Car of the week – June 11th – Maserati Ghibli S Q4

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You will be gripped: Maserati Ghibli S Q4.

Mention the word Maserati to anyone who loves cars and you will immediately have their attention.

– Car of the week – June 4th – Ford Mustang V8 GT Fastback

– Car of the week – May 28th – Mercedes GLA 250 4matic

– Car of the Week: May 21st – BMW M4 Convertible

The name alone conjures up expectations of Italian passion, performance, a racing heritage, iconic style and the modern Maserati now has a strong foothold in the luxury market after an impressive comeback from near obscurity, thanks mainly to its cousins at Ferrari.

The Gran Turismo MC Stradale remains my favourite Maser’ because it is a full-blooded Italian stallion but it’s not much good if you have a family, need more space and four seats. 

You could always go for the Quattroporte which is a very nice car but, for me, it is too big, too relaxed and not quite sporty enough.

Enter the Ghibli, a fabulous mid-size luxury four-door sedan which made an instant impact when the modern incarnation of a Maserati first seen in 1967 was introduced to the world in 2013. 

This car is everything a prestigious executive sedan should be. It looks great, has an aggressive attitude, makes all the right noises, offers high-end luxury inside, is compact and when needed can go like the wind it is named after.

It’s as good as most of its German rivals in an extremely competitive market and now it is even better as it comes equipped with all-wheel-drive in the form of the Ghibli S Q4. 

To look at this Ghibli is not different from its stablemates. It has powerful aesthetics, the signature Maserati concave front grille sporting the Trident logo, sleek side appearance and classy rear with twin exhausts, all adding up to a very sophisticated aura.

The interior is what you would expect from Maserati, with lashings of posh leather, polished metals, and carbon fibre trim. The instrument cluster is simply but classic and there is a very good infotainment system with 7-inch TFT screen.

Thankfully, the leather-wrapped steering wheel is not cluttered with switches but I am not particularly fond of the oval shape and, for me, it’s a bit too big. But, generally the interior is first class, spacious and extremely comfortable.

But the real genius of this Ghibli is the Q4 system itself which has been designed to maximise traction when road conditions get a little hazardous. 

In normal driving conditions the system puts all the power down via the rear wheels, thus retaining the traditional Maserati transmission. 

However, when things get a bit more testing and you might experience lower traction the system reacts instantaneously to provide more grip by bringing in all-wheel traction. 

In just 150 milliseconds the Q4 system is capable of altering the torque split from 100 per cent rear wheels to 50-50 between front and back wheels and will retain AWD while conditions require maximum grip, only returning to RWD when things are back to regular.

This system is so sophisticated that it can monitor, in real time, such things as wheel slip, steering and yaw angle, power output, speed, braking action and work out how much grip is needed to suite the driving style of the person behind the wheel. Clever stuff.

All this, of course, is linked to the rather impressive 3-litre twin-turbo V6 engine built by Ferrari which powers this machine through an equally good eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. 

This new-generation engine is a real beauty with 410bhp and huge portions of torque at 550nm which means this car responds magnificently when you put pedal to metal, as you tend to do in a Maserati. 

And in case you were wondering, yes, it does make a great noise as you push through the gears, going from 0-100kmh in 4.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 284kmh.

This car is at its best when being driven enthusiastically and handles extremely well thanks to its chassis and suspension systems and, of course, the Q4 technology.

It sticks to the road as if on rails and there is hardly any bodyroll at all when driven in sport mode which I recommend you use permanently. 

For me, the Ghibli S Q4 ticks all the boxes when it comes to a high-end luxury saloon and because it is a Maserati it has an added air of distinctive superiority. And with a starting price of Dh329,000 you are getting a pretty good deal.

Verdict

The Q4 system which is also available for the Quattroporte is pure genius and gives the Ghibli, already a hugely impressive piece of kit, even more appeal.

It is a pleasure to drive but I do find the size of the steering wheel irritating because it spoils what is otherwise a great interior.

However, in the general scheme of things it hardly matters in what is a highly desirable car.

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Car of the week – June 4th – Ford Mustang V8 GT Fastback

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Perfectly groomed: Ford Mustang V8 GT Fastback.

When it comes to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of an iconic car there is only one way of doing it properly, and that is to make sure that you produce the best version there has ever been.

– Car of the week – May 28th – Mercedes GLA 250 4matic

– Car of the Week: May 21st – BMW M4 Convertible

– Car of the week: May 14th – Toyota 86 TRD

That is easier said than done if it happens to be a Ford Mustang, a vehicle with a glorious history and more than a few classic examples of what is probably America’s finest muscle car.

The Mustang made its debut at the 1964 World’s Fair and the first one, in white, was sold to a Captain Stanley Tucker.

Since then more than nine million Mustangs have been sold around the globe and the car has appeared in film, television, music and video games and is the world’s most liked vehicle on Facebook.

So, have Ford done justice to a legend on its 50th Anniversary? Of course they have, and I am not just talking tweaks here.

This latest Pony car has been totally redesigned and rebuilt to bring it into the forefront of modern motoring whilst retaining the appeal that has made it so successful.

The revamp is a total success. It is sleeker, more aerodynamic and just as muscular looking. In effect, the Pony has been turned into a thoroughbred racehorse with a wild side.

It still has the long sculpted bonnet with power bulges and air vents which sweeps down to the iconic front with its signature shark-bite facia and trapezoidal grille. The aggressive headlight clusters just set the whole thing off.

The fastback design completes the sleek appearance and the rear has a sharper, more powerful profile with three-dimensional, tri-bar tail-lamps with sequential indicators.

Sitting on 19-inch wheels, this is easily the best looking Mustang ever built and although I would never buy a yellow car, I have to admit that the one I test drove certainly turned heads.

