New Maseratis don’t come along often so the Grecale is a rarity. It lands in the mid-sized luxury segment which is dominated by German offerings. Does it have the goods to run with them?
Maserati’s new Grecale sees the Italian maker venture into a new segment. Well, new to Maserati but one where others have been making hordes of hay for years.
Many of the luxury brands’ best sellers duke it out in this ‘mid-sized’ SUV arena, which means there must be plenty of buyers looking for something new. Is the Grecale for those who have been there and done that with the others?
While we use the term ‘mid-sized’, the Grecale is bigger than we expected. It’s still urban friendly but with enough of that ‘presence’ required of a prestige vehicle. Some thought the look wasn’t exactly ‘modern’ but most will like its traditional stance with its long bonnet, distinctive but not overbearing grille and the other signature Maserati design cues.
The door handles look swish and, with a scalloped recess, they are easier to grab and open. Except the smart unlocking function didn’t always detect our presence as we stood there wrenching away at the door. Maybe we just weren’t touching it in the right place, reminding us that this is Italian.
How many models?
There are three variants, the Grecale helping lower the entry point to brand ownership with the GT starting at $124k. We have the mid-spec Modena on test here which is $145k and the top Trofeo is $186k, all before ORCs, fees and the obligatory spend up on options.
The GT and Modena use a 2.0-litre turbo, the latter variant with a longer spec sheet, while Trofeo gets a 395kW twin-turbo V6 to stir the soul. Each has an eight-speed auto and AWD, while the Modena and Trofeo get adaptive damping, the V6 model also riding on air.
Sports luxury the theme
The interior is lavished in leather, with plenty of design flourishes and detailing. The leather-bound seat has the fit of a well tailored suit, though some might find it a little restrictive. Until you find the controller to slacken off the variable bolstering that is, yet it’s still quite a firm fit.
Not to be outdone, the interior door openers are unique too with a thumb-activated electronic release mechanism. While it sounds convoluted, you can open the door in one seamless action, while also having more control over it in tight spaces.
With four screens inside, the Grecale delivers the on-board tech that’s been missing from the older models. But then it’s the first new vehicle in over seven years. The digital instruments have various themes to choose from, while the main 12-inch screen houses the infotainment.
Below that is a smaller screen (the comfort controller) where you set the air, your seat and a few other things. The tag team set-up gives space for more touch points, so there’s less swiping and tapping involved, while you can customise the home screen with your preferred short cuts. Sometimes you need to give it another stab, its sensitivity not quite perfect, but otherwise its bright and quick acting.
Of course, it will still be too much for some. Remember though the typical buyer in big markets like America and China will be closer to thirty than seventy and more tech savvy. Stick with your Levante if you think it’s digital overload, as even the famous Maserati clock on the dash has swapped cogs for signals.
It’s what they label the fourth screen, and along with being able to switch between different clock faces, you can also get it to register your G forces or find due North.
The Grecale has a decent wheelbase which gives those in the back less to moan about as they have more than enough legroom, though they might mention that the seat back is a little too upright. In behind, the boot might not be the widest of holds but it’s long.
And while there’s no underfloor storage, the seats flop forward via a quick release lever if you find those golf clubs don’t quite fit.
The Modena uses a 2.0-litre four cylinder and it’s a hybrid but of the mild kind, using the 48V tech to both ease the fuel use and boost performance. It has a Belt Starter Generator device, and the regular gas-spun turbo is supplemented with an E-booster, an electric supercharger/turbo thingee to bulk up the low end of the torque curve. It gets a few more herbs than the entry-level GT with 246kW and 450Nm.
Prod the start button that’s slung off the steering wheel, and it sounds angrier than your usual milk bottle motor. In the default GT drive mode, it simmers down and is quiet, refined even.
With the BSG in charge of the idle/stop restarts, it refires quickly and though there’s still a hint of lag off the mark, the torque flows strongly from 1500rpm onwards. Expect your average for a mix of motorway and urban commuting to sit in the 12-13L/100km zone.
The eight-speed auto is slurry smooth in this setting while push button selectors are an interesting feature of the gearbox. These are sited high on the dash, freeing up some storage space, but simply aren’t as user friendly as a lever. However, for ease of use when parking, once you select Reverse gear, you can then use the paddles to flip between D and R to help manoeuvre around.
The ride quality is certainly acceptable, but not helped by the larger optional 21-inch wheels this vehicle rode on; you do feel the bigger bumps but generally it’s composed. The steering is easy, even the turning circle isn’t that awful for an Italian machine.
The usual drive assist features are standard and most are well tuned, although the warning bongs when something does go off are alarmingly loud.
Is it a sporty SUV?
Grecale uses a version of the platform that originally underpinned the Alfa Romeo Stelvio so yes, it’s a sporty number.
The steering is quick acting, the front end turning dutifully. The weight split must be decent as it feels delightfully neutral in a bend, the front end resisting the urge to push. Like the Stelvio, the AWD has a predominantly rearward bias, a trait we discovered when jetting out of a tight bend.
Being wet under the treads, the rear shuffled a bit wide on the exit but with a wee steering adjustment, the AWD then pulled it straight. It’s got character then. While it has a tricky dynamic control system, it doesn’t feel overly digital.
The big alloy gear paddles go largely unflapped for in Sport mode the transmission does all the right things; shifts are short and sharp, and it delivers an appropriately timed downshift when you’re on the brakes. The stoppers have both a meaty feel and bite, though the mass of the thing does start to wear on them.
There’s a touch of dive when you’re hard on the anchors, but that helps load the front end up nicely so you can hook into the bend. While the mass doesn’t weigh on the dynamics, it does blunt the performance, the 2.0-litre merely adequate. Guess you’ll be needing the Trofeo to really fire the soul.
But the four-pot sounds decent and doesn’t drink excessively thanks to the strong midrange. However, it does feel much livelier beyond 3500rpm and pulls strongly right up to the change point beyond 6000.
The dampers stiffen in Sport mode which is good for the bends but not on the big bumps.
You can choose to switch these back to normal mode thanks to a separate damper button within the drive mode switch. But even then, on lumpy highways, this is not the plushest cruiser. Thankfully the tyre noise isn’t excessive.
So worth it?
While it’s the entry level to Maserati life, it’s still pricey, this one at $165k with its options. That puts it in Macan S territory, which is more potent with its six-cylinder engine. You’ll also get more for your money from the other German brands, though they don’t seem as exclusive.
The Grecale is a bit roomier, well specified and made, with only a few Italian quirks and definitely worth considering if you’ve tried the rest.
|Model||Maserati Grecale Modena|
|Clean Car Discount||Fee – $3,662|
|Engine||1995cc, IL4, T, DI|
|Drivetrain||8-speed auto / on-demand AWD|
|Tyre Size||f-255/40/R21 r-295/45/R21|
|Stability systems||ABS, ESP, TC|
|Safety||AEB, ACC, BSM, LDW,|
RCTA, ALK, AHB
|Tow rating||Not rated to tow|
|Service intervals||12 months/15,000km|
|ANCAP rating||Not yet rated|