A 2500mile, pan-European road test in my Ghibli S

Redlake27

New Member
Messages
5
#1
Despite the fact that Easyjet or Ryanair can take you anywhere in Europe for the price of a half a Ghibli tankful, I believe the flyer misses out on the journey….which is often as interesting as the destination. Or in the case of a great roadtrip, many destinations.

In the last ten years, our faithful and well-used Cayman has explored Europe far and wide. From the Czech Republic to Andorra. From Tuscany to Scotland. The little Porsche passed the long-haul test as well as she earned her stripes on a trackday. That’s why she is one of the few non-Italian cars I love.

Yes, Italian cars. I’ve had 20ish Alfas and Fiats in last 25 years. No therapist can help me, and when my seemingly certain decision to go for a semi-sensible new Alfa Giulia ended up with me acquiring a 3 year old Ghibli S last month (I tend to go on AutoTrader after a glass of wine) there was only one way to welcome it into my world. A roadtrip from England to Croatia.

Test One: Birmingham to Spa-Francorchamps. The motorway mile muncher.

7 hours of gentle motorway driving. Cruise control set at the legal limit. Roadtrips aren’t always romantic. The dullness of England’s M1, M25 and M2 followed by the E40 through Belgium. But it gave me seven hours to settle into the Ghibli and formulate some first impressions.

It’s a lovely place to be. Purring along at under 2000 revs, I noticed the (standard, not Skyhook) suspension is well damped. The seats are well padded and supportive. My initial fears about the ride quality on 20 inch wheels were partially allayed. It was supple and compliant.

Early evening, the flat Flanders give way to the lush Ardennes hills. A lap of Spa isn’t on the agenda, but I spend a sunny Autumn afternoon at the European Le Mans Series watching Ferraris and Aston Martins do battle while the Ghibli takes a rest.

Another pleasant surprise: On this leg, we averaged 37mpg. Impressive for a hefty, powerful, petrol car. I make a promise not to be so sensible for the rest of the trip.

Test Two: Spa to Salzburg. The Autobahn.

171mph. (Or 275kmh in German). That’s the headline number, achieved twice somewhere between Kaiserslautern and Stuttgart. The Twin Turbo V6 was deeply impressive . Sitting at 130mph , the surge past 160mph felt relentless, accompanied by a very menacing growl. I’m beginning to love the Ghibli, despite watching the fuel range drop as quickly as the speed built. At high speed the car remained stable and the brakes were effective when a Dutchman didn’t check his mirrors.

It’s fun to do this, but the reality is that German Autobahns are as busy and contraflow ridden as British roads, so it's easier to just accept that a steady 80mph is the norm. Note for the snagging list: the impressive refinement continues up to 100mph, but at high speeds there’s a bit of wind noise from the passenger side.

As I ponder the future of motoring, I reckon that the move to electric cars and the need to maximise range will mean that traffic speeds will be set at lower limits. Enjoy the autobahn freedom before it is banned. Into Austria, and the joys of low tax petrol and mountains await.

Test Three: Mountains.

The Grossglockner pass is stunning. A hefty toll means it is mainly used a pleasure drive, not a commuting route which makes for an interesting mix of petrolheads heading for the summit. Caterhams and a gaggle of BMW GS bikers were among the roadtrippers.. The initial southbound sprint was a series of hairpins where sport and manual mode helped the Ghibli squirt past more breathless climbers – who definitely could hear it coming. The sonorous bellow echoed off the cliff sides. Stereo off. Windows down. Let’s make our own music.

I’m not a huge fan of hairpins on passes. On the return trip, I tackled the Swiss Gotthard, Furka and Grimsel passes. It’s slow going and once the novelty of hairpins has faded, it’s best to enjoy the view and save the handling test for the more flowing corners. Mountains aren’t the place for me to experiment with the Stability Control button.
A great thing about the Grossglockner is that you stay high for a while. There is lovely flowing section with long fast corners. Here, the Ghibli is composed and stable. However, despite being 1000 miles in to the journey, we’ve still not fully gelled in the bendy bits. Maybe it is the variable ratio steering, maybe it is the effectiveness of the ESC making it difficult to feel the transition between my throttle inputs and the car’s correction, but I’m not feeling like I have the Ghibli fully hooked up and on a tight rein yet. Downhill, the brakes remain impressive. Until the tenth hairpin, where the pedal begins to feel soft after the challenge of stopping two tonnes of portly passengers (and car).

