Maserati Ghibli GranSport SQ4 Review: Maseratis Still Leave an Impression

Maserati’s cachet hasn’t dulled, as the Ghibli proves.

Arthur St. AntoineWriter, PhotographerThe ManufacturerPhotographer

This machine can send heart rates soaring before anyone has even seen it. "My car?" you say to your fellow guests seated at the dinner party. "Oh, I drive a Maserati." And just like that, everyone at the table pictures you zooming up the Italian Riviera for an evening of black-tie baccarat at the Casinò Sanremo.

"What kind of Maserati?" someone questions further.

"It's called a Ghibli," you reply. "That's pronounced Gib-lee. It's named after a wind that blows through the Sahara desert. Lovely piece, I must say. Under the hood it has an engine built by Ferrari."

"My! Sounds positively thrilling!" And that's when the requests for a ride start flying around the room.

The allure of the historic Ghibli name sure sent Maserati's fortunes soaring when the car was resurrected as a four-door sports sedan and appeared on America's shores in 2013. (The original Ghibli, a gorgeously long and lean two-door GT, forever etched the name into aficionados' hearts during its run from 1966 to 1973.) Relatively affordable, at least for an exotic nameplate, the new Ghibli was suddenly everywhere—on the image-conscious streets of West Los Angeles, anyway. The phrase "I drive a Maserati" began ping-ponging across SoCal and Miami and Dallas and every other locale famous for its fondness of all things chic and sleek. For sure, telling someone "I drive a Lexus GS" just doesn't have the same ring.

The 2019 edition of the Ghibli doesn't boast much that's new other than a few reconfigured packages and a new gear-lever design; the car received a significant front and rear restyling and a power upgrade for the 2017 model year. But Maser's "entry-level" model—you can buy a base Ghibli for less than $70K—remains a shapely and charismatic drive, especially in top-of-the-line GranSport SQ4 trim, as I recently discovered during a week behind the wheel.

While all Ghiblis sport the same twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 and eight-speed automatic, the GranSport SQ4 gets the most potent variant (484 horses) and feeds its output to the ground via full-time all-wheel drive. The engine block is Chrysler-sourced, but Ferrari designed the heads and does the engine assembly at its Maranello, Italy, factory. Max torque comes on stream at just 1,750 rpm, so the engine is always on the boil, and it'll gun the two-ton-plus Ghibli to 60 mph in a claimed 4.7 seconds. The exhaust note—artificially enhanced, by the way—is splendid and stirring, worthy prancing-horse stuff. Switching to Sport mode instantly summons an edgier growl, and in manual mode the automatic responds impressively to shift commands from the steering-wheel paddles. The sizzle Ghibli buyers are after is here all right, especially as the engine winds closer and closer to its redline. That said, the six can't match the unholy, hair-raising scream of the V-8 in the Ghibli's two-door big brother, the recently discontinued GranTurismo, which cost nearly twice as much. Speaking of engines, a hugely welcome upgrade for the 2019 Ghibli is a new console button for defeating the automatic stop-start feature.

You'd expect a Maserati to hustle well, and the Ghibli doesn't disappoint. The chassis is neutral—rare for an AWD car—and bursting with grip, never mind the weight it has to manage. Indeed, the poise and responsiveness of the Ghibli is one of its standout virtues. You can really leg this four-door along. Ride quality leans toward the firm side in any drive-mode setting, and some road surfaces reach right through to your backside, as the damping is quite stiff. But the tradeoff won't disappoint buyers who like to exercise their cars. The big 21-inch Titano-gloss wheels and tires on my test example ($2,350) proved as sticky as they were striking to behold. Also upping the exterior's attractiveness: $925 metallic Grigio Maratea paint and a $3,390 Nerissimo carbon-accents package.

The cockpit has its attractions, too, including premium drilled-leather seats ($2,690), a nice three-spoke wheel, and handsome carbon macrotwill trim ($790) on the center console. But there are downsides, too—namely, smallish interior space and a dash abundant with bits and pieces from Chrysler parts bins. The pushbutton starter is to the left of the wheel, primarily because the big Chrysler-sourced button wouldn't fit on the right side. The touchscreen infotainment interface feels dated in design and execution—particularly the nav screen, which resembles a jumble of squiggles in comparison with contemporary pictographic map displays. The optional Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($1,990) is fabulous, though, and a full complement of modern driver-assistance features is also available ($1,590).

Yes, it's lacking in cutting-edge infotainment and its interior isn't as exclusive as it should be, but the Ghibli still rewards its driver with exceptional handling moves and that hard-charging, Ferrari-finessed V-6 up front. And, for sure, the cachet is very much alive. Hand the keys to a restaurant valet, and your Ghibli is going to sit out front.

2019 Maserati Ghibli GranSport SQ4 Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $89,275/$103,225 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6; 484 hp @ 5,750 rpm, 428 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 16/24 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 195.7 x 76.6 x 57.5 in
WHEELBASE 118.0 in
WEIGHT 4,100 lb (est)
0-60 MPH
4.7 sec (mfr)
TOP SPEED 178 mph (mfr)
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