2023 Maserati Grecale First Drive Review: Macan's New Menace

Italian brands like Maserati conjure up all sorts of rose-colored images and cliched phrases. It’s said cars from the boot-shaped country are more passionate and more emotional, and that fans will flock to them because of an unmatched pedigree that comes from a century of legendary racing engineering.

It’s for all of those reasons that people buy Italian cars – they want a taste of that exotic lifestyle and the romance that comes from pretending to be Fangio blasting around Monza at the wheel of a Maserati. For these customers, practicality rarely drives their purchasing decision. And yet it’s the chief (but not only) reason I’d have the new 2023 Maserati Grecale over a Porsche Macan, a Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, or even my beloved Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

As I found during a whirlwind trip to Milan, Italy, the Grecale has the roomiest cabin in the segment. It’s arguably the most comfortable offering, too, and outclasses its rivals in terms of material quality. And while it isn’t as athletic as its Stelvio cousin or the Teutonic Macan, the Grecale stands out by capturing the hallmarks of the Italian driving experience while embracing the day-to-day composure that’s so important in the luxury crossover game.

Autostrada Assault

Gifted as it is in all the things that matter to buyers in this class, the Grecale remains unabashedly Italian. And for that reason, I’ll start with its engines. The base GT and volume-spec Modena trims carry a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that pairs with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to produce 300 or 330 horsepower respectively, with 332 pound-feet of torque across the board. The range-topping Trofeo, meanwhile, outguns the Macan GTS, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63, and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio with a unique version of the Nettuno V6 introduced in the MC20 supercar.

Packing all the same advanced technologies I experienced in the MC20, the Nettuno engine turns out 530 hp and 457 lb-ft in the Grecale Trofeo. The sprint to 62 miles per hour takes just 3.8 seconds. The Macan GTS takes 4.5 seconds to do the same, while the GLC 63 and Stelvio Quad match the Maser. In other words, the Grecale Trofeo is quick as hell. The GT and Modena are a touch slower, with their four-cylinder mild-hybrid powertrains taking 5.6 and 5.3 seconds, respectively. Both times are slower than a Macan S or GLC 43 (4.6 and 4.7 seconds), though.

I spent most of my day in Italy with a Giallo Yellow Grecale Trofeo, bopping around Milan and ending up at the stunning Lake Maggiore, about 60 miles north of Italy’s fashion capital. The Grecale’s Nettuno drops the dry-sump oil pump in favor of a wet-sump system – no point in the more expensive and difficult-to-engineer setup for a vehicle that won’t be pulling the G forces of the MC20 – and retains the innovative Twin Combustion system. I’ll spare you the technobabble, but the Grecale’s V6 maintains the same 11:1 compression ratio and turns the wick down for improved fuel economy. But I promise, you won’t miss the extra oomph.

Gifted as it is in all the things that matter to buyers in this class, the Grecale remains unabashedly Italian.

Both on the labyrinthine streets of Milan and the autostradas that encircle the city and streak north, south, east, and west, the Grecale’s supercar-sourced, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 was a peach, with far more effortless low-end grunt than its 3,000-to-5,000-rpm torque peak might suggest. But this engine is pointless trundling around at low rpms, where its soundtrack is dull and reminiscent of any other V6. Wind it out, though, and the 3.0-liter comes to life, singing a proud and evocative song while scooting the Grecale along with extreme haste.

Schizophrenic Italian speed limits left plenty of opportunities to blast from 90 kph to 130, and even as I backed off to avoid the incessant speed cameras, the Nettuno had more to give. On a few sprints, I was brushing 160 kph without realizing it. But selecting the appropriate drive mode had a big impact on how good and how immediate the V6’s performance was.

In the Trofeo, there are five such selections (Off-Road, Comfort, GT, Sport, and Corsa), but my advice is to ignore default GT mode, which has dull throttle response and lethargic gear changes, in favor of Sport. The spicier setup is better at revealing the Nettuno engine’s high-performance roots, with more aggressive tip-in, exciting barks on high-rpm upshifts, and the kind of intelligence that the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic is known for.

Left to its own devices, the gearbox knows exactly which gear to deliver in which situation. I preferred manual mode, simply because the Grecale’s huge, column-mounted aluminum paddle shifters deserve unadulterated love and attention. And as good as the automatic shifts are, the transmission obeys the driver’s commands very well, too.

