Drives better than a base Porsche Macan, brand image, left-field choice, tasteful interior
The rest of the Porsche Macan is still good, assertively priced, anonymously styled, no hybrid – Folgore EV will be along shortly
What is it?
It’s beginning to feel like the world has forgotten how to make anything but SUVs these days, but Maserati - even by its own admission - is actually fairly late to the game with this one; the Grecale is a mid-sized, luxury SUV that sits below the larger Levante. Think Porsche Macan, Alfa Romeo Stelvio – that sort of thing. A ‘global’ car that’s designed to work in lots of different markets without significant re-engineering-slash-tweaking, based around the ‘everyday exceptional’ tagline.
Is it based around anything more fundamental than a tagline?
It’s a five-seat SUV (based on Stellantis’ ‘Georgio’ platform, shared with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Alfa Giulia and Stelvio) with good space, slightly confusing/generic styling and lots of interesting colours. The intention here is what Maserati refers to as ‘visual longevity’ – the idea that if you produce something that follows current trends too closely, you end up falling out of fashion equally quickly. Fair enough, but what you get is a car that might well fail to grab enough attention in the first place.
The idea works on the shapes and volumes of a supercar like the MC20, where a slightly conservative ultra-performance model definitely has a place, possibly not so much on a commonly-sized SUV that doesn’t yet have a strong identity in the class. Yes, it’s got a whopping Maserati grille, cool trident badges and triple portholes on the front wings, but strip those visual cues away and it’s not the most striking of things. Maybe if it had arrived a few years earlier, but the game has many players now.
It’s got a fire-breathing engine though, right?
One version has, yes. But it’s a range, and that range contains… other models. The Grecale comes in three distinct flavours: GT, Modena and Trofeo. The two lower-order cars – GT and Modena – get a turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder with a belt-driven 48-volt mild-hybrid system called e-Booster. Basically, where most hybrid systems use their excess or recovered energy to reduce consumption, the e-Booster (it’s essentially an electric turbo) can also be used to backfill the engine’s torque curve before the main turbocharger has a chance to get going. More responsiveness under load, and then reverting to more traditional mild-hybrid eco-consciousness when just cruising.
The GT weighs in at 300bhp and the Modena at 330, with the GT getting an open rear diff (a mechanical locking diff is optional) and the Modena a standard mechanical rear diff and slightly wider rear track shared with the Trofeo. Active/air suspension can be optioned on all models, though the Modena gets standard active shocks. All three cars get an eight-speed auto ‘box and four-wheel drive.
And what of the flagship Trofeo version?
The Trofeo may well grab your attention a bit more. That’s the one that carries a de-tuned version of the MC20 supercar’s ‘Nettuno’ 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 chucking out some 530bhp. It’s still got the fancy pre-chamber ignition (called MTC or Maserati Twin Combustion), and still sounds fairly raucous. In fact, the Trofeo almost feels like a completely different car, with active suspension and a 0-62mph time of just 3.8 seconds. The GT and Modena aren’t slow at 5.6s and 5.3s to 62mph respectively, but the Trofeo has a good chunk more character. Full-throttle upchanges have a weirdly addictive ignition-cut exhaust chuff that’s hard to ignore. It’s got a bit more to it.
Will there be other versions? Electric, perhaps?
As with every other manufacturer looking to have a life after 2035, there’ll be a Grecale Folgore full electric version along soon enough to sit alongside Folgore versions of the GranTurismo and MC20. That gets a slick grille, cool wheels and an exhaustless rear diffuser, plus 400v architecture and a big battery. Should be interesting. Due before the year is out.
What are its rivals?
There’s only one Maserati really cares about: the Porsche Macan. The Macan’s strengths are well known: it’s a tough little nugget of a thing, determined and well balanced, but the more affordable versions are a bit flat, saddled with a dull engine and inert in your hands. The Grecale takes advantage of that. It's got a good chassis on it. It's interactive, alert and it rides well. There's a bit of grumble from the wheels, but as a sports SUV it's more engaging than the equivalent Macan. But not as well built and robustly engineered.
From the same Stellantis stable it’s also worth having a look at the Alfa Stelvio which – unsurprisingly – handles in the same fluent way, then there’s the more artful cabin of the Mercedes GLC and the all-round handsome devil that is the Range Rover Velar.
What will I have to pay?
We’ll give you full details on this in the Buying section, but Grecale prices start at £61,570 (GT), with the Modena at £67,810, and the Trofeo at a faintly scandalous £99,700. Maserati reckons it has the badge to pull this off, but do buyers know or care about Maserati any more? There have been too many false starts and flimsy plans. This is undoubtedly a better car than the larger Levante, a far more convincing product than the weak Ghibli (which, hard to believe, is still on sale), and its arrival is timely given the chat around the Macan going electric.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The Grecale doesn’t have the heart and soul of a Maserati. But that’s fine. Among the current line-up only the MC20 and new Gran Turismo uphold historic honour. This is the bread and butter Maserati, the one that needs to take the fabled trident and sell it to a new audience. Dynamically, it’s probably better than it needs to be – it can take the fight to the Porsche Macan for both comfort and engagement. On first appraisal, the Trofeo has much more Maserati character, but the four-cylinder cars are likely to be the big global sellers, and that’s a pretty flat engine, one that lacks the quirk and nuance that ought to mark out a Maserati.
But the fact remains that a Maserati has always been something quietly different, and the Grecale hits most of the technical ambition without particularly grabbing the emotional. The Trofeo is much more alive – no great surprise – but you’d have to be committed to difference (and extra cost) to want one over something like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV or Porsche’s Macan Turbo.
But it is reasonably well executed throughout. The cabin has a bit of charm and difference, it’s not another cookie-cutter cockpit from yet another German brand. It’s practical enough and logical enough to use because it doesn’t depend too heavily on touchscreens. It’s the right car for Maserati as a business, and if its success means we get more of the cars we can be passionate about, that’s fine with us.