JOHANNESBURG - Screaming V8 Maseratis will be no more. To prepare us for this future of electric motors and silence, the company has started to shift its local model line-up in a new direction, with the introduction of its first-ever hybridised vehicle; the Maserati Ghibli Hybrid.
WHAT IS A MASERATI GHIBLI HYBRID?
Based on the Ghibli that was launched in South Africa in 2015, albeit facelifted for 2021, the new Ghibli Hybrid is a four-door, four-seater sedan that is powered by a 2.0-litre turbopetrol four-cylinder engine that’s mated to an e-booster (electric supercharger) and a belt-driven starter generator (BSG). Thanks to a 48-volt electrical architecture, these systems are able to work seamlessly together to provide up to 243kW of power and 450Nm of torque.
Mercedes-Benz and Volvo Cars are just a handful of carmakers that are already making use of 48-volt systems with electric superchargers and BSGs to come down in capacity without compromising on performance, however, it’s the first time that a premium Italian carmaker is looking to hybridise this sort of passenger car.
Maserati makes use of a ZF eight-speed automatic torque converter transmission to send power to the rear wheels. You also get magnetorheological shocks that tighten up the ride when you switch it to Sport mode. Sport mode also sharpens up the throttle response, puts the e-booster and the BSG in high-alert mode and gives you more weighting on the steering. The car also comes with an I.C.E mode, which is considered an economy mode that slacks off on the performance metrics on all fronts.
ANDROID AUTOMOTIVE CONNECTIVITY
Added to the engine tech upgrades on the Ghibli for 2021 is Android Automotive. This is one of the first vehicles in South Africa to receive full Android Automotive built-in like you would get in a Polestar 2 and other cars in other markets around the world.
Our test car came with the high-end Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade package that sounded amazing no matter what you played. I streamed music through the system using Apple Music on an Android phone and it worked flawlessly. There’s wireless charging built-in too to ensure that your smartphone is tucked away and charging. In some markets around the world, the car comes with Maserati Connect services that give you access to Amazon for shopping and streaming of content while you’re in the car. You speak to the car as you would speak to Amazon’s Alexa.
If you pair your phone with the car and use the Apple Carplay system of the Android Auto system, you can still use Siri or say Hey Google to interact with the car.
It’s very trick inside, very modern and slick, but it retains some of that old school charm that we love in sedans such as a beefy transmission tunnel that separates the driver from the passenger. It also sports actual gauges in the instrument cluster; full-sized dials that run clockwise (the correct direction for the tach and speedo). There’s a charm to the interior; perhaps the smell of the Pieno Fiore interior mixed with high-grade sanitiser added to its compelling nature.
GHIBLI HYBRID ON THE ROAD
I spent a midweek afternoon with the Ghibli Hybrid, testing it around Johannesburg’s northern suburbs as well as stretching its legs on the highway around Johannesburg.
In town, in the increasingly congested roads, it was such a joy to potter around in. There was a sense of responsiveness in the car, even at low speeds, which made it easier to make confident decisions in traffic. I could quickly get on the power and change lanes on a packed William Nicol Drive and I could easily pass slower-moving vehicles on the highway without having to rev the life out of the car. Considering that it’s a huge luxury car with a very small engine compared to what we’re used to experiencing in a Maserati, it has more than enough punch to keep sporty drivers happy.
More than the straight-line performance on offer, it’s the handling of the vehicle that impressed me too. It turns with a sharpness that you don’t get in the six-cylinder Maseratis. There’s this lightness and a more direct feel on the front of the car and even when you’re really leaning on the front axle you have a feeling that’s more sportscar-like than sedan-like.
It sounds amazing in Sport mode too, not as sweet as a V8, but there’s this gruffness to it; a throatiness that many four-cylinders cannot match.
The overwhelming satisfaction, however, comes with the smoothness that the electrical system brings to the party. The stop/start system for the ignition for example is so fast and seamless. The lack of latency on the throttle makes it feel like a straight-six engine car, and if you like to, you can rev it hard to around 7000rpm before grabbing another gear.
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY?
Maserati South Africa is asking R1 642 000 for a standard Ghibli Hybrid, which means it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. And when you do arrive at the dealership to buy one, you can rest assured that you will be ticking several options boxes to personalise the car to your exact taste.
GranLusso, a particularly worthwhile box that’s worth ticking gives you a unique front bumper with chrome inserts, body-colour side skirts, 19-inch wheels, adaptive full LED headlamps, Ermenegildo Zegna Silk interiors, Soft door close function and black brake callipers.
Go for the GranSport if you want sports bumpers with black-gloss-finish, side skirts in body colour, body-colour rear bumper insert, full-LED Adaptive Matrix headlights, 20-inch wheels, red brake callipers, sport seats, sports steering wheel and shift paddles on the steering column.
Depending on how bold you are, you can easily spend over R2 million on a Ghibli Hybrid, but I reckon the base model is the one you should go for if you plan is to make the switch to electric cars in the next ten years.
The Maserati Ghibli hybrid is a good alternative to the tried-and-tested German luxury sedans on offer right now, and if you want to drive something a little bit different this should certainly be high up on your shopping list.
MAKE & MODEL: 2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid
ENGINE: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbopetrol with mild-hybrid technology
POWER: 243kW at 5750rpm
TORQUE: 450Nm at 4000rpm
0-100km/h: 5.7 secs
TOP SPEED: 255km/h
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic
DRIVE: Rear-wheel drive
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 7.5l/100km (claimed, combined cycle)
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 12.3l/100km (on test, combined cycle)
FUEL CAPACITY: 80 litres
SUPPORT: 3-year/unlimited distance Warranty and 5-year/100 000km Maintenance Plan
PRICE: from R1 642 000