The new Maserati Ghibli, officially revealed today at the Shanghai motor show, will "appeal to buyers who want to be different" in the ultra-competitive premium saloon segment, according to Maserati chief executive Harald Wester.

The Ghibli is set to be one of the cornerstones of the Italian manufacturer’s target of selling 50,000 cars per year by 2015. The new model, which revives a nameplate last used by Maserati in 1997, is breaking new ground because it marks the first time the Modena-based brand has built a car for the E-segment, where the new four-door executive saloon will rival cars such as the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class.

Wester said the Italian manufacturer wanted to ensure its car would stand out against rivals such as the 5-series: "It is in a popular sector that is dominated by two or three brands – our buyers can do something different, and have all the qualities of Italian style and materials that have traditionally set Maserati apart."

The company boss dismissed the suggestion that dramatically ramping up sales would detract from the exclusive qualities of the Maserati name.  

"We are not devaluing the brand, because 50,000 sales is not a big number still," he said. "It is true that at our peak we sold 9000 cars in 2008 but our market place is now far larger – new markets are opening up, especially in Asia, Russia and South America."

Based on a shortened version of the platform that underpins the new Quattroporte, the Ghibli will be built alongside its sister model in the ex-Bertone plant in Grugliasco, near Turin. The two cars were designed alongside each other under the watch of Lorenzo Ramaciotti, the former head of design at Pininfarina who now has the same role within the Fiat Group, and Maserati’s own design chief, Marco Tencone.

The Ghibli is 4970mm long, slightly longer than its 5-series rival and 290mm shorter than the Quattroporte. The Ghibli will also be offered at a lower price point than any other Maserati on the market.

Three engine variants will be available in the UK. The entry-level model will be the first Maserati production car in history to be powered by a diesel engine, with a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel that produces 271bhp and 443lb ft. Official figures put the claimed 0-62mph time at 6.3sec.

This engine will give the company a rival to high-performance diesel versions of the 5-series and Audi A6 and the car is expected to cost below £50k. The diesel emits less than 160g/km of CO2 and has a claimed fuel economy of around 47mpg.

Maserati's petrol turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine will be offered in two states of tune. The range-topping car boasts 410bhp at 5500rpm and 406lb ft at 1750rpm. In rear-drive format, it will cover 0-62mph in 5.0sec and go on to a top speed of 177mph. The price for this version is expected to be in the low-£60k region.

The lower-powered petrol car will have 330bhp and 369lb ft and sit halfway between the others in terms of pricing. This variant will achieve fuel economy of 28.8mpg but still accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.6sec. A V8 petrol is expected to follow at a later date.

The engines were designed and developed by head of powertrain Paolo Martinelli, who was formerly powertrain guru for the Ferrari F1 team during the Michael Schumacher era.

Each will be mated to a ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters. Although rear- and all-wheel-drive variants will be built for left-hand-drive markets, the UK will only receive rear-drive cars due to the constraints of re-engineering the ‘Q4’ all-wheel drive system for right-hand drive, a similar situation as exists with the Quattroporte. The all-wheel-drive versions will be paired only with the more powerful petrol engine option.

The Ghibli gets double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear set-up. A standard mechanical limited slip differential will be used in all variants of the car.

Inside the Ghibli, leather will be standard across the range and will be supplied by Italian specialist Poltrona Frau, and a Bowers & Wilkins sound system will be offered as an option.

Deliveries of left-hand-drive cars will start in the summer, with right-hand-drive versions scheduled to reach their owners in October. After Shanghai, the Ghibli will go on a ‘world tour’, initially as a static exhibit. An appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed has also been mooted.

It is estimated that the Ghibli could eventually account for almost half of Maserati’s 50,000 sales target. In the UK, about 1000 sales per year are anticipated for 2014, the first full calendar year that the car will be on sale.

After the launch of the Ghibli, Maserati will turn its attentions to its next new model, the Levante SUV, which is due in the manufacturer’s centenary year, 2015. Wester ruled out Maserati building a more compact model to sit under the Ghibli, or any engine of a smaller capacity than a V6.

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