Today, 30th October 2014, Maserati revealed that it had made more money in the third quarter than its stepsister brand Ferrari, for the first time ever since Fiat bought both brands back in 1993. At the time few were afraid of what would happen to Ferrari, but with Luca di Montezemolo at its head, the tifosi knew the Modenese brand was in good hands. For Maserati though, it was a completely different challenge and yet the brand has been keeping to improve itself since then. Now that Luca di Montezemolo left Ferrari a few weeks ago, the Tridente brand seems to be the new carrying pillar of the group. And numbers speak for themselves : sales have no less than tripled for the first three semesters in 2014, thanks to the new Ghibli. Thanks to Maserati Switzerland and Modena Cars SA, local Ferrari-Maserati dealership in Geneva, and their team, we had the opportunity to test-drive this new successful model for a week-end, in its S Q4 configuration. Text : Mickael B. © Images : Luca W., Mickael B., Thomas Z., All Rights Reserved ©

 

 

Part 1 : Maserati’s legend

Looking at Maserati now, few people would imagine it is actually almost one hundred years old. Established on December 1st, 1914 in the italian city of Bologna by the five Maserati brothers, it had the only purpose to build luxury, sports and racing cars. Its emblem, the trident was inspired by Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore’s Neptune Fountain, a homage to the great roman sea god. Maserati managed to survive more or less all the different crisis throughout time, changing owner several times since 1937, when the Orsi family bought the Maserati brother’s shares, and moved its headquarters in Modena. These ownerships resulted in several well-known models, such as the Maserati Bora or the Citroën SM, when the french brand took over the Tridente brand back in 1968 from the Orsi family. Alejandro de Tomaso, founder of the eponymous automotive brand, bought it in 1975 and sold it then to Fiat.

 

How a brand which sold just over 6000 units in 2012 could possibly arrive to sell over 12 times more units in less than 6 years ?

Maserati started to be profitable for the Fiat group only since 2007, and has always been considered since then as Ferrari’s little brother. Needless to say, considering this week’s revelations, things might change a little bit, especially with the 75’000 units sales target that the brand has fixed itself for 2018, which might even increase its benefits. How, you might ask, a brand which sold just over 6000 units in 2012 could possibly arrive to sell over 12 times more units in less than 6 years ? Well the answer is simple : diversification. Maserati had focused itself only on sports Grand Tourer Coupés since it had been bought by Fiat, such as the 3200, but since the reintroduction of the Maserati Quattroporte in 2004, sales have increased. Maserati have now launched another entry level model, the Ghibli, and are planning to replace their aging GranTurismo Coupé, as well as the introduction of a new SUV, which will supposedly help the Bolognese brand to reach its sales target.

 

Maserati is a brand with a true automotive heritage it must try to preserve, and looking to its history, it is very closely linked to passion and racing, like very few brands are. In 1926 already, Alfieri Maserati won the Targa Florio building the manufacturer’s reputation in the sport’s car industry. It is still today the only italian manufacturer to have won the Indianapolis 500, consecutively in 1939 and 1940. After the second world war, sucess came thanks to Juan Manuel Fangio and its Maserati 250F in 1957. On the road, the Tridente launched the A6, one of its most beautiful road cars. In fact it was available with an important diversity of bodyworks: Zagato, Frua, Pininfarina, and was as well a thoroughly competed car. The legendary Tipo 61 Birdcage was launched in 1961 and won several races in Argentina and in the United States thanks to its very light tubular chassis which weighed only 30 kilograms.

The Tipo 61 “Birdcage” had one of the lightest chassis ever made in its time : 30 kilograms

IMG_6258

In 1963, Maserati launched its first four-door saloon car ever produced, designed by Pietro Frua, the Quattroporte. Available originally with a 4.2 liter V8 engine it was later upgraded with a 4.7 liter displacement motor and 776 units were sold. The second generation Quattroporte was presented over a decade after, in 1974, but didn’t encounter the success of the first model as only 13 units were produced, making it one of the rarest car of the brand. Although it was designed by Marcello Gandini, the same man who draw the lines of the legendary Lamborghini Miura, the 1973 petrol crisis, the fact it had only a front-wheel drive six cylinder engine and that Citroën had just been placed in receivership achieved to ruin the carreer of this car.

