Experience the Driver’s Seat: Maserati Ghibli

It’s a dilemma that has vexed many: How to get into the sexy Italian car of your dreams.

While it might not exactly be the Da Vinci Code, Maserati has come up with an answer—the 2014 Ghibli. This new midsize luxury sports sedan starts at about $67,000. That’s not a typo. We’re talking an exotic Maserati for about the price of a four-wheel-drive Chevy Suburban.

The Ghibli is the tip of the spear in Maserati’s plan to sell 50,000 cars annually, worldwide. But while this curvy,grand touring machine may be the new kid on the block, its name is legendary. Ghibli, a term for a hot desert wind from North Africa, first graced Maserati’s 1967-1973 two-door coupe, one of the most popular Italian supercars of all time.

Despite the addition of two doors, the Ghibli name has not been squandered, as we learned when Maserati of Houston generously provided us some quality time with the model’s range topper, the S Q4. In addition to a 60-horsepower bump over the standard 345 ponies, the S Q4 features all-wheeldrive. The Ghibli fires up with an authoritative bark and the Ferrari-designed turbocharged V6 packs the punch that buyers in this spacehave every right to expect. Handling is balanced and responsive and the suspension is dialed in nicely, keeping you at the sweet spot of sport and civility.

Of course, there are performance aspects other than hardware and specs. This distinctive car triggers a fair share of double takes, stares and grins, as you might expect because it’s inspired by its big brother, the Quattroporte. Photos don’t really do the Ghibli justice, as we discovered when we spied it for the first time among the platinum alley of Aston Martins, Ferraris and McClarens at the Miami International Auto Show. The money shot is all about the front and the Gran Turismo inspired grille, cat-like headlights and athletic stance, nailed down at the corners by tires ranging up to 21-inches in diameter and forged alloy wheels.

Inside, driver and occupants enjoy a leather-appointed cocoonbut don’t expect the opulence of the Quattroporte. Maserati’s attention to detail, however, is impressive and there’s no better example than delightful trident-inspired pointers on the tachometer and speedometer or the tasteful clock that’s centrally mounted in the dash. When the song of the unfettered engine exhaust in sport mode is reined in, an available 1,280-watt, 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo is more than ready to take over entertainment duties.

The Ghibli could afford many their first glimpse into Italian automobile design and performance. Dreams do come true.

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