IT’S the car for those looking for an executive sedan that’s different to what everyone else might put in the driveway. The 2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid is the marque’s first hybrid sedan, and in this case, it’s a limited edition and all.
We are testing is the Fenice Limited Edition, one of only 50 in the world, and equipped with Pieno Fiore leather, which Maserati themselves describe as natural, soft and with a unique character.
While we cannot attest to the character development of the leather, we can tell you that it smells as good as it looks and it is one of the most comfortable grades of leather we have had the pleasure of experiencing.
The 2021 Maserati Ghibili Hybrid pairs a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine with a 48-volt hybrid system to produce 246kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
Maserati claim it can get you from a standstill to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds. All sounds rather sensible so far. Being a hybrid should present itself as a unique and economical choice as well.
The design of the Ghibli remains full of heart and theatre. The front end is a mix of sharp lines, angry looking headlights and a trident logo front and centre, which caps off an overall aggressive stance that will grab other road user’s attention.
The side profile is a perfect mix of flowing body lines, intricate details, and pure class to hide what is essentially just shy of 5.0-metres worth of body work. The rear feels a bit plain in comparison, however it does have extremely well executed taillights.
There are quad exhausts to let those behind you enjoy the view too. 20-inch wheels house 4-pot anodised blue Brembo brake callipers with 345mm rotors up front, and single-pot callipers with 330mm rotors at the back, completing the Ghibli’s aesthetic.
Dropping into the driver’s seat is an event. The chair, upholstered in supple leather which could justifiably be called a throne, embraces you to such a point that you will never want to leave.
You can adjust the seat electronically to achieve your preferred positioning, as well as allowing you to dial in as much lumbar support as you would like, including where you would like it. Heating and ventilation are available as well.
The interior surfaces, switch gear, and displays genuinely make you feel as though you have arrived somewhere important. Everywhere you look there is a high-end material or finish.
The doors and centre console are a sumptuous combination of leather and high gloss carbon fibre, even the driving instruments look as though they are made from high grade metals.
The display between the speedometer and tachometer is crisp and easy to read, with a high resolution and fast response time when scrolling through its many options.
In the centre of the dash, you have a beautiful 10.1-inch display which also has a high resolution and crispness to it. Scrolling through menus is responsive and becomes quite intuitive after a few hours of use, though it quickly becomes a magnet for fingerprints.
Sitting above is an analogue clock covered in its own leather binnacle that makes this cabin feel just that bit classier. There is a twin rotary dial and button set in the centre console which you can also use to navigate through the centre screen.
This is where the Ghibli first shows that it is a bit ‘left of centre’. Traditionally you would expect to rotate the dial and then press down on it, or press a centre button within the dial, to confirm your selection.
In the Ghibli however, you rotate the dial and then reach forward to press one of two buttons that sit above the dial. It is something you eventually get used to though it does seem like an odd way to interact with the infotainment system.
Speaking of infotainment, the Ghibli is equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though it does not have wireless charging in this particular example.
Under the climate controls is a little hidden compartment with a pop-out shelf for you to place your phone and there is a USB port you can connect to if you require charging.
Storage options are adequate without being abundant. A centre bin with two cupholders and a 12v socket sits under your armrest, and there’s a cubby next to the gear stick that houses two cupholders and a cigarette lighter.
Each door has its own small bin, and you have a multi-section glovebox too. Boot space measures in at 500-litres and has a real depth to its shape. It is somewhat hampered by the narrow aperture though.
The ability to open it via the key-fob and internal button is a sophisticated touch and you can of course close it with a single button press. But it’s the sound system in the Ghibli that is a real highlight.
The 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system can honestly make you feel as though you are in a concert hall, rather than sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The clarity and crispness of the audio thumping into your ears is truly something to be experienced.
Turning the volume up to eleven on your favourite tracks will not faze the speakers in the slightest either. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the sound of the engine. The Ghibli Hybrid sounds more like a Golf GTI than the raucous engines we’re used to.
