By Bill Saporito and Turner Cowles
May 8, 2015

You don’t have to explain to anyone what Maserati is. The brand is known worldwide, and it stands for Italian style and speed. But as Maserati’s North American boss Christian Gobber explains it, the brand is better known than the products, because only a select number of people, some 200,000 worldwide, actually own a Maserati.

The goal behind Maserati’s latest vehicle, the Ghibli, is to help expand ownership to as many as a million customers worldwide. Ghibli is Maserati’s entry-level vehicle — entry level in this case being north of $75,000. “It starts with design,” says Gobber. “It gets your attention. But it has a muscular yet elegant duality.”

It sure does. There is no mistaking this beauty for a mere luxury sedan. The front end practically preens.

Then you start the motor in sport mode, with its ferociously tuned exhaust, and you are speaking Italian. Because in the Q4 model, which we tested, you have 404 Ferrari-built horses — an entire palio— under your hood. You’ll race to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, and to 100 mph in a few ticks more. This is real power, delivered impeccably through the popular 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. And in our black-on-black model, you do this wrapped in a cockpit outfitted in exquisite, hand-stitched Italian leather and a plush chair. The car has a sound system that Verdi would envy.

Yes, you can get a comparably equipped Mercedes or Audi that can claim a smoother ride than the Ghibli, and a little bit better execution on the small things, which is certainly no small thing. For instance, the car is lacking in some safety features, such as blind spot warning lights and adaptive cruise control, that are standard on many Fords. I guess Maserati feels that a blind spot indicator isn’t necessary if nobody is going to pass you.

Next up for Maserati is an SUV, the Levante, due next year. That will further democratize the brand, as if that were even possible.

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