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FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2014 file photo, Maserati Ghibli S Q4 is displayed during the media preview of the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. (AP photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Maserati’s stylish ride starts around $68,000
Automobiles » Fiat introduces Ghibli, a lower-priced four door with “Italian flair.”
First Published Jun 04 2014 09:46 am • Last Updated Jun 04 2014 09:46 am

American roads are taking on a more Italian look these days.

First, Fiat SpA of Italy returned to the U.S. with its tiny Fiat 500 cars after buying into Chrysler Corp. in 2009.

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Now, carmaker Fiat is boosting sales of its luxury Maserati brand by adding a new, lower-priced, mid-sized Maserati to its lineup.

The new four door called the Ghibli has Italian flair, a Ferrari engine and a lower price tag than Maserati’s other models that are all priced above $100,000.

Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a 2014 Ghibli is $67,850. This is some $35,000 less than the starting retail price for a 2014 Maserati Quattroporte sedan.

As an aside, singer Miley Cyrus has a Quattroporte. But her Maserati was stolen during a recent break-in at her Hollywood Hills home, according to police reports.

Intriguingly, the lower-priced Ghibli in upper level S Q4 trim comes with the same 404-horsepower, twin-turbo V-6 that’s in the larger, base 2014 Quattroporte. This powerplant is capable of propelling the Ghibli from standstill to 60 miles per hour in just 4.7 seconds, according to Maserati. Other parts of the Ghibli also are from the Quattroporte, including much of the chassis and suspension.

So, car shoppers looking at the mid-size Porsche Panamera and Audi A7 luxury sports sedans have a new choice in their price range.

Specifically, the 2014 Panamera has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $79,095, while the 2014 Audi A7 has a starting retail price of $65,395. The Panamera, A7 and Ghibli all offer six-cylinder power and choice of rear- or all-wheel drive.

The Ghibli’s arrival in the States isn’t taking long to increase Maserati sales.

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This calendar year through May, Maserati’s car sales are up 357 percent, from 979 in the five-month period last year to 4,475 in 2014.

In fact, after this month, Maserati’s cumulative 2014 car sales in the are likely to surpass its sales during all of calendar 2013.

Clearly, Ghibli buyers get a distinctive vehicle, not something ubiquitous like a BMW or Mercedes. Indeed, many casual observers did not recognize the Trident badge on the test Ghibli and did not know it was from Maserati.

And, because the tester was the uplevel Ghibli S Q4 with three portholes on each front fender, many observers could be easily fooled, unfortunately, into thinking it was a new Buick. Buick, after all, is more known in this country for portholes on their cars.

Some of this perception comes from the Ghibli styling, itself. It’s attractive and muscular looking, especially when wheel wells are filled with uplevel, 20-inch, alloy wheels. The proportions of the car are spot on and from the side, the Ghibli has a coupe-like appearance and conveys motion and sportiness.

Still, the thin headlamps and hood design are not unique and the generic-looking taillamps don’t differentiate the car.

The Ghibli interior has won praise from some auto critics but underwhelmed others because it doesn’t exude a tech personality.

The tester’s two-color dashboard — swathed in red above the instrument panel and glovebox but black atop the dashboard in the middle — looked great. Plus, this color combination, complete with red leather seats, set off the white exterior paint beautifully.

The front seats in the tester, by the way, were surprisingly comfortable for three-plus-hour trips, even if the firm ride can get tiring.

The Ghibli, even in uplevel trim, doesn’t have all the tech and features of competing luxury cars. For example, there is no blind spot monitor offered for the Ghibli.

And, the direction lines in the Ghibli’s rearview camera were stationery and did not move as the steering wheel moved when the car was backing up. These lines do move in a Hyundai.

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