Hybrid-Powered Maserati Grecale Inches toward the Brand’s EV Future
The 2023 Maserati Grecale shares a platform with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, in slightly lengthened form, with most trims drawing motivation from a turbocharged four-cylinder with 48-Volt mild-hybrid assistance.The hybrid powertrain comes in two outputs, with entry-level Grecale GTs getting a 296-hp version while up-level Modena trims get 325 hp. All models come with all-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic gearboxes.On the top of the Grecale mountin, the Trofeo will reach 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds thanks to a turbocharged V6 borrowed (and detuned) from the MC20.Maserati has been responsible for some great engines over the years. The Italian brand’s powerplants have often felt like highlights in otherwise flawed cars. It is genuinely hard to nominate an engine from the company’s recent back catalog which wasn’t replete with charisma, from the whizzy turbocharged V6s that powered it through the ‘80s and ‘90s to the snarling Ferrari-built F136 fitted to cars like the GranSport and GranTurismo; even the twin-turbo V6 in the lowlier versions of the Levante feels like one of the unloved SUV’s starring features.Maserati’s second SUV is set to break that pattern, certainly in its more basic form. The decision to move the Grecale to a new turbocharged four-cylinder featuring 48-Volt mild-hybrid assistance is an understandable one in an era of downsizing. But the result is a car that reverses Maserati’s former hierarchy of talents: This is a good car with what feels like an average engine. VIEW PHOTOS Maserati Two different outputs of the new 2.0-liter engine will be offered. The entry-level Grecale GT (set to cost $64,995 in the US including destination) gets a 296-hp version while the mid-ranking Modena has a slightly brawnier 325-hp state of tune, both making identical 332 lb-ft torque peaks and directing their efforts through standard all-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic gearboxes. Maserati claims the Modena will be able to dispatch the 0-60 mph benchmark in just 5.0-seconds, a time which would have made it one of the fastest SUVs in the world just a few years ago.Driving the Grecale Modena in Italy proves that it is much more effective at delivering speed than drama. The four-cylinder starts with a slightly gravelly idle and doesn’t seem to derive much enjoyment from revving out. The only way I could find to persuade it to the marked 6000-rpm redline was by choosing the manual gear selection mode and then holding onto ratios; left in Drive the gearbox always seems to shift around 5500 rpm. The exhaust note finds a cleaner voice when the engine is worked harder, but it never turns tuneful. Related Stories Maserati Details Its All-Electric Future The Maserati Levante Trofeo Lives Up to Its Name Maserati Returning to Motorsport in 2023 Yet, that aside, the Modena is a hugely likeable car. It’s handsome from every angle I could find, despite sitting on a slightly lengthened version of the Giorgio platform which underpins the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Grecale manages to look shorter and more tightly packaged. The headlight design is strongly reminiscent of the Porsche Macan, but given the limited number of ways to integrate a sports car front end with a crossover’s raised proportions, that isn’t surprising—or disappointing.The cabin is good, too. Getting in means encountering the novelty of electrically operated door releases, these controlled by touch sensitive panels within what look like conventional handle apertures. There are small buttons on the inside of the doors to open them, but the Grecale also needs secondary mechanical handles to ensure occupants can leave if power is lost. Beyond that strange detail, the interior has been given a minimalistic elegance with high-quality materials and almost all control functions handled by twin touchscreen displays in the center of the dashboard. Several of the few conventional buttons that have survived are the PRND selectors that Maserati likes to use in place of a normal gear selector, these reminiscent of the selectors Chrysler used in the ‘60s. Interior space is good, too—subjectively, the Grecale’s cabin feels no smaller than the Levante’s—with full-sized adults able to sit in back in comfort. VIEW PHOTOS Maserati The cars on the launch in Milan were all riding on Pirelli Scorpion winter tires, despite warm and dry conditions on the day of my drive. The cold weather rubber could only create modest levels of grip and it was easy to push the Grecale’s front end beyond the limits of adhesion in tighter turns, yet despite that a benign front-to-rear handling balance was obvious. The Modena rides on steel springs—air suspension is optional—and gets active dampers as standard. In their softest mode these struggled to impose discipline on the body over urban bumps, with the heaving sensation of secondary motion building up, but the firmer GT and Sport settings imposed order—and the Grecale felt composed at higher speeds on a bendy stretch of Italian Autostrada. Steering was less well resolved, with an artificial feeling springy resistance around the straight-ahead.The Grecale Modena is a good car, but not an exciting one. Which, given the badge it wears is more of a problem that it would be for many rival high-end crossovers: If a Maserati isn’t at least mildly thrilling, then can it truly be considered a Maserati? If a Maserati isn’t at least mildly thrilling, then can it truly be considered a Maserati? There is another car in the range which resets this balance, and goes well beyond it—the range-topping Grecale Trofeo. I only had a much briefer drive in this, much of it in Milan’s rush hour traffic, but it was enough to prove it felt much closer to established expectation of what one of the brand’s models should deliver.The Trofeo’s highlight is its mighty powerplant, a downtuned version of the same Nettuno turbocharged V6 that powers the MC20. The Grecale loses the supercar’s dry sump for a conventional lubrication system but it keeps the innovative pre-chamber ignition system, making a total of 523 hp—90 hp less than its supercar sister. Even by the superheated standards of performance SUVs that is a huge output, second only to the Jaguar F-Pace SVR among direct segment alternatives.Maserati claims the Trofeo can demolish the 0-60 mph benchmark in just 3.6 seconds, and that figure feels entirely believable after just one stamped accelerator launch. It sounds great, too, from a “wob, wob” idle all the way to a savagely loud top end, with the gearbox adding a head nodding torque bump to full throttle upshifts. VIEW PHOTOS Maserati The Trofeo rides on standard air suspension, this still being soft enough to allow noticeable lean and squat in the gentler dynamic modes. It has also gained another setting above Sport—Corsa—although brief use suggested this was indeed too unyielding for road use. Steering was crisper and felt more natural than the Modena, and although ultimate grip was still limited by the fitment of winter tires, the Trofeo’s standard active rear differential and rear-biased torque delivery made it feel keener under cornering loads. The Trofeo feels much closer to the spirit of the the Maseratis that have preceded it, but the Modena is undoubtedly closer to the brand’s future—Maserati will be launching a fully electric version of the Grecale called the Folgore next year, the company’s first EV. That one won’t have any combustion soundtrack at all.
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