We drove the Maserati Ghibli Hybrid: an electrifying thoroughbred…

When a “pur-sang” four door Gran Turismo car gets electrified to carry it into our “green” age, one has to do this cleverly. For Maserati engineers, the challenge was to retain the character, performance and panache of the brand. This meant retaining a sporting typical sound and presence of a combustion engine, “la macchina” so to say, in every driving situation. Typical for every Maserati built so far.  This also meant at least maintaining the present performance and handling levels, all this combined with of course a marked difference in consumption and CO2 emissions.

As the Ghibli marks the brand’s first entry into electrification, it was very important to get it right.

Well, after this test we can say, the about 100 engineers and developers involved in the Ghibli Hybrid project, did a marvelous job. Just read further.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Choosing the right engine…

From the beginning it was clear the efficiency of a smaller volume four cylinder engine was called for. Within FCA, a true gem was waiting in the Alfa Romeo stable: a two litre four cylinder petrol engine, with a state-of-the art cylinder head and excellent thermal efficiency. But for the Ghibli, more power was needed, as the present performance level had to be retained. This meant a maximum power of 330 HP.

The internal mechanical components of the two litre 4 cylinder Alfa engine derived from FCA have been completely reworked by the Maserati Innovation Lab in Modena, to achieve greater torque and enable the turbocharger and e-booster to deliver the required extra power. The engine’s electronic control system is also totally different, with a switch to a Bosch new-generation ECU. Practically, all that remains of the original engine are the dimensions and part of the cylinder head: this four cylinder has been transformed into a true Maserati engine. The engine is built by the way at the big powertrain & engine production plant at Termoli. This plant builds various engines and drivetrains for the brands of the (now merged) FCA group.

…and coupling it to the ideal hybrid drivetrain.

Keeping the weight down to achieve equal or even better performance, whilst retaining an ideal weight distribution to preserve the excellent handling, excluded a solution using a large battery and a separate electric motor.  

Preserving the kinetic energy of this dynamic Maserati was the key focus. We point out here that the Ghibli Hybrid is built around a modified version of the chassis and bodywork of the Ghibli V6.

So Maserati opted for a 48 volt hybrid system, which has four parts: the BSG (Belt Starter Generator), the battery, eBooster and a DC/DC converter. The BSG does the job of an alternator, recovers energy during braking/deceleration and charges the battery in the boot, which in turn powers the engine’s eBooster. The reason for installing an eBooster on the car is to back up the conventional turbocharger, working in tandem with it, to sustain the engine’s power output at low rpm. The hybrid system’s operating strategy ensures that the eBooster is always available, with current delivered via battery or BSG, whenever it is needed.

The result is an immensely tractable power unit, with torque delivery equal to the previous V6 Diesel, and guaranteeing brilliant acceleration performance. What to say of an acceleration from 0 to 100 km in merely 5,7 seconds, with the Ghibli Hybrid hurting smoothly further to a top speed of 255 km/h?

Smooth 8 speed transmission…

And of course, all this performance is delivered smoothly and effortlessly. Not least thanks to the excellent ZF transmission. Like the other Ghibli versions, the Hybrid is equipped with the same eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, which is used on the Quattroporte and Levante models. This unit is a true gem. It caters for all demands, from comfort to fast gear shifting, and from minimized fuel consumption to low noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). The car also recognizes a variety of conditions, such as uphill or downhill driving, hard braking or driving through a corner, and selects the optimal gear and the most suitable gearshift style accordingly.

In Manual Normal mode the system automatically shifts up as the red line approaches, while in Manual Sport, gearshifts are quicker and sharper and the engine can be pushed to the red line without the system intervening.

The true Maserati sound retained…

Here the Maserati engineers performed some miraculous work. Even on small throttle openings at urban crawling speeds, the unit has the hum of a multicylinder thoroughbred. Indeed, this Ghibli Hybrid still has the distinctive growl of every Trident model, and all this is achieved without resorting to amplifiers, by just tweaking the fluid dynamics of the exhausts and adopting resonators, tuned to deliver the typical roar.

Driving is believing…

Indeed, driving this Ghibli Hybrid is an exquisite experience. Ultrasmooth at slow speeds, reacting with thoroughbred staccato when you put your foot down. This Hybrid has retained the agility and responsiveness of a true Maserati. As it recuperates kinetic energy, an anticipative (urban) driving style will greatly reward you with good economy. It was no trouble to stay well below the 10 litre/100 km mark in dense city traffic, cruising at constant legal speeds on the open road will get consumption down to around 8 litres/100 km. The high gearing and the thermal efficiency of the engine see to that, along with the good aerodynamic qualities of the body of course. Typically at 120 km/h, the engine turns over at 1500 rpm. By the way, the manufacturer quotes for the WLTP combined cycle (l/100 km) 8.1 – 9.4, for the WLTP combined cycle (g/km) 183 – 213.

But using the exhilarating performance is an undisturbed pleasure. Our test car was executed in the GranSport trim. (The Ghibli Hybrid is available in both GranLusso and GranSport trims) and this meant that our car came standard with the Skyhook suspension system, where all four dampers can be electronically controlled independently of each other.