Test Four: To the coast.

Slovenia. The only European country with Love in it, and my new favourite country. Italianate influences, gorgeous scenery around Bled and the Julien Alps and a young and vibrant feel around the capital Ljubljana. It’s had some EU investment too. Good roads abound. Towards the destination, Croatia doesn’t have the same road quality. There, I’d spec 18 inch wheels.

But it’s on Slovenia’s undulating roads towards the lovely Piran/Portoroz coast, that I begin to click with the car again and form my conclusions.

The Ghibli is in its element here. Lower level, flowing roads give me more confidence than on the mountain passes. Building the power progressively through the long bends, the Maserati and I gel. Yes, it may have 410HP , but I decide it is best to be treated as a Grand Tourer, not a Sports Saloon. Adjusting the expectations makes me understand the car better. If I was benchmarking this against an XF-R or M5, it wouldn’t win the ‘involving drive’ test. Pitch it against an XF-S or 550i, and it competes well, with huge doses of added charm that its rivals lack.

I’m glad I chose the used Ghibli over (the highly competent) new Giulia Veloce. I’m even more pleased I chose it over flying for this trip. We’ve got a few more miles ahead of us , but I think we’ll enjoy the journey.
 
Messages
3,217
#3
Sounds like a fun drive down.

I found it took pretty much the full first trip, 2600 miles, to get totally at ease with the size of the Ghibli and being able to push it into corners etc.. The trip this year I just threw it at things knowing what to expect. I didn't find the issue with the brakes, maybe too much use of the paddles and engine braking and only last minute all-or-nothing braking from me :)

The sound is fantastic in passes, we didn't have the stereo at all after leaving the shores of Blighty, the car provides its own soundtrack.

Thanks. I can't wait for the next instalment.
 

keith

Junior Member
Messages
258
#12
I kid you not.. The girl in a Subway restaurant in rural America, upon hearing I was from Englandshire, asked if I knew a friend of hers who lived in Belgium!
 

P R

Junior Member
Messages
577
#14
Nice write up. I have driven down to the family place in central / southern Italy loads of times in my Fiat and Alfas. Havent yet managed a trip in the Maser due to circumstances... so hopefully next year will be able to.
Perfect choice of music there ;)
 
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3,217
#17
Great picture! Are you aware that your letter 'S' badge is missing from the boot lid. I always thought the Ghibli S had that badge on the back, like the cars in the U.S.
Nope. There is nothing on the S before the MY2017 models. Prior to that I know that the USA cars had SQ4 on the 4WD ones, not sure about elsewhere, but that might no have been from the start. There is an S now I think, but it may be optional.

Its a lovely colour blue. I like those wheels as well, they look like mine :D
 

keith

Junior Member
Messages
258
#18
I agree with you on the colour!!
It's great for me with the lowly Diesel that Maserati chose not to differentiate between the models.
 
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3,217
#19
I agree with you on the colour!!
It's great for me with the lowly Diesel that Maserati chose not to differentiate between the models.
I think that's why they did it. So that you cheap devils fuel guys can pretend you've not got a tractor engine in there ;)

I'm still waiting for the V8TT, then I would want a badge, or two :D
 

keith

Junior Member
Messages
258
#20
Your exactly right!! The very first thing that the salesman at Marenello showed me that it looks the same as the petrol, and then when he demonstrated the artificial sound from the exhaust in Sport mode I was sold!!
In fact in over two years no passers by who have commented on my car have ever thought it ran on the devils fuel. Even when I have revved the engine, one young guy wanted to video the sound (obviously I had it in Sport) thinking it was a V8 petrol!!