Maserati is poised to reveal its new BMW M5-rivalling saloon, which will play a big part in helping increase sales eight-fold to 50,000 units by 2015.
The new saloon, pictured in heavily camouflaged prototype form, has already been named Ghibli. It's pencilled in for a reveal at the Shanghai motor show in April before going on sale at the end of the year, although a September reveal at the Frankfurt show has also been mooted should there be any late snags in development.
The Ghibli will join the new Quattroporte and existing GranTurismo and GranCabrio models in Maserati’s line-up, which will swell further next year with the introduction of the Levante SUV, its probable future best-seller, and crowned potentially in 2015 with a new lightweight, high-performance sports car based on the Alfa Romeo 4C.
Maserati hopes these launches will help reach its 50,000-unit sales target, up from the 6288 sold last year, allowing it to become a more significant player with a much broader portfolio in the luxury performance market.
The Ghibli is targeted directly at the likes of the M5, Porsche Panamera and Jaguar XFR. It will be offered with twin-turbo V6 and V8 petrol engines and Maserati’s first-ever diesel powerplant. The twin-turbo V6 oil-burner will give the company a rival to high-performance diesel versions of the 5 series, Panamera and Audi A6. Rear-wheel drive will be standard on the Ghibli, but all-wheel drive will be an option.
The car has been developed alongside the larger Quattroporte saloon, which was tested by Autocar. The pair were designed in-house at Maserati under the watch of highly-regarded design consultant Lorenzo Ramaciotti, who’s responsible for a string of acclaimed Ferraris, rather than being outsourced to an external styling house.
The Ghibli, codenamed M157, will be based on a shrunken version of the Quattroporte’s steel platform. It is expected to measure around 4900mm in length ― some 300mm shorter than the Quattroporte ― to put it on a par with the 5-series.
The two saloons will share components including the subframes and electrically adjustable suspension, but sources have revealed the Ghibli will be tuned to be a “much more aggressive car than the Quattroporte”.
One of the biggest reasons for the increase in length of the new Quattroporte over the 5052mm long old model was to increase the legroom for rear passengers. Despite being shorter, rear legroom in the Ghibli is expected to be on a par with the old Quattroporte due to the superior packaging of the new rear-drive platform.
From launch, the base engine is expected to be a version of the Ferrari-designed and built twin-turbocharged direct-injection 3.0-litre V6 found in the Quattroporte. In the larger saloon, the engine produces 416bhp and 407lb ft, but the peak power figure is likely to be capped at 385bhp in the Ghibli.
The other petrol engine choice will be a version of the 3.8-litre V8 found in the Quattroporte. The twin-turbocharged direct-injection V8 is closely related to the V6. It too is designed and manufactured by Ferrari and produces 523bhp and 479lb ft in the Quattroporte. It’s expected to be detuned to around 480bhp in the Ghibli.
The diesel engine’s identity is unknown, but it is expected to be a highly tuned version of the 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel unit already found in various Fiat Group products including the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Sources have indicated that the engine and exhaust note will undergo extensive sound tuning to mask the characteristic diesel clatter, with a synthesised sound likely to be played into the cabin, too.
All engines will be hooked-up as standard to a ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters, and will have the option of all-wheel drive. However, with Maserati confirming the larger Quattroporte will not be built with all-wheel drive for right-hand drive markets, it is likely that only rear-drive versions of the Ghibli will be offered for sale in the UK.