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First drive: Maserati Ghibli Hybrid. Image by Maserati.

First drive: Maserati Ghibli Hybrid
Part-electric tech for the ageing Maserati Ghibli, but has the Italian company gone anything like far enough with its new Hybrid model?

 



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Maserati Ghibli Hybrid

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5

Maserati gives us its first-ever electrified car with the new Ghibli Hybrid. The problem is, it's not nearly electrified enough to overcome some serious deficiencies in the ageing architecture that keeps this fearsomely expensive car a long, long way from the head of its class.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso
Pricing: Ghibli Hybrid from 58,500, GranLusso from 65,100
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical system
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, eight-speed ZF automatic
Body style: four-door mild-hybrid executive saloon
CO2 emissions: 192-216g/km* (VED Band 191-225: 1,345 first 12 months, then 490 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 155 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 29.4-33.2mpg*
Top speed: 158mph
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Power: 330hp at 5,750rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 4,000rpm
Boot space: 500 litres

* = pending results of final homologation

What's this?

The Maserati Ghibli, which has been in and around the executive saloon sector since 2013. That means it's eight years old already. So when we say here is a petrol-electric model, you're probably imagining it to be a plug-in hybrid that really ups the ante in its class, right? Wrong. This is the Ghibli Hybrid and it's one of those 48-volt mild-hybrid (MHEV) creations which basically trims the CO2 emissions a tad by recouping otherwise-lost kinetic energy during deceleration phases.

It therefore can't drive on electric power alone, like a Lexus ES can in urban area. And you certainly can't plug it in to the mains, like you can with certain models (PHEVs) of its Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S90 competitors. So what are the benefits of the Maserati Ghibli Hybrid? Well, according to the manufacturer, you get all the performance of a pure-petrol V6 with the sort of economy and emissions of the now-discontinued Diesel variant. There's also supposedly better weight distribution in the car of the 50:50 variety, thanks to a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine up front and the small MHEV battery being located out the back. An eBooster (it's one of those electric 'turbos' to prevent low-revs lag from the combustion engine), a DC/DC converter and a Belt Starter Generator (BSG) complete the electrical tech, with the whole drivetrain putting out healthy numbers of 330hp and 450Nm.

It is available in three trims, the 'plain' Hybrid and then either GranLusso (tested here) or GranSport grades. The price of the former is 58,500, while either of the latter come in at 65,100; and you can add further expense to the GranSport by equipping either the Nerissimo Pack (for a price starting from 67,520) or the Nerissimo Carbon Pack (from 70,270). Whicever way you cut it, any of these numbers is considerably more than you'd pay for the basic PHEV Audi, BMW, Mercedes or Volvo, which already seems bold when you consider the Maserati is a car at the end of its life cycle, not the beginning of it. But when you then factor in its 'mere' MHEV status, these prices become even more startling.

Visually, the Ghibli Hybrid doesn't look that much different to what has gone before. Now, even if we discount some of the supermodels in Maserati's storied past, of which there have been many, we'd still have to say the Ghibli is by no means the most attractive Maser in the company's design catalogue. It's not ugly, of course, but to suggest it's impossibly beautiful sat amidst a sea of 5 Series, A6s and S90s in the car park would be disingenuous in the extreme. While all 2021MY Ghiblis have a new radiator grille with a 'tuning fork' motif above the Maserati logo and rear lights with a boomerang design to hark back to the 3200GT of the late 1990s, the Hybrid has flashes of blue on its front-wing breather gills, its 'lightning bolt' in the C-pillar Trident and (optionally) on its brake callipers that mark it out amongst the rest of the range. Inside, a new infotainment system and generally tidier design is appealing enough, and the paddle shifts on the steering column are deserving of serious praise, but for a car with a three-metre wheelbase the passenger space in the back of the cabin is poor and there's some odd detailing in places - like that band around the steering wheel's circumference, which makes the item feel squared-off in your hands, rather than the more ergonomic round shape most other manufacturers prefer.

How does it drive?

On paper, a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds and a 158mph top speed lay the foundations for what looks like a 'proper' sporting saloon. Maserati also says it has preserved its cars' traditional 'growling' soundtrack with the Ghibli Hybrid, despite the drop to four pots under the bonnet, and it hasn't done this by resorting to artificial augmentation through the in-car speakers - instead, the exhaust flow has been worked upon to make the 2.0-litre engine sound sporty. So, 50:50 weight distribution, rear-wheel drive, 330hp, the Maserati badge and not much weight over the nose. This should be good, yes?

No. It isn't. In fact, the Ghibli Hybrid is incredibly underwhelming to drive and that statement qualifies even if you consider it as a 'pure' petrol 2.0-litre premium saloon, ignoring its mild-to-the-point-of-indiscernible MHEV technology. For starters, it doesn't even feel close to being 330hp/450Nm and that 5.7-second 0-62mph time appears almost laughably optimistic. Floor the Maserati's throttle and whether you're doing low speeds or you're drifting around in the midrange, you'll be surprised how lethargic it feels. This is no slight on the eight-speed ZF gearbox, which is generally a peach, so it's more to do with the laziness of the turbocharged engine. If you told us the Ghibli Hybrid only had 200hp, we wouldn't argue with you for even the briefest of brief seconds.

In turn, this unit doesn't make a great noise, either. There is a slightly muted snarl to it at times which is... OK, we suppose, but it'll never sing like a 'true' Maserati engine, no matter what the engineers claim, and if you rev it right out (which you will, searching in vain for those 330 horses) then it sounds harsh and wheezy. In the end, you stop spinning it out much beyond 4,500rpm, because it starts to become a raucous and not entirely pleasant experience if you do.

The refinement of the car must be praised, of course. The integration of the MHEV gear is super-smooth, mainly because the 48-volt system adds next to nothing to the driving experience, and around town and on faster, flowing roads, the Ghibli Hybrid is pleasant enough to travel in. It's quiet, it significantly limits wind and road noise to background levels, and the ride quality is, in the main, cushioned enough. However, there are times where the Maserati's damping loses composure and it's not as comfortable as it could be, especially in a class containing effortless, cosseting gems like the A6, E-Class, ES and S90, and then we come onto the handling. That suspension doesn't provide the serenest ride quality on the one hand and it definitely doesn't manage the movements of the body that well on the other. Charge the Ghibli down an undulating, up-and-down back road and there's a weird floating, bobbing sensation to the shell as the car rises up on its tippy-toes. Coupled to feel-free steering, it makes piloting the Maserati at speed an imprecise and somewhat unnerving affair, so in the end you soon cease wondering if the Ghibli is the undiscovered dynamic treasure of this marketplace, because it just isn't.

Verdict

Certain cars can often overcome their flaws with a healthy dollop of that nebulous, unquantifiable quality known as 'character'. Other cars can be as dull as hell but be worth serious consideration, because they do everything asked of them to an incredibly high, polished standard. The Maserati, regrettably, falls into neither of these camps. It's not likeable nor desirable enough to make it worth a look as a leftfield choice to a BMW 5 Series, and with its astonishingly modest hybrid gear then it doesn't exactly make an impregnable case for itself on the eco side of things either. In the end, it feels like what it is: a very old model, desperately trying to stay relevant in an age where it is looking increasingly outmoded and outmanoeuvred by pretty much all of the competition. Despite all this, it could possibly still redeem itself if it were notably cheaper than its accomplished rivals, but it's not even that. Sadly, it would therefore appear as if the Ghibli Hybrid is a remarkably distant also-ran, well before the race has even started.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 4 May 2021









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2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.

2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid GranLusso UK test. Image by Maserati.








 

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