WITH plenty of bravado Maserati is entering its centenary year by introducing its very first diesel.
A high performance three-litre V6 engine claimed to be good for almost 48mpg is arriving in an all new Ghibli sports saloon.
Priced from £48,830 the new Ghibli becomes the most affordable model in the current Maserati line up and sees the famous Italian marque locking horns with the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar.
Blending power and economy has opened up a rich vein and modern drivers expect a high degree of sophistication from the latest breed of executive class diesels.
Maserati's debutante dares to be different and has that all important stamp of exclusivity.
It is styled in similar fashion to Maserati's other four door saloon, the Quattroporte, although it is almost a foot shorter and slightly lower.
With its trademark wide grille housing the famous Maserati trident badge, side vents on the front wings and sleek, flowing lines culminating in a subtle boot spoiler, the Ghibli has a delightful presence which exudes power.
Dynamically it passes muster and although the ride is on the firm and sporty side it is nicely agile with rear wheel drive and 50/50 weight distribution to satisfy the purists.
A slimmer steering wheel may provide a little more intimacy when it comes to driver feedback but generally the feel of the car is composed, comfortable and purposeful.
The car we tried had standard suspension and sat on 20-inch alloys - Maserati's Skyhook adaptive damping system is a £2,045 option - yet the noise insulation was top class with a delightful growl coming from the four exhausts under acceleration.
Such sound is a Maserati trait and is electronically enhanced on the Ghibli to deliver the necessary effect.
The engine comes from Italian diesel specialists VM Motori and is fettled at the Ferrari works in Maranello before being installed in the Ghibli at Maserati's new factory in Turin.
It develops 275bhp which results in a zesty performance of 0 to 60 in 6.3 seconds with plenty of kick low down in the rev range. Top speed is 155mph and emissions of 158g/km are on par with most of the direct competitors such as Jaguar's diesel XF, the Mercedes CLS and BMW's 5 Series.
The Ghibli is fitted with an eight-speed ZF auto box which delivers smooth and rapid changes, especially with the optional paddle shifters fitted.
Multi-mode drive settings allow the car to be varied from a lively sports mode to an eco setting for added economy. Overall we managed to average 29 to the gallon which, even with stop/start fitted, was an indication of the Ghibli's liveliness.
Inside, the instrumentation is focused on an 8.4-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard with a secondary digital display sitting in between the speedo and rev counter. High tech it may be but there is still room for the classic touch of an analogue clock which sits proud on top the dash.
The switchgear is much more contemporary than on previous generations of Maseratis and the cockpit itself is an Italian fashion statement with quality leather upholstery and refined trim.
Head and leg room all round is surprisingly generous given the car's sleek roofline while boot space at 500 litres is good enough to serve its grand touring qualities.
Sat nav, active cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity are standard features while a Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system is available as an option costing £3,360.
Overall the Ghibli diesel we drove came with almost £12,500 worth of extras which included carbon fibre trim upgrades, a reversing camera and adaptive headlamps which pound for pound puts it right up with the German big hitters.
What the Ghibli brings to the premier league of diesels is a touch of individuality that is special to the Maserati mystique - and that extends to the two petrol engined versions which use three-litre V6s boosted to either 330 or 410bhp.
Those are priced from £52,275 and £63,415 and in the case of the latter with its 177mph top speed it almost matches the performance of the V8 powered Quattroporte but is almost 20 per cent more fuel efficient - and some £50,000 cheaper.