THINK MASERATI and a cacophany of seductive Italian cars spring to mind from the golden age of motoring.
The 3500GT, Quattroporte and my favourite, the Bora from the 1970s. Never mind that quattroporte means four-door, these are cars which inspire petrolheads the world over.
So, to find myself sitting in a Maserati saloon with a diesel engine is disconcerting. It’s a bit like finding Lotus building hatchbacks or Ferrari doing city cars. It just doesn’t feel right.
This is the 2016 Ghibli, named after a Libyan wind, apparently. The Ghibli is a famous Maserati name which has been tagged to sexy sporting models since 1966.
But Maserati isn’t just a name from the past: it’s a very up-to-date brand as this model illustrates.
This is a £48,000 sporting saloon which is well-equipped and dashingly-styled. Its rivals? Jaguar, Lexus, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz et al. But in truth perhaps only Jaguar and Mercedes have the lineage and style to challenge this Italian aristocrat.
Four-door saloon and diesel engine might sound dullishly boring but wait. You have to take into account the look of the car, the sound of the engine, the handling and the crisp ride before you pass judgment. In reality, the Ghibli has no real rivals.
This model costs £48,925 but the test version was kitted to the hilt with options. Some seem good value, others are more questionable.
Skyhook costs £2,045. This is an electronically variable active damping suspension system. Well, the car was well-balanced. Very much so.
The 20in alloy wheels cost £2,205. They look the part. The cold-weather pack (£1,100) comprises powered seats, powered sunshade and heated windscreen washer nozzles, while the convenience pack (£1,090) is the rear parking camera, Homelink computer system and powered bootlid. All good so far.
For me, the best bargain is the wood trim (£365). Lavish? Of course. Extravagant? Very. What else would you expect in a Maserati.
It means the test car costs £59,800, which is a lot of money for a four-door saloon, albeit a quick and stylish one. You could get a lot of Jaguar for that.
The forte for this model is, of course, the way it moves. The engine is so smooth and quiet that you won’t believe it’s a diesel. It rockets you to 60mph in 6.3 seconds of whoosh and the ride and handling is more akin to a supercar than a sports saloon. It feels bespoke rather than off-the-hanger.
Standard kit includes stability control, central locking, alloy wheels, climate control, CD system, satellite navigation and eight-speed automatic gearbox with manual mode. Leather, of course, is standard too.
One criticism: the satellite navigation is fiendishly fiddly.
It it good value? Well, £50,000-plus is a an awful lot of a money for a sports saloon, even a quick and well-polished one. Do I want one? Yes please.
Maserati Ghibli Diesel
PRICE: £59,800. Basic model is £48,925
ENGINE: A 2,987cc diesel engine generating 275bhp via automatic gearbox with manual mode
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155mph and 0 to 60mph in 6.3 seconds
COSTS: Town 36.7mpg; country 57.6mpg; combined 47.9mpg
WARRANTY: Three years’ unlimited mileage
BMW 3 Series: You could match the Ghibli’s performance and have change. The 3 Series is fantastic but dull compared to a Ghibli
Infiniti Q50: Even the most expensive Q50 is cheaper than Ghibli and it is a better, more sensible option. But it won’t seduce you like a Ghibli does.
Jaguar XF: Again, a good car and a lot cheaper than the Ghibli and just as good, but not as stylish or impressive. Not by a long way.