A throaty idle and the four exhaust outlets are the least likely thing you’d expect to find on a hybrid.
This makes it clear that the Maserati Ghibli Hybrid is a hybrid in name, but the furthest thing from a Prius you will find on the road today.
It’s a car with a technology-packed engine and one of the latest driver engagement systems, so when we were offered an opportunity to review one we jumped at it.
The Maserati Ghibli Hybrid has just been introduced to South Africa, with the hybrid engine replacing the diesel engine in the range.
Hybrid cars come in many guises nowadays, most of which combine petrol or diesel engines with electric motors to supplement power.
The Ghibli Hybrid is the first in a range of models that Maserati has placed at the heart of its electric future, which – for now – embraces the electric technology to enhance its petrol engines and reduce emissions rather than go full EV.
With the hefty key in-hand and the empty cappuccino cup tossed in the bin, I took the newly-landed Maserati Ghibli Hybrid for a drive.
This is an executive saloon – larger than a C-Class but smaller than an S-class; competing in the upper end of the market.
The base price for the Hybrid is a not-entirely-insignificant R1.65 million, with the model tested – a Ghibli Hybrid GranSport – a couple of hundred thousand more due to the mostly cosmetic and technology options added.
The car is low and menacing, with its trident logo standing proud on the grill and c-pillars behind the rear doors unmistakably something from the premium Italian brand.
It also sets itself apart from what we have come to know as hybrid technology, which is a normal engine supplemented by an electric motor.
Maserati’s has taken a mild-hybrid approach, and the car itself is anything but mild.
Hybrid like you’ve never seen
Energy regenerated from the engine and under braking is stored in a high-capacity battery laid out back, which is then used to power up an electric supercharger – e-Booster in Maserati terms – which in-turn feeds power into a turbocharger and then the engine.
This setup gives it the low-down torque of a diesel, and the power and responsiveness of a turbo-petrol.
The result is a power figure of 246kW and a massive diesel-like torque figure of 450Nm from 1,500rpm.
Apart from the sizable power figure and 0-100km/h time of just 5.7 seconds, this BMW 5-Series-sized family sedan consumes only 8.5l/100kms if you opt to go lightly from the traffic lights and stick to the legal speed limits.
The GranSport version with 20-inch wheels, sports steering wheel, sports seats, and active shift paddles for the 8-speed automatic gearbox make the experience all the more thrilling.
Yet, it remained more comfortable and compliant in town traffic than anything with an AMG or M badge – and livened up and was every bit the sports car when the situation arose.
It’s an executive saloon and it remembers that fact, whereas sporty sedans can overcompensate to the extent they become unpleasant on South Africa’s bumpy roads.
In-car tech is what sets the high-end cars apart from their counterparts.
The Maserati Ghibli is one of the first cars available in South Africa to use the Android Automotive platform – which is not to be confused with smartphone compatibility.
This is a full-blown Android-based, customised operating system for the car, and it’s a pure joy to use.
Various car settings and infotainment systems have, for the most part, been user experience disasters.
The Android Automotive operating system has brought a semblance of logic and decent design to features like the car setup, help menus, comfort, and convenience safety features.
And, it obviously comes with built in Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, so connectivity to my smartphone – via Bluetooth or cable – immediately brought up apps and notifications onto the 10.1 inch display.
Voice assistance is as you have come to expect from the Google assistant or Siri – and wireless charging is an option in a neat little cubby.
Maserati is one of the first manufacturers to benefit from using the Android Automotive platform and has been investing heavily in developing this platform for use across the rest of the Stellantis Group brands.
The Ghibli presents two challenges to the everyday man: namely the fact that it bears the hybrid moniker when its competitors have M and AMG badges, and secondly the fact that it’s a 2-litre four-cylinder.
But to be judged on those factors is unfair.
Under the skin is a car that punches well within its league, with a pedigree that is unmatched by its German rivals.
It turns heads, regardless of its badging, and is a far greater discussion point than the weather.
And in this car-buying segment, its exclusivity that its drivers want and are prepared to pay for.