2023 test drive of the Maserati Grecal Trofeo

Renault, Italy – Maserati is riven by SUV storms. Sedans remain an important part of its heritage, but they are no longer an important part of the new car market—particularly in the United States. Investing time and resources in filling the size gaps of sedans in the lineup would be like hauling deck chairs on a sunken cruise ship, so the Italian company is taking a different growth path by expanding its SUV range. Named after the Mediterranean winds, Grecale lies below Levante and is aimed directly at the Porsche Macan.

It’s not a supercar, but the Grecale is arguably the most important Maserati ever launched, which could eventually account for nearly half of its sales. I traveled to a town called Reno (not the place where Johnny Cash shot a man) to feel the smallest trident.

First, let’s dispel the myth: The Grecale isn’t just a remastered Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Sure, both Italian engines are built on the Giorgio platform (which also supports the Giulia and the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee), but several major changes have been made within the company by Maserati.

“We started with Giorgio architecture, and added features normally found on uppers: the air suspension, for example,” Federico De Medio, the company’s head of vehicle validation, told me. “We had the possibility to improve this platform further, and we were able to increase the wheelbase by (about 3 inches),” he added, adding that electronic modifications were also made.

Thus, the base Grecale GT spans 190.8 inches long, 76.7 inches wide and 65.6 inches long; The Modena and Trofeo are 77.9 inches wide, while the latter measures 191.3 inches from bumper to bumper due to its body kit. Either way, the Grecale is relatively big for its segment: Porsche’s Macan, its closest competitor, measures 184.3 inches in length and is one of the smallest cars in the segment. Grecale’s weight ranges from 4,431 to 4,629 pounds.

One look at Grecale’s front end shows what Maserati meant when it announced that the MC20’s exterior design would influence the rest of the lineup: the rear-facing headlights sit atop a wide grille with the Trident logo proudly positioned front and center. It’s not a clone of the MC20, but the family resemblance is felt. Moving beyond the nose, the three apertures that have become part of the Maserati design language are positioned on each fender, below the trim level badge, while the roofline rises above the driver and slopes toward the spoiler integrated into the hatch – designers focus more on sport than on benefit. And the shape of the taillights echoes the units equipped with the 3200 GT released in 1998. Is that an odd choice? Not really: don’t forget that was almost a quarter of a century ago!

Inside, Grecale offers just the right amount of technology. All the features buyers expect from a luxury car in 2022 count, like the digital instrument cluster, but nothing overwhelming. Drivers looking for a screen larger than the original Mini will need to shop elsewhere. Maserati made it clear that its goal wasn’t to make Grecale feel like an iPhone on four wheels.

“Screens were never something we were known for. To be honest, I don’t think we want to be known for screens. Is the industry at the height of screen? But, at the end of the day, we also want to reduce the amount of clutter in the car, so the result is what you see here. ‘” Klaus Bossi, the company’s chief design officer, told me during the unveiling of the car. It’s an approach that should affect many upcoming cars.

It works, too: the dashboard’s design is clean and neat, and all the controls are placed where you’d expect to find them. One of the coolest features is the round screen in the middle of the dashboard, above the 12.3-inch still touchscreen display that shows the infotainment system. It’s almost like a smartwatch in the sense that it can be configured to display a clock, compass, scale that shows pedal inputs, and an accelerometer. It also displays a phone-shaped icon when your wireless device charger sends juice to your phone.

For a company rooted in luxury, Maserati has made some notable pitfalls in recent years: For example, the Fiat-Chrysler parts box raid of some Ghibli interiors looked better on the company’s balance sheet than in showrooms. Fortunately, there isn’t much of that in Grecale. The cabin is built with high-quality materials that feel like they belong in a luxury car, although the buttons on the steering wheel are shared with the aforementioned Grand Cherokee (which, to be fair, has a legitimately luxurious interior). My test car came with cool red leather upholstery and a cool carbon-fiber rim that was left bare, so it has a tactile feel rather than a glossy finish. There are countless other ways to configure Grecale, of course, including upholstery, embroidery, and trim options. And the sky (or more realistically, your wallet) is the limit with Maserati’s Fuoriserie.