It’s certainly not a bad engine note per se, but it’s not one that anyone will be inspired by, as you’re never rewarded aurally for letting the Ghibli loose and exploring its entire rev range.
If the idea of a loud, look at me, V8 engine does not appeal to you then this will come as good news as it allows you to drive along under the radar, or at least as under the radar as you can be in a bright red Maserati.
While the engine sound may be a disappointment, the performance certainly is not. Around town the Ghibli feels spritely and light on its feet, even though it weighs in at 1,950kg.
Gear changes are smooth and seamless, which allows the Ghibli to move around slower roads effortlessly. Out on the open road it eats mile after mile and never feels stressed.
The combination of the electronic supercharger with the two-litre turbocharged engine does a great job of making you feel as though you are driving a larger capacity car.
You can execute swift overtakes with ease, as putting your foot down sees the Ghibli kick down a couple of gears and put on speed at a decent rate. You can take control of the gearbox should you prefer, thanks to beautifully crafted, metal, column mounted paddles.
Each actuation feels satisfying as the paddles have a positive heft to them, meaning you do not feel as though you are just clicking a button. Being made of metal, the paddles are another element of the Ghibli that has a high class feel.
Putting the Ghibli in to Sport mode will see the gearbox arm itself ready for action and hold gears for longer, as well as holding them when going through corners at pace. The exhaust is also opened up for a sportier feel.
It doesn’t add much to the driving experience. Throttle response and steering assistance is sharpened up, however we didn’t notice any discernible difference in how the car felt on turn in and when getting on the throttle between Normal and Sport driving modes.
Considering the positioning of the Ghibli Hybrid, and its target audience, the suspension comes across as one or two clicks too firm in our opinion. At no stage did the Ghibli feel un-composed, however it also never felt plush.
You are aware of the imperfections in the road, especially when driving around Sydney streets, rather than having them ironed out for you. We suspect this has a fair amount to do with the 20-inch wheel and low-profile tyre combination that Maserati has gone for.
Safety is paramount too, with all the usual features accounted for, including lane departure assist, blind spot monitoring, radar cruise control, and a 360-degree camera among a host of driver focused technology.
This means you feel safe and looked after while you’re driving around, whether it is out on the highway or in a tight suburban carpark. One caveat to the road manners of the Ghibli is that we were surprised with how much road noise made its way into the cabin.
We expected that it would be much quieter than it was, especially given it has double glazing on the windows. We noticed that you could easily hear other cars, birds and wind noise, however, the stereo easily combats this, and it becomes a non-issue.
Despite the firmer ride and the higher than we had expected road noise, the Ghibli Hybrid is an exceptionally comfortable car to drive. It is a grand tourer through and through and the driver and front passenger are supremely well taken care of.
Rear occupants are not so lucky. Leg room is at a minimum. Children should be fine, though any adults will definitely want to fight for the front seat. This is a car that is clearly set up for the driver, rather than their passengers.
The blue elephant in the room is economy. We say blue because that’s the colour Maserati has designated to hybrid models. You’d be forgiven for assuming it would yield a much more economical driving experience over a naturally aspirated or turbo-charged option.
Our real-world testing showed a combined fuel economy of 11.5-litres/100km during our week of mixed driving. That’s much higher than other hybrid counterparts. It’s this and other factors that make the 2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid a difficult car to pin down.
It excels in some areas and then slightly misses the mark in others. It has a bold, loud aesthetic with a quiet voice, a hybrid drivetrain that does not produce the economic benefits over a larger capacity motor, and some of the controls are odd to use.
Yet with all that in mind it remains a great choice for someone who wants a capable executive sedan, or grand tourer, that will stand out from the crowd, especially in this Fenice Limited Edition form.
If you use Excel and a calculator to choose the car you’re going to buy, then it’s probably not going to be top of the list in a spreadsheet war, but we are willing to bet it has a fair chance of winning your heart.
Our 2021 Maserati Ghibli Hybrid was provided by Maserati Australia. To find out more information, contact your local Maserati dealer.