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Before we get to the driving impressions, it's useful to consider the Maserati Grecale in the broader context of the vast organisation that makes it. 

When the PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles merged into Stellantis, it was hard to see how so many brands could survive under the same umbrella. It still is, but as all of them were given 10 years to prove their worth, no hard decisions have been made yet.

Already, some brands are making bigger moves than others. We have seen a few concepts from Lancia but no actual cars, and DS has yet to fully convince us that its products are more than diamond-encrusted Citroëns. 

A surprising early mover was Maserati, from which we have seen a brand-new but pleasingly old-school supercar in the Maserati MC20 as well as a four-seat coupé, the Maserati Granturismo, both of which will soon spawn electric versions. Even more important for sales volumes and profitability will be the subject of this road test, the Grecale.

It is perhaps not as all-new as its stablemates, being based on the Giorgio platform that we know and love from the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio, and was widely presumed not to have much of a future. 

At the same time, that relation creates some stern internal competition. That’s not helped by Maserati charging at least £63,970 for a Grecale, and a teeth-sucking £102,480 for the V6 Trofeo that we are focusing on here. It will need to prove it’s more than an Alfa Stelvio with a trident and three portholes on each side, and then some.

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The Range at a Glance

Modles Power From
GT 296bhp £63,970
Modena 325bhp £70,925
Trofeo 523bhp £102,480
Folgore 500bhp+ tbc

The GT and Modena versions of the Grecale use the same hybridised 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, but it puts out slightly more power in the Modena.

The Trofeo range-topper is the only Grecale with a six-cylinder engine and no electrification of any kind. Not much is known yet about the Folgore EV, but it is sure to pack a punch. Along with more power, the more expensive versions also have a bit more equipment as standard.

DESIGN & STYLING

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maserati grecale trofeo review 2023 002 panning side

Thankfully, Maserati has done rather more than just let its leather trimmers loose on a Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

First, the platform has been stretched, making the Grecale 172mm longer than the Stelvio, with an 83mm-longer wheelbase. The Grecale is actually bigger than all of its rivals, such as the Porsche Macan, BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace

The other big change is that the platform has been re-engineered for various degrees of electrification. The four-cylinder versions of the Grecale are hybrids, and even though they’re of a very mild nature, a battery had to be accommodated under the boot floor.

In the coming months, the range will be completed by the Folgore. That’s Italian for lightning bolt – a very apt name for the EV version. Rather than carry its 150kWh battery as a flat pack under the passenger compartment, the cells will be arranged in a T-shape, allowing the driving position to remain fairly low.

The Trofeo model’s twin-turbo V6 is another big change compared with the Stelvio. Instead of using Alfa’s 2.9-litre, Maserati has fitted its own 3.0-litre ‘Nettuno’ engine, which we first saw in the MC20.

In the Grecale, it gains cylinder deactivation, it trades its dry sump for a wet one and it has been detuned from the supercar’s mighty 621bhp to a still-plentiful 523bhp. Peak power comes in a little earlier too, at 6500rpm instead of 7500rpm.

All piston-powered Grecales get the familiar ZF eight-speed automatic and a rear-biased four-wheel drive system. Only the Trofeo has an electronically controlled limited-slip differential on the rear axle – the four-cylinder versions have a mechanical limited-slip differential or a normal open one.

INTERIOR

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The interior of the Grecale poses one important question: how much will owners of this luxury SUV care that more than a few frequently touched components are shared with cheaper cars like the Fiat 500?

It starts right when you open the door. The squeezy electronic handle – Fiat 500. The electronic button to get back out – same. The pedals and column stalks – Alfa Romeo. Multimedia screen – Fiat 500 again. And while those PRND buttons aren’t quite the same as in the Fiat, they sure have a family resemblance and possibly feel slightly less satisfying.

It’s not that these parts feel low-rent, and in fairness Bentleys have Audi stalks too, but a Grecale owner might have a Fiat 500 on the side and wonder if that family connection couldn’t have been better disguised.

Thankfully, the Grecale has plenty of charm elsewhere to win you over. The interior design is restrained and handsome, and the materials are top-notch, with a few different types of soft leather, neat stitching and plenty of real metal. 

There are some interesting original touches as well. Glossy carbonfibre can look a bit naff, particularly in luxury cars, but our test car’s trim was an unusual matt carbon that’s rough to the touch, making it quite an appealing alternative to wood. Maserati has also reinterpreted the classic analogue clock atop the dash. It has turned it into a round screen that can display the classic clock, among other functions, and notifications.

This is a 2020s Maserati, so it wants to impress with its technology as well and follows the modern trend of a fully digital gauge cluster. It’s clear, easily navigable and moderately customisable but not especially memorable. 

Maserati has gone digital for the secondary controls as well, giving you a smaller secondary screen underneath the main infotainment unit that lets you adjust the climate as well as the ride height for the air suspension, the lights, parking sensors and more. It’s very Audi and works quite well but, like the instruments, there’s nothing intrinsically Maserati about it.

