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2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4: First drive

2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4: First drive2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4: First drive

We were recently reminded of how Chrysler has changed since the economy imploded and it found new ownership through its international savior, Fiat. Company officials visited our track with a rather eclectic collection of new and improved models, including the Jeep Cherokee, Ram 2500, and Maserati Ghibili. The latter, a new sports sedan, reminds us of the breadth of the Fiat portfolio. More significantly, this car looks to dramatically expand the reach of the exotic Italian nameplate. And it will.

Our staff was immediately taken by the concept of Maserati styling and performance at a price expected to rival a well-dressed German luxury sedan. Company officials tell us that they’re aiming to sell 10,000 Ghiblis in the United States—a fairly heady number for such a low-volume manufacturer.

Sales forecasts aside, driving this car is a real treat. Our sample model was an all-wheel-drive Ghibli SQ 4, powered by a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 404 hp working through an eight-speed automatic gear box. Firing up the engine brought a wicked smile to my face every time. The quad pipes exiting below the rear bumper sing such a sweet Italian concerto under hard acceleration that you’ll sprain a finger rushing to turn off the radio so you can better hear the engine's song. The mechanical music stems from a pedigreed engine built at the Ferrari plant in Maranello, Italy—also owned by Fiat. Man, can they do engines!

Hitting the "Sport" button near the shifter amps things up even more. It adjusts the electronics to usher in quicker shifts, adds a bit more heft to the already meaty steering and spurs more bark from the exhaust’s bite.

Weighing more than 4,000-lbs., the Ghibli isn’t a light-on-its-feet dancer around our track. Handling felt confident and responsive, though it doesn’t match the best in the class. But it certainly earns membership in the sports sedan club. While the ride is compliant enough in standard mode, the aforementioned Sport setting produces a firm and busy highway romp.

Inside, the cabin is snug—even considering the company’s insistence that the Ghibli is designed to compete with the Audi A7, Mercedes-Benz CLS, and Porsche Panamera. The rear seat is especially tight. We’d say it’s closer to a Jaguar XF in scale. The car’s materials all seem first-rate, with lots of soft-touch padding, thick carpeting, and fancy Alcantara roof lining.

Some of us found it off-putting that there were several visible components from the Chrysler parts bin, but the Uconnect touch screen (which we like a lot) was not one of the culprits. This money-saving strategy is used many high-end manufacturers. For example, Audi/VW parts are found in Lamborghinis and Bentleys; Corvettes have switchgear from cheaper GM products. In fact, the first new-car story I ever wrote reviewed the Alfa Romeo 164, which had a Chrysler radio. (Apparently, Chrysler loves those Italians.)

The Ghibli will also be sold with rear-wheel drive. Prices have not yet been announced, but we were told that the high-optioned car we drove would retail at about $75,000, indicating that the base model would be a bit less.

Few cars have stirred my soul as much as this Italian beauty. From the body’s flowing lines to the legendary trident symbol on the front grille, this car makes anyone feel like a rock star.

There is a compelling argument to be made that if we can test the $91,000 Audi A8, $81,000 Jaguar XJ, $105,000 Panamera, and $89,000 Tesla Model S, we should buy a Ghibli S Q4 for an extensive evaluation. At least I’ll be making that argument.

Mike Quincy

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