This isn’t to say you should automatically go for the Grecale Trofeo. While I spent less time with the base four-cylinder, it didn’t take long to realize that Maserati has nailed the overall engine lineup. The 2.0-liter, borrowed from the Ghibli and Levante Hybrid, is a charmer, packing a refined soundtrack and an eagerness to rev that feels as energetic as the Porsche Macan’s base engine. Also, it farts just as loudly on heavy upshifts as the V6. Delightful.

Of course, losing 200 hp does have an impact on performance. While accelerating from a standstill to the redline is entertaining as hell, the ultimate lack of pace highlights a worrying separation in the powertrain lineup. With no middle-ground offering, a 1.5-second difference in the zero-to-62 time exists between the V6 and the speediest four-cylinder, and rivals that are near or below the Grecale’s $64,000 starting price, including the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 and Macan S (4.7 and 4.6 seconds to 60, respectively) pack that part of the stopwatch. I wouldn’t hesitate to snag a Grecale Trofeo, but the four-cylinder model makes for a tougher choice.

The Space Between

As I said from the jump, though, performance won’t necessarily be the main reason you visit the Grecale salespeople over their counterparts at Porsche or Mercedes. Crossover consumers should flock to this car for the sheer amount of cabin space it offers.

Without getting into specifics, Maserati claimed that the Grecale’s second-row legroom leads the segment – there’s apparently an additional 7 inches of lower-limb space in the second row relative to any German competitor, and sitting back there supports the company’s claim. Moreover, getting in and out is a breeze, as the Italians made the second row flush with the door frame, creating an expansive aperture for getting in and out.

Gallery: 2023 Maserati Grecale: First Drive








Maserati achieved this feat without increasing the Grecale’s size. Based on the same Giorgio platform that underpins the Stelvio, the Giulia sedan, and Jeep Grand Cherokee, the 191.2-inch Maserati is 2.3 inches shorter than the Jeep, while its wheelbase is 3.2 inches longer than the Alfa. A huge car, this is not. And the Grecale doesn’t sacrifice cargo volume for the extra second-row space – there’s 20.1 cubic feet back there with the seats up, or 2.5 cubes more than the GLC.

For those that don’t care about how roomy this CUV is, they should at least appreciate the extravagant trappings. Rich, well-padded leather abounds, along with attractive contrast stitching and other interesting material choices. My Giallo Yellow Trofeo tester wore black leather and unvarnished carbon-fiber trim, complete with yellow stitching that presented a clean and purposeful cabin that still exudes the luxury customers demand.

But for my money, the Modena’s more abundant leather takes the cake. Sure, it substitutes boring piano black trim on the door cards, but the all-leather dash is gorgeous. And while these were pre-production cars I was driving – deliveries won’t start until later this year – the fit and overall quality seemed high, despite a few odd squeaks and rattles.

And being Italian, the driver ergonomics are top notch. I’ve already professed my love for the column-mounted paddle shifters, but even the Modena’s seats pack huge amounts of support thanks to the sizable side bolsters. The seating position itself is excellent, with a low hip point and a wide range of adjustability. The one odd discrepancy was the lack of a power-operated tilt/telescopic steering wheel. A small error on Maserati’s part.

While Maserati has gone to some lengths to finish the Grecale’s cabin, it couldn’t get away from some Stellantis trappings. The steering wheel buttons and the digital instrument cluster they manage come straight from the newest Jeep models, complete with chintzy piano-black finish. The bones, too, of that digital cluster feel too close to the Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer as well, although I’m not sure that will be as obvious to the consumer – the Grecale has its own unique graphics and aesthetics.

That’s doubly true of the infotainment system, which pairs a 12.3-inch touchscreen up top with an 8.8-inch display below it. The two screens sandwich the push-button gear selector. While the upper display runs the same infotainment system Maserati introduced on the MC20, featuring quick-access “buttons” on the left side of the screen and a wide overall display that can support a significant amount of information, the lower display is home to the climate settings and other quick-access systems. Graphics on both displays are crisp and pleasant, which describes their reaction to inputs, but I’d love a haptic motor to better confirm when the screen recognizes a touch.

