Milan showers love upon the mid-size SUV Class with an Alfa Romeo platform and a supercar V6.
It’s easy to wonder where Maserati was for most of the last decade. It is not that the Italian brand has disappeared completely; rather, it has been missing from key markets.
This is more evident than ever when it comes SUVs. These cars have, since the turn of century, been money-spinners for all brands with more than a touch of premium appeal and the desire to remain financially solvent.
This has been proven more clearly than any SUV by Porsche Macan. It has proven to drivers that high performance and high centre of gravity don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It’s not surprising that Maserati has been waiting so long to attempt to take a piece of the Macan’s highly profitable D-segment SUV market.
The Grecale isn’t the first Maserati to have a mud-pushing vibe. However, the Maserati Levante, a larger Maserati, was able to fit between two stools. It wasn’t as compact or driver-focused than the Macan and didn’t pack the same presence and overwhelming muscle as the Porsche Cayenne.
However, the Grecale and the new Maserati MC20 supercar have made no mistakes on paper. They are charged with bringing new life to a brand that has been largely neglected over the past decade.
Maserati is a latecomer to this party. However, it claims that it will be the breath-of-fresh air (Grecale refers to a Mediterranean wind so there you go). This will allow customers to visit one of its showrooms for the first time.
It’s built on Alfa Romeo’s Giorgio platform. This platform also underpins the surprising dynamic Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadruglio. However, the length between the axles has been increased by 50mm (it measures just over 4.8 meters all in).
This means that it is more spacious for the rear passengers than many other cars, and at 570 litres it can outgrow its competitors in terms of luggage space. These things are important for the families to whom these cars are intended.
There are also mild-hybrid engines that are resolutely on message, as well as the promise of an electric Grecale Folgore in the future. The flagship Trofeo variant will get you sweaty if you prefer unleaded to electrons. It’s an SUV packed with the Maserati-developed Nettuno V6. It sounds promising, doesn’t it?
There are some caveats before we move on to the good stuff. Our time in the car was short and focused on mostly urban and suburban Milan routes. This gave us a realistic representation of the environment that Grecales might encounter, but did not allow us to really explore the car’s dynamics. All the cars were equipped with winter tires, which was not ideal considering the temperature of the ambient air was 24 degrees Celsius.
The Grecale is a visual masterpiece that grabs your attention from the first glance. Although it looks larger than the Macan, the Grecale is filled with enough Maserati cues that you will be able to see its true heritage.
The brand’s iconic front grille is still in place, as well as the trio of air vents located on the front wings. There are also more trident logos that you could shake a large, three-pronged stick at.
Trofeo’s variant is even more distinctive with its quad exit exhaust, 21in alloy wheels, larger, cross-drilled discs covered by huge callipers (6-pot at front and 4-pot at rear), and a rear track that extends by 34mm to 1982mm.
You will find an interior filled with rich Italian luxury and tradition when you climb aboard. The soft, finely stitched leather covers nearly every surface. The driving position is low but still manages to deliver typical SUV height.
You can also find wall-to-wall screens with digital screens and all the connectivity you need.
The iconic Maserati clock is proudly displayed on the dashboard. However, it is now a digital configurable item that hosts the virtual assistant “Hey Maserati”.
It looks great, works well, and is easy to use. However, the execution isn’t as flawless as it could be. Some touch-sensitive surfaces may require another push to get a response. Switchgear such as the push button gear selector has a gritty quality that is more Fiat Panda than premium.
MC20 owners will be familiar with the two circular dials located on the thick-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheels. The one controls the driving modes (Off Road Comfort, GT, Sport and Hardcore Corsa), while another is the start button for the 523bhp 3.0-litre engine.
The Nettuno is just like the MC20 in that it delivers plenty of low-down, lag-free muscle. It can haul the Grecale along at an indecent speed with little effort. However, aural dramas are in short supply.
It only delivers the bark and bite when it is extended in Sport or Corsa modes. This mode reveals its sharp responses and snarling voice as it revs up to the redline at just above 7000rpm.
Maserati claims that the BMW M3 beats 3.8 seconds for an emergency start at 62mph. It feels just as fast as the numbers.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox aids in smooth and fast shifts. However, Corsa may find it a bit too eager, sending the gears home with enough force to bang your head against the headrest. The brakes, while grabby at low speeds, deliver strong and progressive stopping power when used hard.
The car turns in corners quickly and smoothly thanks to its precise steering. The car’s lack of grip at the rear offsets any loss in turn-in bite. It also has an electronically controlled limited slip differential that is aggressively responsive. If you’re feeling the need, it will sidestep a few subtle corners.
Summer tyres would have more grip, but we feel the car’s natural inclination for having a good time.
Although it feels more playful than Macan’s Macan, it isn’t as agile.
Only Corsa is where the Trofeo feels truly tied down. However, the reduction in rock and rolling comes with a brittleness which makes it difficult to take in even the smallest flaws and creates a rattle and resonances as the interior is shaken and stirred.
You can loosen the dampers and it retains a firmness, but it is able to handle larger undulations more easily. The easygoing vibe and isolation from wind and road noise are matched by its effortless attitude.
The sunken manhole covers and expansion joint are less well handled, but the peace is broken when shockwaves crash through the car’s structure.
It is clear that long-haul travels are Grecale’s forte, whereas heavily pockmarked urban routes are most certainly not.
We will need to wait to test a Grecale on good roads and representative rubber before we can give our final verdict. However, even though this is the first time we have tried it, it doesn’t possess the same dynamic polish and cost-effectively developed dynamic finish as the Macan. It also lacks its solid, hewn-from strength. It’s possible to find a great car there, but it still needs fine-tuning.
The Grecale, despite its flaws, is still appealing. It has a romantic history that will appeal to many. Plus, it is practical and can be used to lift spirits.
While another large SUV is unlikely to be the solution the world seeks, it is easy to root for the Grecale because you know that Maserati’s future is less uncertain if there are healthy sales.