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The hottest Ghibli appears to be most things to most drivers. No wonder it’s selling so well.
After a fun wet dry drive day at Hampton Downs, where every current Maserati was allowed to be put under duress on racetrack and public roads, every journalist present agreed that the car they'd like to take home was the Ghibli 'S.'
Being 170mm shorter in the wheelbase than the flagship Quattroporte, the Ghibli 'S' was ranked as the Maserati that gets the right balance of handling, comfort, sheer grunt and value for money. Being a little more compact, it’s that much more incisive on the road, and it feels every bit as quick as its bigger, larger-engined, more powerful brand-leader.
The good thing is that the car's body control is so well contained that people in the
beautifully-contoured rear seat still felt well-looked after even after a quick point-to-point blast - not an easy balance to achieve. With the Ghibli 'S' mellifluous twin-turbocharged Quad-Cam V6 working through its eight-speed automatic, it can be as smooth and quiet or as urgent and strident as you feel, with seemingly a ratio for every occasion. Whether you shift with the switch-quick paddles or at the behest of the right foot pedal, the gear changes are slam-dunk quick, or so liquidly languid that even I was complimented by usually rather fussy passengers.
It may have been the best road-going Maserati on this drive day, but what about on the track?
No worries there. While the selection of 'Sport' mode for the car is a must-do on track where extra noise can be enjoyed without the twitch of net curtains that you'd notice in suburbia, such mode selection also tightens the chassis, makes the steering more direct and informative and imbues the engine with better and quicker reactions in terms of both its throttle responses and the increase in urgency of that wonderful eight-speeder.
Part of the Ghibli S's extra nimbleness and its defter responses come from its lighter weight - just over 100kg - when compared to the Maserati. The difference in avoirdupois feels like even more than that, and it has to be said that the Ghibli S is the car you'd always drive yourself, while you won't mind being drieven by someone else in the full-sized Quattroporte.
Elegant, tautly suspended and even more tautly drawn by its designers, the Ghibli, especially in S form is probably going to be the car that gobbles up most of those tens of thousands of extra annual sales that Maserati has promised itself. The naysayers have gone all quiet about those numbers, as Maserati's fiscal graphs describe upward trends of almost Himalayan proportions.
It doesn't stop there, with news that Maserati will replace its already gorgeous GT and Grand Cabrio with versions of its Geneva Show-stopping Alfieri design.
Then there's the Levante SUV, which is due to debut at January 2016's Detroit auto show. It looks like we'll get that long awaited machine next year.
In the meantime, the Ghibli S just has to be the star of the over all Maserati show.
Facts and figures:
Maserati Ghibli S
Engine/Performance: 301kW/550Nm quad-cam twin turbocharged 24 valve V6. Zero to 100kmh 4.7 seconds, 10L/100km.
Transmission: Eight-speed paddle shift ZF automatic.
Chassis: Front engine, rear-wheel-drive, four-wheel independent suspension.
Price from: Ghibli $129,990, Ghibli D $131,990, Ghibli S $149,990.
Verdict: Irrefutably Maserati's best car of the moment, and there's more to come.