The Maserati Ghibli is a sharp looker and a precise sports saloon
Athletic Italian The muscular-looking Maserati Ghibli is powered by a 3-litre twin-turbo power plant. -- PHOTO: TAN WEI TE

A well-made suit not only looks stylish, but it also flatters the wearer by making him look fitter. When it comes to suit-making, few can rival the Italians, who are known for their sharp and aggressively cut designs.

This flair for tailoring is evident in the Maserati Ghibli, the brand's contender in the executive saloon segment. Compared to the BMW 5-series, which is the segment leader in Singapore, the Ghibli looks sleeker and more muscular, despite actually being physically larger.

To be exact, the Ghibli is 64mm longer, 85mm wider and has a wheelbase that is 30mm longer than the 5-series. Yet despite its dimensions, the Ghibli's size is evident only when it is parked next to the German.

While its generous proportions look great on paper, its cabin is not as spacious as expected. The rear bench, for instance, does not offer as much legroom as its aforementioned rival, and headroom will be an issue for occupants who are 1.8m or taller.

As consolation, rear passengers have access to modern amenities in the form of a USB point and a 12-volt power socket, which are conveniently located in the armrest.

Equally modern is the Ghibli's cockpit, which has a neat and driver-centric layout. There are few buttons on the dashboard and the Maserati Touch Control infotainment system is quite intuitive. The system is identical to the one in the Chrysler 300C (both Chrysler and Maserati are owned by Fiat), but that does not seriously compromise the Ghibli's identity.

The only bizarre quirk that the Ghibli shares with its American cousin is its cabin lights. They are permanently switched on if the driver sets the instrument panel's brightness to maximum.

The rest of the Ghibli, however, is true to Maserati's performance-oriented roots. Powering the car is a 3-litre twin-turbo V6 that delivers 330bhp and 500Nm from 1,750rpm.

As one might expect, the power plant (which is built by Ferrari) and the exhaust system are like musicians that sound great when they perform a duet.

Fire up the Ghibli's motor and you are greeted by a growl that emanates from the quad exhausts. This soundtrack is audible even when you select the car's "Increased Control and Efficiency" mode.

The Ghibli is, of course, best enjoyed with the Sport setting activated. In this mode, the throttle is at its most responsive and the steering feels weightier. Better still, the exhaust flaps are opened to deliver maximum aural delight. In the normal setting, the flaps only open at 3,000rpm.

There is some lag as you accelerate from a standstill but once the turbos spool up and the boost comes on, the Ghibli really takes off. The car's performance is linear and easily controlled.

Its eight-speed automatic gearbox has a manual override function and a pair of oversized paddle-shifters if you are so inclined. Their size makes them easy to reach, although their fixed position reduces flexibility.

Given its size, one would expect the Ghibli to have sacrificed agility, but this executive saloon handles like a smaller car. Corners can be carved with ease and the accurate helm stays nicely weighted throughout such manoeuvres.

The Ghibli may not be big on roominess but it more than makes up for this with its impressive performance. Unlike many rivals, this athletic exec can actually claim to be a bona-fide sports saloon.

CAR INFORMATION

Maserati Ghibli 3.0 V6 (A)

Price

:$368,800

Engine Type

:

V6 Twin-Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

2,979 cc

Horsepower

:

350 bhp

Torque

:

500 Nm

Transmission

:

8-speed (A)

Acceleration

:

5.6 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

263 km/h