The R&T staff drives and performance tests hundreds of new cars every year. Because we don't have time to give each one the full review treatment, we share select logbook notes here, in a quick, easily-digested format. Unless noted otherwise, each test car is in the office for two weeks and is driven by every member of the editorial staff. Each staffer spends at least one day, but often more, in each car.
Sam Smith, Executive Editor
First impression/gut parking-lot reaction: interesting. Been a long time since I've been in a Maserati. Lot of Chrysler bits in this cabin. Too much here feels low-cost: The shift paddles rattle when you pull for a gear change; the console shifter is plasticky and doesn't always find the gear you want; the doors shut with a harsh, painful whack and a rattle. (Frameless glass, though. I love frameless glass. Feels special.) The noise the trunk lid makes on closing—it says $15,000 car, not $75,000 one. The starter button is ported in from what looks like the Chrysler 300. Little details like that let the car down. Can't imagine the cabin feel won't turn a lot of people off. Disappointing. Feels like a half-effort, though the leather and seats are nice. Shouldn't a first impression with a Maser be the best one?
Thoughts after a day's drive: good, but not great, hydraulic steering. Feels great if you've spent a lot of time in modern electrically-assisted setups; if you haven't, it's just kind of numb, if linear. Engine is great, sounds good around town, suitable amount of drama and fireworks on start-up. Feels far more exotic than the car, though it doesn't always make the right noises. Transmission is occasionally balky at low speed, and feels a few years older than it is in terms of smoothness and reaction time. Great brake feel.
Thoughts after a few days: This feels like a Maserati. Emotion a few questionable things. Not bad, and it definitely turns heads. Hard to picture people being happy in one of these long-term, though, after the new's worn off.
There are two exhaust outlets on each side of the bumper. One outlet in each pair is controlled by a vacuum-operated butterfly valve. I had the car for a weekend, and two days in, I started paying attention to when the valves open and close. They do so at odd times, and under varying loads, and seem to spend most of their time closed, even when you'd think they'd be open. Finally just laid down on the ground and pulled the vacuum lines leading to each valve. The car got properly, suitably, full-on-Italian loud. Cracks and snaps and that Chris-Craft gargle at idle. Cruise is a bit boomy below 2500 rpm, but screw it. This is what you're supposed to get when you buy a Maserati.
I forgot to rehook the vac lines when the fleet guy came to pick the car up. Oops.
Sounds great. Looks like a Maserati, which is no small thing. Rare, and likely to remain that way, even given the relatively low price.
Quality still gives you pause.
Josh Condon, Senior Editor
Our white version looks quite nice (though a bit less voluptuous than you'd expect from an Italian exotic) in the parking lot. Fire up the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, and the car sounds glorious, too. (Throw it in Sport mode and the crackling overrun adds yet another level of sonic erotica.) The steering is actually terrific, with loads of actual feedback, the trident logo turns heads and elicits shouts, and an extra pair of doors adds practicality.
But the Ghibli has its faults. Despite the various carbon-fiber bits and swaths of leather, the interior feels distinctly Chrysler—most noticeably in the UConnect infotainment system that, in our test car, took five tries to pair a phone and refused to hang up a call via the touchscreen button. The driver's seat is hard and not terribly comfortable. There's a noticeable amount of turbo lag, and between the center stack and gauge cluster, the whole thing feels under-designed and bare, not to say "clean."
Don't get me wrong, in some ways (steering feel, sound, mid-range thrust, badge) this feels like a very special car. But in coming down to do battle with the likes of the Audi A7, BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, and Mercedes CLS-Class, the Italians might be surprised at just how hard those cars are now punching above their weight.
Hydraulic steering gives loads of feedback. Automatically awarded triple the cachet of any of its German competition.
You don't want to feel the Chrysler (née Fiat) DNA in your Mazza, but you will.