The hallowed race-bred brand, and all of its motoring history, can be yours for $138,900.

Maserati’s historical dictionary contains words like “power” and “fast”, “winning” and “racetracks”; but never the word “cheap”.

Though $138,900 isn’t cheap, in relative terms it’s an inexpensive sum for a Maserati. A lot of Australians agree, buying 25 in January alone to make it the nation’s most popular $100,000-plus sedan.

But why would you buy a Maserati Ghibli when it’s still priced alongside the fine mid-size Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz?

Simply, its Maserati name.

It rolls off the tongue as easily as the mid-size Ghibli sedan glides the South Western Highway and few people are unimpressed by its name and its hallowed aura.

It’s a car maker that’s been around since 1926, fought on every racetrack for prestigious winners’ titles, been the carriage of choice for kings and movie stars, despots and captains of industry. And I bet they didn’t pay the equivalent of $138,900 for the privilege.

But is it worthy of the Maserati name and does it reflect the 89 years of race-bred engineering?


Ghibli's V6 engine.Picture:


Yes, even though its least-expensive diesel variant — there are two other petrol- fuelled models —uses an engine shared with Jeep and the leather-upholstered Ghibli cabin hides Chrysler hardware.

Because when you push the ignition button, the peripheral stuff is not really the point. The turning point is, literally, the first corner.

The Ghibli — the small sister of the longer, more opulent and proportionally more expensive Quattroporte — is made to adhere to all the principles of the company’s race history.

It’s an agile four-door four-seater that wants its owner to become part of the driving experience.


Ghibli's interior. Picture:


So it doesn’t cocoon you as much as most rivals and there’s a hint of rawness in the way the engine growls and the way the suspension remains firm for roadholding and yet supple for road imperfections.

It’s the exhaust note that will fool most occupants, and especially bystanders who wouldn’t pick this as a diesel. And not just any diesel but a tweaked version of that in the diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee — along with its eight-speed automatic gearbox — and made by the same factory that produces the engine for the Holden Captiva. Perhaps that’s something Holden should brag about.

The 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine at idle is remarkably quiet and, under acceleration and with the Sport button depressed, its guttural exhaust sounds exactly like a well-tuned performance petrol engine.

A big difference to any petrol is the Ghibli’s brilliant fuel economy. At a claimed 5.9L/100km average and a mere 5.0L/100km in the country, it has a plausible rural range of 1400km.

The Ghibli D (for diesel) is rapid but not aggressive. There’s still drivetrain smoothness and quietness that ensure it appeases buyers who may otherwise spend their cash on a BMW or Mercedes.

And though it sounds like just the car of distinction that you’ve always wanted, it shows its flaws.

It’s a big car with one of the longest wheelbases in its class and yet the cabin is compact, appealing for four occupants and with limited rear-seat legroom.

The feature list is strong but the safety kit is marginal — alarmingly so against rivals — without even a crash-test rating.

Owners need to recognise that the tightly wrapped body shape has annoying blind spots and heavy pillars and that rear passengers have to be sprightly to get in and out of the narrow rear doors.

It has a three-year unlimited- distance warranty with roadside assistance but there’s no capped-price service program.

It even has a pleasing resale value after three years of 48 per cent.

But the fact is that it all works so well and, thanks to the power of sharing, is responsible for the relatively low price ... for a Maserati.

Mention this to a room full of friends as your new drive and you’d hear a pin drop. It’s a name steeped in all the warm and fuzzy bits about motoring and the Ghibli carries that association well. But though a fun drive and the price is right, its accommodation is compact and the feature list not as enticing as rivals.

The Maserati Ghibli turbo-diesel. Picture:



Model Diesel

Price $138,900

Engine 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel

Outputs 202kW/600Nm

Transmission Eight-speed automatic

Thirst 5.9L/100km


Model 3.0 TDI quattro

Price $136,750

Engine 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel

Outputs 180kW/580Nm

Transmission Seven-speed automatic

Thirst 5.9L/100km

Model 535d

Price $122,400

Engine 3.0 V6 bi-turbo-diesel

Outputs 230kW/630Nm

Transmission Eight-speed automatic

Thirst 5.6L/100km

Model CLS400

Price $139,900

Engine 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo-petrol

Outputs 245kW/480Nm

Transmission Seven-speed automatic

Thirst 7.8L/100km

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