► Four-cylinder hybrid or Nettuno V6
► Giorgio platform shared with Alfa Stelvio
► Extended wheelbase gives generous space inside
After being delayed by Covid and then the semi-conductor shortage, the Maserati Grecale is finally available to buy. The question is, does it really provide a convincing yet Italian flavoured alternative to the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace?
At the sensible end of the range is a pair of mild-hybrid enhanced turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines with 296bhp in the GT or 325bhp in the Modena. Alternatively, the Grecale Trofeo comes with a detuned and wet-sumped version of the MC20’s Nettuno twin-turbo V6 with a still mighty 523bhp. If you prefer full electrification, 2023 will see the introduction of the all-electric Grecale Folgore.
Is this a whole new car, then?
Well, maybe not entirely new. The Grecale is based on a stretched version of the Giorgio platform that underpins the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio, while the mild-hybrid four can also be found in the Maserati Ghibli.
Still, the interior and infotainment are new, and the extended length gives more space inside than in the Stelvio or Macan for that matter. Other changes include the adoption of air suspension on top Trofeo models that’s also optional on lesser trims.
What about that interior?
Quality is certainly a cut above the Stelvio, if not as solid as the Macan’s. The classic analogue Maserati clock in the middle of the dashboard is replaced by a round multi-functional digital device which can switch between different displays and an eye-like interface, designed to accompany every interaction between man and machine.
The main touchscreen, a 12.3-inch system, is the usual infotainment fare, though it runs the Android Auto operating system and has a neat tab-based interface that is new to Maserati. It looks sharp, but the menus take some getting used to. Below it, another 8.8-inch panel slopes out from the dashboard, allowing easy control of the air conditioning, heating and lots of other sub-systems. It works well and doesn’t take up too much space, allowing for a button-free and notably practical centre console between the front seats.
There are buttons between the two screens to operate the automatic gearbox, though you can take manual control with the ludicrously over-engineered (and rather beautiful) metal gearchange paddles behind the steering wheel. These work far better than the fiddly buttons on the front of the wheel.
Space up front is plentiful, and rear space is sufficient for a six-footer to sit in comfort, too. Trofeo models get a generous 570-litres of boot space, with hybridised models coming in at 535-litres or still more than that Macan.
And the driving experience?
The ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox is excellent and doesn’t really need the interference of a mere human to go about its business in an efficient manner. But the Grecale proves to be an engaging SUV to drive from the off, so you’re tempted to take control of the gear changing, too.
Star of the show is the chassis, with the caveat that all test cars so far have featured the highest spec suspension the Grecale will be available with – including air springs and adjustable damping. That all allows it to be both comfortable (if you avoid 21in wheels) and notably well-controlled, even when you push it further than would be prudent on the public road.
The air suspension allows for a variable ride height, too, for gentle off-roading at one end of the spectrum and a lower centre of gravity and less aerodynamic drag at the other.
Special mention needs to be made of the steering, which isn’t as hyper-responsive as the Stelvio’s, but does offer up effective communication, allowing you sense the grip levels at each corner and exploit them or back away with discretion as befits your mood and appetite for oversteer.
Did you say oversteer?
Make no mistake: this SUV may come with soft Italian leather and a veneer of respectability, but it has been honed to be driven by those that love to drive. Central to its breadth of talent is an all-wheel-drive system that favours the rear wheels. Sure, in Comfort mode, it will use the front wheels more and it feels stable and safe, but the balance shifts backwards as you move up the driving modes through GT and Sport.
In line with that, the stability control system chills out and assumes you know what you’re doing, which, on a damp and greasy test track, resulted in a surprising amount of tail-out action. Even when the ESC notices that you’re having too much fun, it gently intervenes, making for a fluid driving experience.
The entry-level four-cylinder mild-hybrid powertrain is based on that used in the Ghibli Hybrid, but it has been notably improved, despite a lower peak power figure. Still, nigh-on 300bhp is plenty for a 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds. That’s made possible, no doubt, by the ‘e-Booster’ aspect of the 48-volt system, which is effectively an electric turbocharger, designed to offset the exhaust turbo’s lag and help enhance performance and efficiency. There’s a useful 332lb ft of torque from just 2000rpm, for example, but you never notice the electric part of the equation doing its thing. It sounds surprisingly fruity, too.
What about the Trofeo?
Equipped with 21in wheels and low-profile tyres all-round, the Trofeo’s low-speed ride varies from brittle to harsh, and the car´s body language is clearly influenced by the height and depth of unilateral dips and humps.
On smooth pavement and above 60mph, it enters a notably calmer realm where one speed-related and one on-demand aero mode trigger a more ground-hugging posture in two steps. The high-speed compliance is not exactly magic-carpet perfect but sufficiently cushy even over yawning antique expansion joints and when following deep HGV grooves. The upshot of this is tighter handling than you’d get from the hybrid, but not quite the agility of a more compact Macan.
That said, our Trofeo was fitted with winter tyres despite the warm, dry conditions on our test drive. We look forward to passing final judgement on a UK car on summer rubber.
Missing from the Grecale´s IT chest are a mix-and-match option which selectively assembles your favourite blend of steering action, throttle response, shift speed, traction control, brake characteristics and exhaust note. An intuitive direct access to neutral by pulling both shift paddles at the same time and an on-demand boost feature would also be nice to have.
The Grecale Trofeo will hit 0-62mph in 3.8sec and takes 13.8sec to sprint from zero to 125mph. Against the stopwatch, it thus matches the 510bhp Stelvio Quadrifoglio which costs almost 20 grand less. But the Ferrari-developed Alfa V6 is even thirstier than the trident brand´s own Nettuno powerplant which whips up an extra 20bhp and 620 instead of 600Nm of maximum torque.
Somewhat surprisingly, the motor from Modena sounds meaner, more dense and rawer than its counterpart from Arese. Both models use the same transmission as well as set of perforated and ventilated XXL Brembo brakes.
Maserati Grecale: verdict
The true future of Maserati starts in 2023 with electric Folgore edition of the Grecale and the new Gran Sport. In the meantime, the combustion powered Grecale is a flawed yet interesting alternative to the established players in the premium SUV market.
It’s a spacious thing with a decent boot and generous rear seat space when compared to more compact rivals such as the Macan, making it a surprisingly sensible choice in some regards. That doesn’t include the engines, with the mild hybrids still in the top company car tax bracket with official economy in the low 30s.
However, the Trofeo’s V6 is a mighty unit and you can certainly have fun when things get twisty, even in the lesser models. So while the Grecale may not soar to the top of the class, it’s still worth a look if you fancy something different.
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