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Auto review: Maserati Ghibli a sedan that awakens the senses

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Maserati.

Despite being more than a century old, it's an unfamiliar name which, when mentioned to most Americans, makes them smile as if you mentioned their secret, illicit love affair.

The 2014 Maserati Ghibli doesn't have much in common with the Ghibli coupe and convertible built from 1967 through 1973 and designed by Gioretto Giugiaro. Instead, this model shares its voluptuous curves with the Quattroporte. Like its larger sibling, the Ghibli has the glamorous appeal of a fashion supermodel and garners similar stares of longing from all who see it. The leather-and-wood-trimmed cabin is a sensual feast for the senses as only the Italians can produce. The feeling is enhanced by an instrument panel that's blessedly simple. There's no excess of buttons, knobs or gadgets. And the mammoth paddle shifters mounted to the steering column look as if they'd be at home in a Ferrari.

All Ghiblis start with rear-wheel-drive and a 345-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Care for all-wheel drive? Then you'll want the S Q4, with all-wheel drive, an extra 59 horses under the hood and a base price of $76,900.

The test vehicle gulped one gallon of premium fuel every 17 miles, but it was worth every drop since Ferrari handles the engines' final assembly.

Excited yet?

Its aura is one of relaxed assurance, mixed in with a bit of quirkiness. After all, how many cupholders have you ever seen with a lighter in them? The Ghibli has it. And wait till you try using the electronic shifter; it takes a deft touch to master.

Who cares? You want precision? Buy German. The Ghibli offers something Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi can't: Amour.

There's little doubt that the Ghibli is distinctive, an Italian supermodel dressed down a bit for mass consumption and every bit as enticing and odd.

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