and thrash along typical British bumpy roads whereas cars on smaller (standard) 18-inch rims ride with aplomb.

We found it hard to get excited by the sound of the diesel Ghibli. Where the turbocharged petrol V6 models woofle and pop and bang like a thoroughbred Italian should, the V6 TD sounds largely anodyne. It's not clattery or tractor-like, just functional.

What is the Maserati Ghibli like to live with?

The Maserati is a curious everyday companion. On one hand, it thrills and excites where the established executive contenders have mere aesthetic polish. To sit in a Maserati cockpit and soak up its beautiful, hand-stitched leather upholstery and tactile aluminium gearchange paddles is to realise that this car is a lifestyle statement. Maserati says most of its customers want to stand out from the crowd and on this evidence they've nailed that brief.

But then you start to notice a few niggly details. The Italians are big on statement design, but maybe not so hot on the little things. Like headlamp and mirror switches seemingly borrowed from a Fiat volume model and poor ergonomics whereby your fingers can't tap the stereo buttons squashed into the slither of space between said paddles and steering wheel. The heating controls are hardly a work of art, either.

The business end of the Maserati Ghibli (© Maserati)

How green is the Maserati Ghibli Diesel?

For a Maserati, a CO2 figure of 158g/km and a claimed combined economy figure of 47.8mpg are nothing short of brilliant. But the executive set is a fiercely contested company car battleground and rivals such as BMW and Audi now do 2.0-litre exec saloons with 120g/km and below. So you can buy greener elsewhere in this segment.

However, it's worth noting that for the power on offer, the Maser is highly competitive. The aforementioned Audi A6 bi-turbo TDI has 313hp/166g/km/44.8mpg while a BMW 535d musters 313hp/148g/km/50.4mpg.

These figures matter: Maserati has this month established its first UK fleet sales department and it is punting out Ghibli Diesels for around £700-£800 on company car schemes. It expects one in three Ghiblis to be bought with corporate cash.

Would we buy a new Maserati Ghibli Diesel?

The Ghibli pulls the heart strings in all the right places and we have no doubt they'll shift every one of them to people wanting a change from the Germanic competition. The Ghibli lacks polish in one or two areas, but we're inclined to forgive the Maser a few faults for the chance to own a beautiful slice of Italian design. Just make sure the Ghibli Diesel is fast enough to justify that sporty badge – otherwise you may be better served by a faster BMW or Audi.

On Bing: see more photos of the Maserati Ghibli
Buy a second-hand Maserati on Auto Trader

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