There's no doubt Maserati knows how to build a jaw-dropping car. Post pictures of a bright-white Ghibli on Instagram, and friends immediately ask when they can go for a ride. Park it in a leafy subdivision, and kids leap off their bikes to gawk. What Maserati hasn’t quite managed is making sure the driver is as impressed as are bystanders.

Maserati drapes the Ghibli in gorgeous bodywork: a low nose with concave grille and Trident emblem, flared fenders, and curving rear haunches. A responsive twin-turbo V-6 engine pulls so hard we forgive the fact that, unlike the larger Quattroporte, the Ghibli doesn't offer a V-8. Rasps and snarls from the exhausts conjure visions of the Targa Florio.

Yet the illusion of driving a classic Italian sports car starts to crumble when you live with the car for a little longer. Though the Ghibli S Q4's all-wheel drive worked well in snow, on dry pavement it binds and hops around tight turns like a pickup truck in 4-high. The frameless door glass looks great from the outside but rattles like an economy car when slammed.

At least the stylish cabin is filled with attractive leather, carbon-fiber trim, and comfortable seats. It's a pity the switches and touchscreen hail from the lowly Dodge Dart, but the Bentley Flying Spur's reputation hasn't suffered for sharing switchgear with a Volkswagen Jetta. We're more disappointed that the hard plastics aren't any nicer than what you find in a Dodge Charger. Few enthusiasts will swoon over the flimsy paddle shifters.

All of this might be acceptable if Maserati were content to remain a low-volume, exotic company, but the Italian automaker hopes to triple annual sales to 50,000 by 2015. To achieve that level of success, the Ghibli needs to be as polished as its Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class rivals.

The Ghibli has more curb appeal, more passion, more excitement that those Teutonic standbys; it's for the driver who wants something special. But until Maserati works out these teething problems, we'd prefer one of Germany's fully baked sports sedans.

2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4

Base Price:$78,150

Price As Tested:$94,470

Engine:3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6

Power:404 hp

Torque:406 lb-ft

Transmission:8-speed automatic


Cargo Capacity:18.0 cubic feet

Fuel Economy:15/25 mpg (city/highway)

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