I recently drove a 2015 Maserati Ghibli S Q4, which is a "luxury" sedan made by "Maserati." We’ll get to my use of quotes in a minute. For now, let me give you my bottom line on this automobile: the 2015 Maserati Ghibli S Q4 is a tremendously nice $58,000 car. Unfortunately, it cost $80,000.
Before I reveal the long list of reasons why I say this, allow me to explain where I got a Maserati Ghibli. I rented it in Nashville using a service called Turo, which is like Airbnb for cars: It’s a company that lets you rent other peoples’ interesting cars, rather than normal, boring rental cars. Turo gives me a budget to rent cars, and I decided it would be the perfect way to experience the Ghibli — since, after a few days, you get to give it back.
We’ll start with my opinions on the car’s level of luxury. If you’ve ever driven a Dodge Dart, you’ll be intimately familiar with the Ghibli, largely because they share a lot of interior components. Specifically, they use the same window switches, door lock switches, mirror switches, turn signal stalk, starter button and infotainment system with laughably poor backup camera resolution. This is an $80,000 luxury car that shares a large portion of its interior — especially the bits you touch — with a $19,000 compact sedan.
So why is this so bad? After all: If these things work, who cares if they’re shared with a cheap car?
Well, they don’t always work: The Dart’s turn signal stalk isn’t long enough to fit past the Ghibli’s shift paddles, so you end up annoyingly reaching your finger around the paddle to operate it. And the universal Chrysler starter button is too big to fit on the right of the Ghibli’s steering wheel, in its normal place, so Maserati put it on the left, which is unintuitive. Plus … if you’re spending eighty thousand dollars on an automobile, wouldn’t you prefer to have slightly nicer interior buttons than any ol’ car you can buy at your local Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealer?
Admittedly, the Ghibli’s interior has some major differences from the Dart’s, like the trim and upholstery. Unfortunately, these differences aren’t all good: The gap between the Ghibli’s door panel and its B-pillar is the largest I’ve seen in any car in my entire life. If you look into it, you can see the exterior paint. I was able to stick a tube of toothpaste into this panel gap. This is not an exaggeration.
But the luxury problems in the 2015 Ghibli go well beyond its interior materials — something that’s immediately evident in a comparison to, for example, the 2015 BMW 550i. The 550i offers lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, automatic forward collision braking, a blind spot monitor, a 360-degree camera system and night vision. You know what cutting-edge safety features the Ghibli has? A backup camera. And that’s it.
Admittedly, Maserati added a few — but not all — of the 550i’s high-tech safety equipment for the 2016 model year, three years after the Ghibli first went on sale. But … isn’t that kind of the point? These safety technologies weren’t some great secret known only to cloaked engineers working deep within the confines of the BMW development department. When the Ghibli went on sale, virtually every one of its rivals offered virtually every one of these features — but Maserati skipped them all, figuring they’d do fine with a backup camera and their Italian car performance.
So let’s discuss that "Italian car performance" for a second. The Ghibli S Q4 uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 404 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, which is nice and muscular. Except, there’s one problem: The aforementioned BMW 550i used a 4.4-liter V8 that made 445 horsepower and 480 lb-ft — a huge advantage over the Maserati. Actually, there are two problems: While the Ghibli started just under $80,000, the 550i’s base price was around $65,000. Add in all the safety features I mentioned and the 550i is still around $10,000 cheaper than the Maserati.
So the BMW is ten grand cheaper than the Ghibli … and it’s also faster, better equipped, more powerful and more technologically advanced. You can see where this is going.
Indeed, the 2015 Ghibli provided a truly terrible value for the money — with a pseudo-luxury interior, mediocre build quality, average engine power and acceleration, and a laughable lack of technology features. The latest model, which was updated for 2016, solves some of these problems, but it’s still down on its BMW and Mercedes-Benz rivals for power, performance and build quality. It’s also more expensive: The Ghibli S Q4 now starts at $81,000 — and it requires $5,400 in options just to get a blind spot monitor, parking sensors, a 360-degree camera and adaptive cruise control.
Admittedly, the Ghibli had a few benefits. One is its driving feel: Although acceleration is merely average compared to rivals, its handling is surprisingly athletic on twisty roads. The other is more obvious: its name. Even as I cursed the infotainment system because it wouldn’t play music from my phone, and even as I laughed at the Dodge Dart wiper controls, people kept coming up to me and saying: "Nice Maserati!" "Cool Maserati, man!" "Whoa, you got a Maserati!"
To some people, that alone is worth $80,000. As for me, I’d rather save ten grand — and get some nicer window switches. Find a 2015 Maserati Ghibli for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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