On a hot Thursday afternoon I find myself playing school taxi to the youngest members of the Naidu family. Within seconds of entering the parking lot, the air is filled with the excited shrieks of children. Fingers are pointed, mouths are agape. You simply could not elicit such a response with any of the Teutonic rivals Maserati’s Ghibli competes with. Never mind the fact that they are all more accomplished in virtually every respect. For charisma, presence and sheer theatre, the Italian with the trident-shaped jewellery has them beat.
I am approached by a small boy who asks if he can get in. He eagerly clambers into the supple peanut-butter coloured driver’s seat – and you just know the memory will be with him when he becomes a potential Maserati buyer in three decades. That puts it all into perspective. The malaise of the daily slog and growing older – tend to jade a person. But moments like these remind you about the crux of these machines that move us. They are supposed to stir up those childlike sensations of genuine awe and butterflies in the tummy.
And in that sense, the Maserati delivers amply. Let us begin the brief ode by acknowledging those looks. What a stunning thing it is, especially in this bold shade of blue seen in the pictures. People admire the Ghibli wistfully, but it also wields a certain element of intimidation. When you see a Maserati owner, you know the person behind the wheel is not your average Jane or Joe. They could have followed the herd. But they opted to go about flaunting their power and affluence more creatively. Certainly, they would find innovative ways to make your life difficult should you irk them.
What about the sound? Take the potent S model and you get a howling six-cylinder symphony, with a pretty brisk 0-100km/h sprint time of five seconds flat. You can also have a diesel and I have seen a number of motoring scribes gushing like sycophants over how good this engine sounds for an oil-burner. Yeah, right. Now while the Ghibli represents champagne motoring, there are some sections more akin to cheap beer. Far too many elements have been lifted from the parts bin of the Chrysler side of the Fiat-Chrysler family. The digital interface, for example, is exactly the one you would find in a Jeep Cherokee. Even the switches were lifted from those models. The key is also just a fancier looking version of the fob used for the American cousins. Look closely and you will notice that they lifted the side mirrors from a 300C. And this is simply not commensurate with the expectations buyers would have of a car costing between R1.3-million and R1.6-million.
That leads me to the other issue. For the same money you can buy the flagship versions of the cars Maserati tilts the Ghibli at. That includes the BMW M5, Mercedes-AMG E63 and the Audi RS6. In fairness, the latter is only available as a wagon. Despite its incredible presence, perfect aesthetics and delicious sound I am just not convinced that a rational person would take it over one of those polished German alternatives. But then again, Maserati people are a little off the wall. Something that could be well represented by the person they are considering as a brand ambassador, the very eccentric fashion designer David Tlale.