The Greasy Bits

Based on the same Giorgio platform as the Stelvio, it’s no surprise the Grecale uses a similar semi-virtual suspension arrangement. I’ve raved about this setup in the past, but it feels duller in the Grecale. The steering lacks the immediate turn-in of the Stelvio and is missing out on feedback through the road. The Grecale Trofeo’s standard active shocks and air suspension mute too much of the road, reducing feedback through the chassis. Particularly in high-speed bends, it’s difficult to ascertain what the front is doing. But relative to both its Alfa cousin and the Macan, the Grecale’s ride-handling balance is better for everyday life.

On the rough city streets, the air suspension ironed out more severe bumps. The ride is quiet, too, despite the Trofeo’s 21-inch wheels. Suspension impacts register as little more than a dull thud, while my tester’s winter rubber failed to intrude on the quiet cabin (although it might be to blame for the vague front end). And high-speed stability (in a straight line) is plenty high, even without one of the trick four-wheel-steering setups automakers are passing out like Halloween candy. As an autobahn burner, the Grecale Trofeo has some very real appeal.

At lower speeds, though, its grabby brake pedal proved tiresome. It bites quickly initially, and while modulating is easy enough once you adjust, the brakes on my tester groaned when I lifted off at stop lights. It was like the caliper was momentarily surprised by the brake input and failed to release pressure on the disc quickly enough. I’m hoping this is merely a pre-production woe, as it spoils the otherwise refined experience of driving the Grecale on city streets.

Practicality Or Passion? Why Not Both

The Grecale is still several months away from going on sale for North American consumers, but you can plop down a refundable $500 deposit and reserve one now, as part of Maserati’s first reservation program. Prices will start for the GT at $64,995 (including a $1,495 destination charge), while the company will do a short run of Modena Limited Editions that demand $78,895. Those pricier models do add some nice kit, though, with standard with 21-inch wheels, the Skyhook air suspension, a 14-speaker Sonus Faber audio system, a panoramic sunroof, and five unique paint colors.

Maserati hasn’t announced pricing on the standard-issue Grecale Modena, nor the V6-powered Trofeo. I’d wager the former should retail for around $71,000, while the latter will likely sneak in under $90,000.

There are a solid handful of reasons to consider the Grecale over the competition, with the roomy and well-crafted cabin leading the charge. But while those qualities have my brain saying “yes,” it’s the less tangible attributes that have my heart. No, I’m not talking merely about cliched attributes we lazy writers prescribe to every Italian performance car. It’s simpler than that. Much as Janis Joplin complained that all her friends have Porsches, it’s a safe bet the same is true of the potential Grecale customer.

In that sense, the trident badge and MC20-inspired styling represent a radically different take on a well-trodden idea. Not only can you have a car that is better than your best friend’s Macan in a number of ways, you can have an Italian car. With a mean-ass spear on the front end. And a supercar-derived engine under the hood. Like I said, there are a lot of good, practical reasons to buy the Grecale over the competition. But don’t go all stoic – you can buy this one based purely on emotion too.

Grecale Trofeo Competitor Reviews:

  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: Not Rated
  • BMW X3 M: Not Rated
  • Mercedes-AMG GLC 63: Not Rated
  • Porsche Macan GTS: 8.7 / 10

FAQs

How Much Will The Maserati Grecale Cost?

Prices for the 2023 Maserati Grecale start at $64,995, including the $1,495 destination charge. Customers who place a reservation online can snag a Grecale Modena Limited Edition, which includes some additional equipment above and beyond the standard mid-range model, for $78,895. Maserati hasn’t announced prices for the standard Grecale Modena or the Grecale Trofeo.

What Is The Maserati Grecale?

The 2023 Maserati Grecale is a new compact luxury crossover that draws inspiration from the MC20 supercar. Designed to compete with the Porsche Macan, BMW X3, and Mercedes-AMG GLC-Class, among others, it boasts a gorgeous and roomy cabin, along with an available V6 engine from the MC20.

How Fast Is The Maserati Grecale?

The standard Grecale GT packs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. It’s good for 300 horsepower and 332 pound-feet. The mid-range Modena adds 30 horsepower to that amount, while the range-topping Grecale Trofeo replaces the four-pot with a twin-turbocharged V6 that’s good for 530 hp and 457 lb-ft. The four-cylinder models can hit 62 mph in 5.6 and 5.3 seconds, respectively, while the Trofeo does the job in just 3.8 seconds.

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