Over a decade ago, in 2008, a luxury British insurer called Hiscox commissioned a study. It wanted to know people’s visceral response to the sounds of a supercar’s engine. The company brought in 40 men and women and subjected them to the guttural grunts of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and a Volkswagen Polo.
According to the insurer, all the women loved the Maserati sound best. “We saw significant peaks in the amount of testosterone in the body, particularly in women,” psychologist David Moxon, the man who conducted the study, said in an interview with Wired. “Testosterone shows positive arousal in the human body, so we can confidently conclude from the results out today that the roar of a luxury car engine actually causes a primeval physiological response.”
I was in my early 20s then and remembered thinking how incredulous the results of the study were. But it planted that Maserati seed in my mind. And truth be told, Maseratis do sound fantastic.
Then, the Italian marque invited me to drive its new Ghibli Hybrid. Instead of the usual fearsome V6 or V8 engines, the carmaker opted to put in a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and paired it with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. The car represents Maserati’s first step into the electrified world, but it left me wondering if the signature growl would become an aural relic of a bygone era.
I’m glad to report that it’s still present, thanks to a combination of clever engineering and mechanical tuning. In sports mode, the car’s eight-speed auto transmission pushes the revs higher, resulting in even more glorious sound.
And while the car is rather heavy – a result of the electric system – it is quick on the uptake. The century sprint takes 5.7 seconds. The robust size also hides its deft agility around corners while helping it stay planted on straights.
Fans will love the usual subtle exterior. Maseratis are rarely flashy and prefer staying towards the muted end of the design spectrum. The interior is also luxurious and fuss-free. There’s a 10.1-inch infotainment system that supports Apple CarPlay, wireless charging, a Harman Kardon sound system, and lots of wood and leather accents.
Now, whether this Ghibli Hybrid will trigger a visceral response in the vein of the highly controversial Hiscox study, however, is an experiment that I leave in your hands.