 

Although Marcello Gandini designed the Series 2 Quattroporte, only 13 units were ever produced, making it one of the rarest Maserati

The third generation Quattroporte was launched during the de Tomaso era, was designed by Giorgietto Giugiaro, and was proposed with three different level of power : 260, 290 or 300 horsepower, from a 4.2 and then 5 liter V8. Although the next four-door saloon car from the Tridente manufacturer was never called Quattroporte, the 4 Biturbo has always been considered amongst experts as an intermediary generation and was proposed from 1985 to 1994. The fourth official Quattroporte generation appeared at the production end of the 4 Biturbo and was a four-door version of the second generation Ghibli designed by Marcello Gandini. Called from 1998 the Quattroporte Evoluzione, it included several parts and manufacturing improvements imposed after Ferrari’s takeover.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Maserati-Quattroporte-IV-Evoluzione-

The first Quattroporte designed by Pininfarina was a true success

In 2004, Maserati presented its first Quattroporte ever designed by Pininfarina, which was facelifted later in 2009. Available in three different versions: standard, S, and Sport GTS, it was the car which brought back Maserati to profit. It was a well the first Quattroporte I saw as a kid, and followed its retirement in 2012. A year later, the italian brand launched its sixth generation Quattroporte which rather different in my opinion from what Maserati had used us to. Let me explain: the old Quattroporte V was very italian in is design, very baroque, extravagant and yet beautiful. The sixth generation had a much more chastened – not to say german – full aluminum bodywork, less exuberant. Actually, the first time I saw it I was disappointed because it looked too much like one of these typical four-door german saloon cars like the Mercedes-Benz S Class, the BMW 7 Series or the Audi A8. Looking further under the bonnet, there weren’t no more naturally aspirated engines. The italian brand had yielded to the bad downsizing trend, providing even for the first time ever in its history a four-wheel drive version of its four-door flagship. Therefore when Maserati announced a smaller version of the Quattroporte in the second 2013 semester, I waited with great anxiety for what was going to be the Ghibli.

maseratiquattroportesportgts MASQV6053_CUT2

The original Maserati Ghibli was born in 1966 at the Turin Motorshow, where Ferrucio Lamborghini presented his revolutionnary Miura and de Tomaso his Mangusta. It was designed as a two seater Grand Tourer berlinetta by Giorgietto Giugiaro who had joined italian coachworker Ghia. Powered in the first time by a full aluminum racing derived four Weber carburettors 4.7 liter V8 developping 310 horsepower and 390 Nm, it was later upgraded in the SS specification with an upgraded 4.9 liter displacement engine with 335 horsepower and 480 Nm. Although having four cylinder less than its two competitors, the Ghibli was just as fast as both the Daytona or the Miura and had more torque which allowed it to be more supple to drive. With its amazing design, its amazing performances, it even managed to outsell its competitor’s sales, with 1150 Coupés and 125 Spyder produced.

big_thumb_e294e94a02055d53843ecb9bead7059f Maserati_Ghibli_green

Often forgotten, the original Ghibli competed with the top notch supercars of its time : the Lamborghini Miura and the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona

The second Ghibli generation appeared in 1992 and was available with two twin-turbocharged six cylinder engines, from 2 and 2.8 liter displacement respectively. Their biggest engine was the less powerful, with 284 horsepower while the smallest engine’s power could rise up to 330 horsepower, a record at the time. So when Maserati announced the third generation Ghibli, I had some quite high expectations, imagining that the italians would provide us with a beautiful Gran Tourer coupé. A car inheriting the true Ghibli genetics, the sheer brutal and savage character from its elders. When the actual Ghibli was presented at the 2013 Shanghai Motorshow, you can imagine how surprised I was.

maserati-ghibli-gallery-cars-point-pictures IMG_6324