The four-cylinder SUV-class entry-level SUV is premium in appearance, but can it compete with the best in its class?
What is it?
It’s the Maserati Grecale entry-level SUV, a Porsche Macan-baiting midsize SUV.
We have already tested the flagship Trofeo model, which is powered by a 523bhp V6 Maserati MC20 supercar. Now it’s time to test the GT model, which has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. This is the basic version of Modense’s car, and it will be the one that most families are likely to buy.
So, a four-cylinder Maserati? Yes, that’s right. It has used a 48V mild-hybrid 4-pot motor to push the Italian brand towards electrification. This engine produces 296bhp here and 325bhp in Modena (both have the same 332lb/ft torque figure). This engine is not an in-house design. It shares the same GME T4 unit as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler. Purists will be more concerned to find out.
Although the idea of a small engine behind Maserati’s iconic, trident-adorned grille might seem odd, the numbers make for encouraging reading. It claims that the GT can sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 5.6 seconds. This is not too bad for a machine weighing only 1870kg. It claims that the Grecale feels like a larger six-cylinder motor due to the torque-filling mildly hybrid motor’s extra mid-range power. Hmmmmm….
Push the starter, and all thoughts of a smooth six-cylinder engine will vanish quickly. The 2.0-litre motor starts out with a raspy sound, but soon settles into a dull four-cylinder drone. This is quite in contrast to the car’s flamboyance. The GT’s distinctive aural signature is a plus, especially given Maserati’s rich history of producing motors that sing.
It’ll never be a classic internal combustion engine, but the four-cylinder unit’s effectiveness is undeniable, especially in the mid-range, where the electrical assistance provides a welcome hand. The GT responds faster to throttle applications than the Trofeo on give-and-take roads, and the electric motor gives it instant muscle. V6 is more powerful, but the GT feels slower.
It feels as if it has the legs of the entry level four-cylinder Macan. This car uses the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 turbocharged 2.0 litre engine that runs without electrical assistance. The hybrid assistance results in a 32.5mpg return to the pumps and CO2 emissions at 198g/km. It certainly has it beat for paper running costs.
You can change the wheel-mounted drive mode selector to Sport, which will give you a more responsive throttle and a sweeter exhaust note. Although the backbeat is not as dazzling and mechanical as you’d expect from Maseratis, the rasping and gurgling sound is close to that of a Volkswagen Golf R’s. However, the sound is authentic and not an algorithmically enhanced simulation.
The standard ZF eight-speed automatic assists the engine. It produces smooth, timely shifts when left alone, even though the manual changes aren’t as quick and precise as a Porsche PDK. The paddle-shifters made of long, alumimum aluminum are great. It’s just a shame that it is difficult to reach the stalks for wipers or headlamps.
The optional air springs were installed in our car instead of the standard steel coils. This makes the GT somewhat unpredictable dynamically. The Grecale is a great long-distance cruiser because of its soft setup. This combination with the excellent road noise and wind suppression makes it a very comfortable car. The Grecale glides across large undulations that have smooth surfaces with the softness of a luxury limousine and just the right amount cosseting float.
But hit a pothole or another imperfection, and the Maserati’s tranquility is shaken by a sudden jolt from the suspension. The Grecale bumps and thumps its way across urban surfaces that are often pockmarked and scarred. It struggles to contain the rapid movements of large alloys 20 inches in size.
It is the same mix of frustration and finesse that you will encounter through corners. However, the GT was equipped with winter tyres which were made to work in cold temperatures of 24 degrees centigrade on tarmac. The steering is precise and crisp. The Grecale is a heavyweight that can ride high and is quick to turn in corners. In aggressive driving settings, the four-wheel drive system will send torque backwards, helping to accelerate the car. This car is full of fun.
Even better, the Maserati feels composed and taut as you move it around. However, there are some bumpy mid-corner bumps that can cause the Grecale to lose its resolve. The car’s large mass means that the damping becomes looser and it’s difficult to control the car. It can’t match the Macan in Sport for its steadfast composure while hustling hard. This is a shame because the Maserati has a perfectly balanced and agile machine in its DNA.
Grecale is a well-rounded SUV that can be used for families. The interior is spacious, and although the Trofeo’s 570-litre trunk capacity has been reduced to 535-litres by the hybrid kit, it still provides enough space for most people’s needs.
The interior is also special, with lashings if soft leather and a variety of intuitive touchscreens that are both elegant and intuitive. There is an underlying feeling of quality, though some switchgear operates with less precision than you would expect. The occasional squeak or rattle on rough roads suggested that quality control is still not up to Zuffenhausen standards.
Do I need one?
The Grecale is a premium SUV that’s family-friendly, stylish, and quick. There’s also the Maserati badge which is a unique and attractive feature that adds a touch of class to the premium SUVs.
Although prices have not been revealed, expect the entry-level GT at around PS60,000. This is quite a high price for such a powerful, yet rather prosaic, four-cylinder engine. This is a significant amount of money for a car that is still quite dynamically behind the Macan. This is frustrating because the Maserati could still be a contender with some more development and fine-tuning (not forgetting suitable tyres).