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Quick Drive: Maserati Ghibli Hybrid

Maserati introduced its first electrified vehicle in 2020, the Ghibli Hybrid. The company said its biggest challenge was to enter the world of electrification without altering the brand’s core philosophy and values, which resulted in a hybrid that retains its unmistakable sound; one that has always distinguished every Maserati.

The purpose of the Ghibli Hybrid is to enhance performances while saving fuel and has been summed up as “faster than diesel, greener than gasoline.” The idea is that hybrids will replace diesel cars.

Maserati South Africa invited me to drive the Ghibli Hybrid in Johannesburg to get a feel for their brand new model, which in essence is a new direction for the company. It just arrived in the Bryanston showroom, and I got to drive it around town for several hours. They invited me, handed me the keys, and basically said see you later.

If you follow my blog, you would know this is my first time interacting with the brand, and given their new and future electrified journey, it just made sense for me to get familiar with it. I’ve driven hybrids before and currently actively write about the EV scene in South Africa, so could not turn down the opportunity to get into this new hybrid.

Earlier this month, Nagesh Naidoo, dealer principal of Maserati Johannesburg said: “It is only fitting that the Ghibli Hybrid is the first new model from Maserati to be launched in South Africa. It combines petrol and electric power, which is significant for the future of our brand, and South Africa was host to the hybrid testing mules during their hot weather testing cycle.”

So the Ghibli Hybrid is no stranger to South Africa, as it was brought here for climate testing, like a lot of other big name vehicles that are spotted through its camouflage.

Under the hood

The technology in the Ghibli Hybrid works like most other hybrids and EVs by using kinectic energy while moving and converts it to electricity during braking or deceleration, then storing it in the battery. You can see this happening in real time on the instrument cluster.

Its powertrain brings together an internal combustion engine (4 cylinders, 2L turbo) with a 48 volt alternator and an additional electric supercharger (e-Booster), supported by a battery. Maserati SA tells me that this is a unique combination and is the first in a new generation of powertrains, essentially bringing together a turbocharger, supercharger and 48V alternator.

The battery is mounted at the rear, giving it an improved weight distribution, weighing 80kg less than the diesel. It has an output of 260kW (330hp), 450Nm of torque (from 1500rpm), has a top speed of 255km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds.

48V has four parts

A quick bit of (technical) info directly from Maserati about its 48-volt hybrid system that has four parts: BSG, battery, eBooster and a DC/DC converter.

The BSG (Belt Starter Generator) 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, via battery or BSG, whenever it is needed.

The BSG and eBooster combination is unique in the hybrid sedan segment and provides an extra boost when the engine reaches peak rpm in sport mode, at which point the performance benefits become really clear, while in normal mode it balances fuel use and performances.

Connectivity

The Ghibli Hybrid is a connected car that has a new 10.1″ infotainment system with new graphics and HD screen. This latest generation infotainment system, based on digital inputs from Android Automotive software delivers a UX that is customisable to personal preference (like a smartphone).

It has connected navigation, real-time info like traffic and weather, OTA map updates through embedded connectivity, and a WiFi hotspot feature. It says you can stream videos, calls, music and more. Maserati SA tells Wired to the Web that the car will come with a data package limited by time and not data, i.e. by number of months or years. They could not confirm with which network. The Ghibli Hybrid can be ordered with a WiFi Hotspot, which is available at an additional cost.

It also introduces Maserati Connect which offers driving stats, alerts and remote control features. These include diagnostics, vehicle-status monitoring, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration. The website says you can “interact remotely with the vehicle from your home via Maserati Connect skill for Alexa or Google Assistant action”.

Being so new and just in the country, Maserati SA also tells us that the app and smartphone integration is not yet approved for Africa, and will be switched on once this happens. However, it does support wireless smartphone charging, available as an extra, listed below.

Other safety features that is standard is emergency and roadside assistance, stolen vehicle locator, vehicle health reports, and service reminders. The standard stuff that comes with luxury vehicles.

There is also a new instrument panel with digital devices and new graphics is also introduced.

Ghibli Hybrid GranSport 

The model I drove was kitted out with the bells and whistles, all with luxurious interiors. The most telling sign that you’re driving a hybrid is its blue accents that appear on the signature air ducts, trident badge, brake calipers, and the stitching inside on the seats.

The extras added to it included sport seats, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, wireless charging for mobiles, traffic sign recognition, carbon fibre trims, Pieno Fiore leather trim (their finest), powered rear sun-blinds, Bowers & Wilkins sound (1280W, 15 speakers), CarPlay and Android Auto support, heated front seats, Alcantara headliner, vented front seats, and a driver assistance package (Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, etc). I was not given the total price of this particular model, but I’m told it was kitted with almost everything extra. It starts at a base level of R1 642 200.

I loved the luxury leather finishes on the inside, with carbon fibre and the blue stitching. The back seat was spacious and has cup holders and a storage compartment.

I connected my smartphone via cable before heading out and got onto Apple CarPlay immediately to use Google Maps for navigation. The infotainment system is simple to use and understand, though I preferred my own Google Maps to the car system. No fault of the car but on the way back we used the native navigation system and it took us through a route we were not comfortable with so switched to Google Maps again. We didn’t get to choose from multiple routes the way Google lets you.

I loved the drive and whatever sound I could hear on the car. We basically drove out in peak Joburg traffic, so bumper to bumper for a while leaving Bryanston. I drove about 110-120km; we went to Hartbeespoort side. As you can imagine, it was a lot of single lanes and trucks, nevertheless it was an enjoyable, leisure drive for a workday and taking gaps to ‘put foot’ here and there, lol. I do wish I had more time in the car. As I mentioned earlier, hybrids are meant to replace diesels so it does make it a slightly more efficient a drive (it is a mild hybrid). The company says fuel consumption is 20% less than its 350hp Ghibli petrol version.

Maserati customer extras

Maserati is no ordinary brand. Customers are treated to unique once-off experiences when they purchase a new vehicle. For example, I’m told the buyer of the last GranTurismo was treated to a special manned 50-foot yacht at the Waterfront in Cape Town. The customer could take 10 friends to celebrate ownership of that last vehicle.

Buyers of the Quattroporte also receive special treats. Until recently, owners and their plus one, with two friends were flown to CT for a weekend in Villa 196 in Clifton. It includes a chef at their disposal, a helicopter trip to a wine farm in Stellenbosch for lunch and a private tour.

I was also told of instances were buyers had a private opera hosted in their homes in pre-Covid days, including an Italian chef and specialised drinks.

All these extras are custom made for clients, depending on model and there is a special Maserati Concierge service available at their disposal.

Parting thoughts

Real talk: me getting the opportunity to drive a Maserati was more an introduction to the brand – folks who are buying these cars are not reading my blog. Being my first time behind the wheel of any Maserati, excitement levels where high.

I’ve driven other mild hybrids before; this type of vehicle is not new, but I’m happy this was centred around Maserati’s electrification plans. I understand that the electric version of the MC20 super sports car will arrive in SA at the end of this year.

I loved how modern the inside of Ghibli Hybrid was; the tech that went into it, from a tech journalist point of view. It was comfortable to drive and get my stuff linked up in no time to be hands-free. I am looking forward to Maserati’s future EV plans and hope to cover it in-depth.

I love sharing my experiences with cool products and the tech behind it. I’m grateful for this opportunity and hope you found it interesting.

Thanks for handing me the keys, Maserati SA.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pics shot by Saaleha Bamjee of Shootcake Photography.

PS, we may or may not have gotten carried away with the pictures:

Last one:

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