The tagline for the Grecale is ‘The Everyday Exceptional’, because 523bhp or not, this will be primarily an everyday family car, and in that respect the Grecale does fairly well. The drive selector buttons free up space in the centre console, which has no shortage of cubbies and cupholders.

Being longer than rivals gives the Grecale an edge in interior space too. Six-footers would be quite comfortable in the rear seat, with decent head room, more leg room than in rivals and space under the front seats for their feet. They can bring all the luggage they want too.

If you want to maximise boot space, you’ll want the V6 Trofeo, because it has boot that is 35 litres bigger on account of not having to carry a 48V battery for the hybrid system.

Multimedia system

Save for a few unique logos and settings, the Uconnect multimedia system in the Grecale is exactly the one you will find in various Fiats, Jeeps and Alfa Romeos.

On the one hand, that’s a bad thing because, unlike BMW’s and Jaguar’s systems, there’s nothing here that really reflects the brand identity. In fact, the fonts are very Fiat. On the other hand, it’s a perfectly pleasant interface that’s mostly logical and works smoothly.

Like Volvo’s and Renault’s system, it’s based on Android Automotive, though you couldn’t tell by looking at it. Uconnect does miss a trick by not offering Google Maps as the standard navigation system. The TomTom module that’s included instead is far inferior. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still included and are integrated well.

Our test car had the £2300 Sonus Faber 21-speaker hi-fi system. It comes with a good amount of configurability and sounds good but not exceptional.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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Although Maserati’s original press release claimed the Nettuno V6 was “100% Maserati”, it is quite clearly related to the Alfa Romeo V6. They certainly look quite similar in the engine bay, sharing the exact same plastic cover. Part of the reason for the Nettuno’s existence is likely to be that Maserati wanted a higher-power dry-sump version for the MC20.

At 523bhp, it has just 20bhp more than in the Stelvio, but it uses this to very good effect, as the Grecale shaves 0.4sec off the Alfa’s 0-60mph time. Needing just 3.6sec, it’s quicker than every rival we have tested. The BMW X4 M and Jaguar F-Pace SVR were in the 4s, and even the mighty outgoing Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S needed a tenth more. Not being limited to 150mph like the Mercedes, the Grecale keeps pulling hard at those autobahn speeds. 

There were a few damp patches on the day of our testing, so although the Grecale matched its claimed 0-62mph time of 3.8sec, it might go slightly quicker still in perfect conditions.

Then again, it might not, because the way the Grecale leaps off the line isn’t the most graceful we have experienced. Unlike the Stelvio, it has launch control, which lets the revs build to about 3000rpm before unleashing 457lb ft of violence onto the axles. When that happens, you feel the car rear up due to the fairly soft, underdamped suspension.

‘Leaping off the line’ can at this point be taken literally, since it feels like the unloaded front wheels struggle for traction, conspiring with the suspension to cause a few disconcerting hops. 

Thereafter, it rifles through its closely stacked ratios (exactly the same ones as the Stelvio). The short gearing does wonders for making the Grecale an engaging car on the road. In refreshing contrast to many Porsches, where reaching the top of second gear involves breaking every speed limit in the UK, you can redline the Grecale in second and get a good way through third before breaching 60mph.

That in turn creates a reason to use those lovely metal paddles. A good dual-clutch gearbox may have marginally faster and crisper shifts but, like in BMW M cars, this ZF eight-speed is plenty quick and has the edge in smoothness and drivability, which are surely more important in what is going to be an everyday car.

You also notice the family resemblance with the Alfa V6 in the Nettuno’s character. Being very turbocharged, it needs a few revs to fill its lungs before really surging forwards – hence the slightly slower first increment for the in-gear times.

That turbocharging means the not-very-silenced exhaust is what you hear, rather than any intake noise. It’s gravelly and hoarse, smoothing out at higher revs. It’s exciting and free-revving, but hardly tuneful, as is the typical high-performance V6 way.

Track Notes (Hill Route, Millbrook Proving Ground)

The Grecale is obviously no track car, and that’s confirmed by the fairly soft suspension, but once you get used to managing the body roll, it acquits itself fairly well. There is plenty of grip from the Maserati-specific Bridgestone Potenza Sport tyres, and the steering has enough feedback to let you settle the car into the corners.

The four-wheel drive system is naturally rear-biased and the e-diff is happy to send plenty of power to the outside rear wheel and rotate the car through corners. In Corsa mode, with the ESC switched off, it will take on a bit of oversteer angle. On a wet skid pad, the Grecale will do extended drifts with little provocation.

Where the Grecale can come unstuck is through the Hill Route’s big compressions, where the soft suspension runs out of travel.How hard you hit the bump stops depends on which mode you are in. In Corsa mode it’s just about manageable, but in any of the softer modes the car feels quite upset.