The default mode of the Skyhook suspension system prioritizes comfort, and is more sporty if the driver presses the suspension button. This extra damping stiffness, which was developed in both extreme test scenarios and on the racetrack, pushes the Ghibli’s handling characteristics to even higher levels. Essentially, the Skyhook system drastically reduces both longitudinal and lateral load transfers and minimizes body roll to bring out the sportiest side of the car’s character. The computer system in control of the Skyhook dampers monitors a vast array of parameters, including speed, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, individual wheel movements, body movement and damper dynamics. Adjusting to suit the suspension mode selected by the driver, the system delivers the perfect damping mode for each wheel almost instantly. We can tell you, it has to be experienced to be believed…

The well-balanced handling of this Ghibli is of course mainly due to its weight distribution and the general layout of its suspension. The battery in the back actually improves the weight distribution, whilst the double-wishbone suspension layouts are a race-bred tradition at Maserati. The Ghibli continues with this heritage but also incorporates some new technologies, featuring high-mounted all-aluminium double wishbones at the front to guarantee light and precise handling characteristics. The system’s geometry has delivered a quadrilateral architecture, which has enabled Maserati’s handling team to deliver a precise, communicative and comfortable steering feel.

The rear suspension employs a five-bar multi-link system with four aluminium suspension arms, and ensures exceptional ride comfort on the one hand and sports performance on the other. The Ghibli’s suspension package is based around a fixed-rate damping system to control the movement of its steel springs and anti-roll bars.

Superb stopping power…

Dual Cast technology, pioneered by Maserati, combines the strength of cast iron with the lightness of aluminium to reduce unsprung mass and, therefore, increase handling prowess. These brakes have a large swept area, highly efficient cooling and are designed for consistent performance in sports driving situations.

The Ghibli Hybrid is fitted with Dual Cast 360×32 mm ventilated and cross-drilled brake discs with six-piston fixed alloy Brembo calipers on the front axle, while the rear axle is fitted with four-piston fixed alloy 345×28 mm Brembo calipers.

Electrifying elegance and comfort, both inside and out…

The hybrid version of Ghibli features a number of details in dark blue, the colour universally adopted as the symbol of clean mobility. The three traditional air ducts on the front mudguard have a blue trim, and the Brembo brake calipers and the thunderbolt in the pillar logo are in the same colour.

Ghibli Hybrid makes its debut with a new front grille, characterized by a distinctive feature: the Maserati tuning fork. In fact, the updated front grille is based on this shape, and is finished in chrome in the GranLusso trim and in an even more aggressive, sportier Black Piano in the GranSport trim. Like the other cars in the Trident Brand’s range, Ghibli also transforms its rear look, with the development of a new light cluster with a style known as boomerang design, inspired by many Maserati models from history and typical of the Brand’s genetic identity

In the interior, the Maserati panache prevails more than ever. The sculpted sport seats are upholstered with a premium full-grain “Pieno Fiore” natural leather, with contrasting dark blue stitching and an embroidered Trident on the headrests. The same styling is repeated on the door panels and instrument cluster.

The driver’s seat offers 6-way electric adjustment, while the GranLusso and GranSport trims both have standard 12-way power front seats. Needless to say, an ideal seating position is soon found…

The sport steering wheel fitted with aluminium gearshift paddles, and the Inox sport pedals are also typical for the GranSport trim.

Infotainment and connectivity up to scratch…

The Ghibli Hybrid is complete with all the technology upgrades featured on MY21 models, and thus also the new generation MIA (Maserati Intelligent Assistant) multimedia system. The heart of the MIA is the powerful Android Automotive operating system, with full personalization to the driver’s use preferences. The HD screen of the MIA system is enlarged from 8”4 with a ratio of 4:3 to 10”1 with a ratio of 16:10 and is now frameless for a more contemporary look, with the surrounding bezel almost removed.

With effect from MY21 all Maserati cars are connected thanks to the new Maserati Connect program. Having the Maserati connected at all times enables an eye to be kept on the car’s health, and Maserati Connect will alert the driver when a service is due. With a Smartphone or Smartwatch, drivers can always stay in contact with their Maserati thanks to the Maserati Connect app; this is also possible from home via their virtual personal assistant (Amazon Alexa & Google Assist).

Last but not least we enjoyed the stunning Bowers & Wilkins Premium Surround Sound System, with 15 speakers, a 1,280 W amplifier and QuantumLogic™ Surround.

Driving aids galore…

The Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) function is incorporated in the Maserati Stability Program control for enhanced active safety and driving dynamics, while the optional active Advanced Driver Assistance Systems provide Level 2 autonomous driving technology.

IVC uses a smart, feed-forward controller that predicts driving situations in advance and adapts the engine speed and brakes accordingly. IVC intervenes more smoothly and with less noise than a traditional ESP, ensures better car balance and traction at the limits of the car’s dynamics and employs intelligent torque vectoring to optimize lateral dynamics in a natural way even when MSP is off. In dynamic test maneuvers, like slalom and lane change, IVC has demonstrated higher drive-through speed and improved racetrack lap times. Wow!

Conclusion

The step towards electrification of its range has been done very harmoniously with this Ghibli Hybrid. Whilst completely retaining the original undistilled thoroughbred character of the Trident brand, it succeeded in putting very reasonable economy in place, in combination of course with a corresponding anticipative (urban) driving style, in line with modern times.

All this packed in a timelessly styled, elegant body which exudes elegance and style for the coming decades, this Ghibli Hybrid is a perfect companion, and is also an ambassador for how you understand motoring and individual mobility, for years to come…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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