In fact, it has such an impact that one little boy stopped and asked me if it was a Ferrari. Somehow, he seemed even more impressed when I told him it was a Mustang.

Ford concentrated on making this latest generation more aerodynamic than any of its predecessors which makes it faster and more 
efficient.

That’s all well and good but, for me, the Mustang has always had a retro-appeal and I was hoping that it had not been lost in the name of technological progress and emission controls.

The significant updates continue inside and it is now much improved. It’s still extremely macho but has a much cleaner design with lots of leather and polished metals and is more spacious than previous Mustangs. 

I loved the retro toggle switches and the instrument cluster which retains its classic appearance. Each car also comes with a 50th edition plaque on the passenger side of the dash.

The infotainment system is now much improved with a good size touch screen and there are now more driver assists. The only complaint I would have is that the steering wheel has far too many buttons on it.

This new Mustang comes with a new turbocharged EcoBoost 2.3-litre engine, 3.7-litre V6 or an upgraded 5.0-litre V8 with 420bhp. No prizes for guessing which one I went for.

This is purely personal, but if it’s a Mustang it just has to have a V8. I am sure the V6 and the EcoBoost are impressive but there is no way they can match the passion-stirring burble and baritone bark of a V8 – it is an essential part of this car’s visceral appeal.

It plants the power onto the tarmac via the rear wheels and a 6-speed automatic gearbox. There are also paddle-shifts which are great fun to use. There is also a manual gearbox available.

The car can be driven in four modes, the only ones of interest being sport or track. I stuck to sport, although I was gagging to use track mode. I just didn’t fancy losing my licence.

Some of the previous generation Mustang GTs I have driven were a bit unnerving at high speed and weren’t what I would call particularly agile but this beast has a redesigned chassis, an all-new front and rear suspension system and handles far better.

It is equipped with splitters and air dams below the front fascia which reduce lift and the vents on the bonnet add to the downforce. The new design also means this car has substantially less drag. The result is a car that provides an exciting, engaging and confident driving experience.

I loved everything about this car, including the light silhouette of a Mustang it puts down on the floor when you open the doors at night. 
The legend gallops on into the  future, stronger than ever.

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Car of the week – May 28th – Mercedes GLA 250 4matic

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For a new generation: Mercedes GLA 250 4matic.

It started with the brilliant A250 and the even better A45 AMG. Then came the classy CLA and now Mercedes are continuing to target a younger audience with the trend-setting GLA 250 Crossover.

– Car of the Week: May 21st – BMW M4 Convertible

– Car of the week: May 14th – Toyota 86 TRD

– Car of the week: May 7th – Peugeot 308 Active Turbo

The one thing about Mercedes is that if they do something a little unexpected they don’t muck around with any half measures and this vehicle is no exception as their bid to lure a new generation of drivers to the brand moves up a gear.

It looks a bit like an oversized A250 because essentially that is exactly what it is, and it is certainly striking to look at with is sporty aerodynamic appearance, relatively long bonnet, aggressive front and compact, well designed rear…in other words a thoroughbred Merc.

Its athletic appearance is enhanced by the 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels and twin-pipe exhaust system with chrome-plated tailpipes which are integrated into the bumper.  

This might be an entry-level Merc but be in no doubt it is a classy looking machine which offers the ultimate in style and, in this particular case, impressive versatility or dexterity, as Mercedes like to describe it.

It is primarily designed for urban cruising where it really feels at home but it does offer limited off-road capability with its four-wheel-drive system, although heavy duty dune bashing would be over ambitious. 

The interior is also impressive with extremely comfortable leather seats, signature Mercedes air vents which look like little jet engines, and an excellent infotainment system operated via a dial controller on the centre console and a good size screen on the dash.

I don’t like to moan, but I still don’t know why these i-pad type screens can’t be integrated better into the dash rather than looking like they have been stuck on at the last minute.

There is an array of high-tech driver aids which come as standard, including attention assist, which detects driver drowsiness and radar-based collision prevention with adaptive braking assist. 

Optional  packages include such things as lane tracking, blind spot alerts, adaptive highbeam assist and active parking assist.

Because this vehicle is aimed at youngsters and has to be priced appropriately the  standard materials used on the dash and trim are not as high-grade as some Mercs.

However, it is fair to say that it has all been very nicely done so it doesn’t spoil the high-end feel and offers more practicality than a cabin packed with significantly more expensive leathers, woods and carbon-fibre.

So it looks good, feels prestigious,  is reasonably spacious and comfortable, but what is it like to drive? 

Well, it is powered by a two-litre, four-cylinder turbo with 211bhp and torque of 350nm.

It puts relatively impressive power down to the AWD system via an excellent seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.  

There are three drive modes, eco, sport and manual with paddle-shifts on the steering wheel to give you more direct control.

It has a 0-100kmh time of around seven seconds which is potent enough but if you are looking for more impressive power you could always opt for the AMG version of this car, the GLA45.

Around town the car is plenty fast enough and impressively agile thanks to its chassis and suspension design and high traction provided by the all-wheel-drive system. 

The GLA is equipped with DSR (Downhill Speed Regulation), and an off-road transmission mode as standard.

As previously mentioned, it is not designed for heavy duty terrain but for more lightweight enjoyment on loose ground and unsurfaced gradients.

I had no desire to take this off the beaten track because it was so enjoyable to drive on tarmac but I can imagine youngsters would fancy showing this off to their mates at a beach party or terrain a little more challenging than the Sheikh Zayed Road.

The GLA was officially launched by Emirates Motor Company at the Fairmont Hotel in Abu Dhabi when EMC General Manager Kamal Rafih predicted it would help them achieve record sales in the current financial year.

Having driven it, I think he might be proved right.

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