RIDE & HANDLING

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If the twin-turbo V6 confirms your expectations of a high-performance SUV, the Trofeo’s suspension does quite the opposite.

All Grecales apart from the entry-level GT ride on air suspension with adaptive dampers. That’s not unusual in this class – the Porsche Macan GTS and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 do so too. But where there is a resolute tautness in the ride of the Macan, the Grecale is much more relaxed.

It’s downright soft in its more comfort-oriented modes, initially making the ride feel rather plush. However, it’s not quite the wafter in disguise that makes it sound, because the suspension lacks control and consistency.

It’s slightly underdamped, introducing more body movement than is strictly necessary, and then flattens some bumps and potholes while causing head-toss over other bumps and thwacking through other potholes. Given the difficulty of making a tall, heavy car like this ride and handle well, the Grecale has a creditably absorptive ride for its class, but in a slightly confounding way.

You would expect the suspension to firm up and get a closer grip on body control as you progress through the drive modes on the steering wheel dial. To an extent it does, but the Grecale never quite shakes its disconnected feeling. Like a Ferrari, every mode gets progressively more aggressive and there is no individually configurable mode, though you can soften off the dampers.

Even in Sport mode, the suspension allows a lot of initial body movement as you tip the car into a bend, and that takes quite a bit of getting used to before you gain the confidence to really push the Grecale. Ideally, you want to be in Corsa mode for the best body control, but that also turns off the ESC, which seems unnecessary. Even then, responses are delayed and the car wants to squat and pick up the inside front wheel when powering out of a corner.

That’s a pity, because the rest of the chassis makes this an unexpectedly intuitive driver’s car. The steering is fast and light, in the Italian tradition. Some testers found it too light at low speed, but it does weight up with speed and load, letting you accurately judge grip levels. Despite the quick ratio, it also avoids feeling darty or nervous. 

Unlike a Macan or a GLC 63, the four-wheel drive system is almost comically rear-biased, with the e-diff helping to make this an amusingly expressive chassis. Even with the stability system on, the Trofeo wants to nip into corners and entertainingly pivots around you.

Comfort & Isolation

The Trofeo is not just an unusually soft-riding performance SUV, but it’s also a very quiet one (so long as the exhaust isn’t in loud mode). It generated just 66dBA at a 70mph cruise, which is less than any of the rivals we have road tested – quite a feat with sporty 295-section rubber.

You also sit in normal sports seats, rather than unyielding buckets. With electric adjustment in all the ways that matter, heating and optional ventilation, they help to make long drives painless. When you first get in, you might notice that you sit fairly high in relation to the controls. That is something the Grecale shares with the Stelvio, but you get used to it quickly enough.

Adaptive cruise control is an option but was fitted to our test car and worked quite well, though the speed sign recognition was not to be trusted. Curiously, the lane keeping assistance can be disabled with the press of one button and stays off on restart. We’re not sure how Maserati gets away with that, but long may it continue to do so.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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Prices for the Grecale start at £63,970, but that’s for the four-cylinder GT. The Trofeo costs at least £102,480 and our test car came in at £111,280.

Even in the context of today’s sky-high car prices, that’s very ambitious, since a comparably optioned Porsche Macan GTS or Jaguar F-Pace SVR would be under £90,000, and even a BMW X3 M Competition is sub-£100,000.

Things aren’t much rosier on finance. Maserati quoted £1442 per month for three years with a 15% deposit. Meanwhile, an X3 M comes in at £907 and a F-Pace SVR at £1160. Maserati includes three years of servicing, which goes a little way to closing the price gap, but there’s still a big difference.

If you’re worried about flaky Italian reliability, the three-year warranty might put your mind at ease slightly. However, we did notice a few quality issues with our test car. There was the odd trim rattle, and at one point the front air suspension failed to rise up from the parking position. That resolved itself, but it’s still not a great look.

VERDICT

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The Grecale Trofeo feels like the car Maserati should be making, potentially for credibility more than anything. A BMW X3-sized SUV is what sells and it wouldn’t be right if Maserati didn’t put a powerful engine in it.

It fulfils its role as an indulgent, sporty flagship in some ways but not others. Maserati’s new V6 isn’t quite as characterful as the V8 in past Trofeos would have been, but compared with its peers, it’s got a voice and one hell of a hammer.

However, wider testing suggests the cheaper, coil-sprung version is the sharper- handling and comfortable-riding car. We would urge Maserati to take another look at its air suspension set-up, because while the Trofeo is most definitely entertaining to drive on account of its engine, steering and rear-biased four-wheel drive system, it misses a sense of connectedness that rivals can muster.

Elsewhere, it plays the family wagon very well, with a roomy, quiet and nicely finished cabin, and appropriate levels of tech and equipment.

The Grecale is some better suspension and a more palatable price away from greatness. As it stands, it’s a very appealing left-fielder.

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

Maserati Grecale First drives