It’s spring in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and there’s still snow on the ground, the ski lifts at Whiteface Mountain are operating, and baseball seems like a game played in some distant warm-weather country. You might think that a new flashy-looking Maserati Ghibli S Q4 doesn’t belong in place like this, that it should stick to the sunny hills of Italy or the American equivalent—but this car sports an all-wheel-drive system that masters snow and ice.
The Ghibli S Q4 is a head-turner thanks to that undefinable quality that makes Italian design sing; it’s a stylishly elegant four-door sedan with the lines of a two-door coupe. Feline touches around the grille and headlights hint at the power under the hood: a twin-turbo 3.0-liter, V-6 engine that delivers 404 horsepower. True to design, the car runs like a mountain lion—fast, maneuverable, and balanced at all times.
I’m driving on the scenic two-lane roads around Lake Placid—famous for its Olympic heritage and extravagant old-money “camps”—tracking along the east and west branches of the Ausable River and along the shores of the upper and lower Cascade Lakes. The twists and turns are perfect for driving in the car’s sport mode with its quicker gear shifts, even as the car adjusts to a variety of conditions including cornering or going uphill.
The car boasts a number of noteworthy amenities: Bluetooth connectivity and Adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights, which changes the direction of the light to follow tight corners, among them. Trunk space is generous and doesn’t come at the expense of rear seat comfort. But the AWD system is what sells me on the car. On a dry surface, it doesn’t engage at all, letting the front wheels run fast and free. But on a dirt road alternately covered in ice or mud, depending upon its exposure to the sun, the front wheels dig in for added traction, sending as much as 50 percent of the torque forward to maintain stability.
The sound of an engine is music to many ears—mine included—but some drivers may find the high noise levels in a Ghibli to be wearing on a long trip. And while the cabin is outfitted with comfortable leather seats, it’s not as plush as you might expect from a car in this price range (although I do love the blue Trident analog clock in the dash). For those looking for more, Maserati is partnering with the Italian designer Ermenegilda Zegna to offer bespoke level interiors for the 2016 model year.
From $77,900; maserati.us/GhibliSQ4.