Maserati offers Grecale in three flavors: GT, Modena and Trofeo. Power for the GT comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine co-worked with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to develop 296 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. Climbing to Modena unleashes 325 hp to develop this drivetrain with the same amount of torque. Both come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

Pictured above, range-topping Trofeo receives a model-specific version of the excellent Nettuno V6 that the MC20 opened in 2020. Maserati didn’t lift the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged engine directly from the MC20. In Grecale, the six-cylinder features a wet-sump lubrication system, modified turbochargers, and cylinder deactivation technology that shuts down the right bank in low-load conditions, such as when cruising on the highway. Finally, Trofeo puts 523 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque under the driver’s right foot—that’s less than the 621 and 538, respectively, in the MC20. Most importantly, it’s over 434 horsepower of cavalry fired by the range-topping Cayenne GTS.

My time behind the wheel was limited to Trofeo, an excellent way to get to know Grecale. In the MC20, the Nettuno V6 is an advanced masterpiece with a full engine Brio: It’s very responsive and looks great, especially at higher revolutions. Losing none of its Grecale personality, the heart of a supercar gives this family-friendly SUV a dose of Italian flair that helps it stand out in an increasingly crowded segment. This is not to say that the Grecale engine looks like a supercar, it is not and it was not designed for it, but it is very fast. And the eight-speed automatic transmission (a better version of the unit equipped with the four-cylinder models) throws fast shifts, either on its own or using huge steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Don’t shift too early: the engine doesn’t generate peak torque until 3000 rpm, and peak horsepower hits at 6500 rpm, so it really comes alive when you’re exploring the higher levels of the rev range.

While the Grecale is all-wheel drive only, the Giorgio’s rear-biased platform unlocks the kind of sporty handling normally associated with the Maserati name. It is clear that driving dynamics played an important role in the development of the chassis. The overall package feels set with comfort in mind, which is natural considering Grecale’s main job isn’t to set a record at Monza; It is to carry the beds and their equipment comfortably. The suspension is firm but not stiff (even in the sportiest of situations) and the steering is reasonably direct without much feedback. It is not raw. It’s just sporty enough to satisfy most buyers, and that impression is amplified by 3.6 seconds to 60 mph.

Huge brakes keep Nettuno under control; The front calipers are six-piston units supplied by Brembo. If I could time travel and join the development team, I would order more of the braking system. It’s a reassuringly powerful setup, whether you’re both meandering through Milan traffic or slowing down. highwaybut the feel of the pedal and travel takes a few miles to really master.

One of the exciting (and surprising) aspects of traveling in Grecale is that it gives the folks who would argue rear-wheel drive (or rear-wheel-biased) cars crammed inside something to chew on. Whether you’re sitting in the front or in the back, you’ll need to be NBA size to complain about the lack of space. Both rows of seats are roomy and comfortable, even despite the meaty struts at the front, and the interior is quiet except for the Nettuno engine singing its anthem. Trunk space is sufficient despite the steep roofline.

On paper, Maserati’s renaissance began in 2020 with the launch of the MC20. It opened up a design language, got into the Nettuno V6 and, in general, spelled out a new approach to creating cars – it’s a three-pronged head. But it’s also a halo car, and it stands to reason that the designers and engineers got more leeway during the development process because the odd two-seater with a center-mounted engine isn’t a terribly price-sensitive car. Transferring these traits to the compact SUV class, a turf that Maserati had never had before, was a risky move. However, my time driving the Grecale suggests that the company has gotten rid of that. Simply: it’s not half certain. This is a serious and well-thought-out attempt to grow (especially in America) by attracting buyers with materials rather than incentives.

Maserati dealers across the United States will begin receiving the Grecale in the fall of 2022. The GT and Modena Limited Edition versions are priced at $64,995 and $78,895, respectively, figures that include a mandatory $1,495 destination fee. No word yet on the cost of the standard Modena or the standard Trofeo, though I’d bet the latter will command at least a $10,000 premium over the GT Limited Edition. Notably, this first number makes Grecale the most affordable car Maserati has ever launched on our shores. It costs significantly less than the Ghibli sedan, which currently starts at $78,600. It even undermines Biturbo – remember that? The fund agreement introduced in the 1980s cost $26,874 in 1986, a figure that represents about $69,600 in 2022.

What we have then is an attractive SUV at a competitive price created for a huge segment. Will you sell? Naturally!

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