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Drive Review: Gift of the (2019) Maserati Ghibli S

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This is an almost unprecedented take two with Maserati. Regular readers will recount our first engagement with the Levante S. Now, almost a year later, Maserati picked up the phone with the intention to shed some fresh light on their other models which have perhaps drifted in the Levante’s SUV-sized shadow. This day is all about the Ghibli S, the car which Maserati has secured itself in the market for the last eight years and the car which broadened, then shouldered Maserati’s image in both convertible and coupe bodystyles.

The latest 2019 Ghibli S sees a few subtle cosmetic changes as well as increased technology compatibility diffuse through the range. For us self-proclaimed champions of Maserati’s small media fleet, the Ghibli S reminds us a lot of what we learned from the Levante S. For instance the two share the same platform and the same 3.0-litre V6 twin turbo petrol which is assembled (depending who you talk to) by Ferrari. Separating them in that there’s no all-wheel drive or option of air suspension in the Ghibli.

First some light housekeeping. This Maserati on test rolls on the larger 22-inch wheels as well as the GranSport package. To the uninitiated this basically means additional carbon fibre plus other sporting cues that visually tighten, then sharpen the Italian’s presence. The Ghibli certainly inspired the looks of the Levante, and not the other way around which lends credence to how effortless its shape is, or how natural the proportions are. The contours are nice and pure versus than what you find on fussy German sportscars wrought into tight knots.

Slithering a Maserati into Sandton’s morning traffic is a tangle of excitement and nerves that mimics the one as you enter the dealership. A purchase of a Maserati (or any car of that ilk) is one that triggers slightly impulsive, slightly irrational receptors of the brain. One cultivated strongly by emotion. In the first few minutes I’ll add the reactions of others to that list. I drive slowly and drink it all in – this is no less a brand that Juan Manuel Fangio won one of his Formula One World Championships in. To be sat here ensconced in this sort of history is a reminder that other brands simply can’t buy their way into this pedigree.

Minus the attention, the beginning stages of the drive glide by in luxury. I’m aware of the generous comfort from the seats, then how the addition of android auto has made the touchscreen a more user-friendly media centre. There’s also a convenient suite of driver assists which have been born out of the Ghibli’s new electronically-assisted steering. But if you want to know why sport sedans, particularly the Ghibli S, are superior to SUVs, you need to first find the right roads. The Cradle of Mankind pops up on the navigation…

By thumbing the irresistible Sport button the flaps in the exhaust buzz open as the main conduit of irritable thunder, the dampers stiffen and the steering takes on less assistance in the transmission from the rubber to the fissures of your palm. The 3.0-litre engine which has been uprated to 330kW gets charismatic with Italian vividness, the gearbox punches each gear with measured aggression as the Ghibli tickles the hairs on the back of your neck like a hot desert wind, after which it derives its name. The 0-100kph in 4.9 seconds and top speed of 286kph. The ride however remains supple, letting the chassis float over bumps while the road flits effortlessly beneath it.

Between long abandoned stretches of road which etch themselves into my memory, I pause, whip the camera out, then stand back, and let the frantic emotions sink in the false hope that they’ll lead to some sense. But Maserati is not about following formulas, or indeed the crowd so the emotions swirl wildly once more. I’m left reassured that Maserati continue to build cars to drive and admire, to reignite the passion of the past as well as connect it with the future, they pride themselves on the handcrafted form and function, fully embodying the exclusivity of a Maserati. It’s a car that plays on your heart strings, and you better listen to your heart.

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