The Wind Cries Maserati: Maserati Grecale Launch Report

Its no secret that Maserati has been undergoing something of a renaissance in recent years. With a raft of new products leaving the doors of the luxury Italian marque, the Trident arm of Stellantis is showing no signs of slowing down.

The biggest recent sensation by far was the new MC20 supercar but what is expected to be their biggest and most popular model is the new Grecale SUV.

Aimed at the likes of the Porsche Macan and Mercedes-Benz GLC, the Grecale, named after strong north easterly wind which blows across Italy from time to time, is part of Maserati’s plan not only to make a significant impact in the uber-competitive mid-sized luxury segment, but also mark the beginning of an eventual transition to electrification.

Therefore, the Grecale has plenty of weight on its shoulders and after much anticipation, it has finally landed on Kiwi shores. “We are excited to introduce this model to the New Zealand market and believe it will be well-received by Maserati enthusiasts and new customers alike,” says Grant Barling, General Manager for Maserati New Zealand. I was invited to spend the day in Auckland experiencing this ‘Everyday Exceptional’ Maserati SUV. Here is what’s what.

The Grecale is initially made up of a three-tier model lineup, with a fourth, the all-electric Folgore due here mid-2024. Until then though, we have the GT, Modena and Trofeo grades to choose from. The GT kicks things off at $124,000 while the mid-range Modena sits at $145,000 and the flagship Trofeo will set you back $186,000.

Both the GT and Modena are powered by a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine mated to 48v mild-hybrid system. A mild hybrid works by storing electric energy and using it where ever it is needed most to aid in performance or efficiency. Power for the GT is rated at 221kW and 450Nm of torque. The Modena gets an extra 22kW and produces 243kW while the torque figures remain the same. Zero to 100km/h sits at 5.6 seconds and 5.2 seconds respectively while claimed combined fuel consumption and CO2 emissions for the pair is around the 8.8L/100km mark and 199g/km.

As for the Trofeo, well the gulf between this variant and the former two is vast, quite vast. The Trofeo, as the name suggests, is the hottest Grecale you can buy. Hidden behind that very pretty nose is the same Nettuno 3.0L twin-turbo V6 engine from the MC20 supercar. This means the same F1 style pre-chamber combustion system and having 390kW of grunt on tap coupled with 630Nm of torque.

Zero to 100km/h? Try 3.8 seconds with a top whack of 285km/h. Naturally the Trofeo is a lot thirstier with a combined fuel consumption figure of 11.2L/100km but you do get Trofeo also come standard with 21-inch alloys, adaptive shock absorbers and air suspension which are cost options on the GT and Modena.

All Grecale models come with Maserati’s second generation eight-speed automatic transmission and AWD system. Drivers can choose from a variety of drive modes too including Comfort, GT Sport and in the case of Trofeo and those with air suspension, Corsa and Off-Road mode.

These modes are controlled by Maserati’s new Vehicle Domain Control Module. VDCM allows the Grecale to predict rather than react to road conditions and adapt the car in each drive mode to suit the situation.

On the subject of looks, photos really don’t do the Grecale justice. Details like the wide front grill, a muscular sculptured front lip and headlights which pay homage to the MC20 make for one handsome SUV. The MC20 is further referenced by way of the Grecale’s electric door handles.

It’s also nice to notice elements of Maserati heritage within the overall design. Features like the side ‘port hole’ air vent trio of Maseratis of old and the rear taillight cluster which pay tribute to that other pretty Italian design, the 3200 GT coupe.

After enjoying a hot drink in Maserati embossed cups and enjoying the hospitality of the team from Winger Maserati in Auckland, it was time to begin our Grecale odyssey. The drive would take us all over some of the greatest country roads within places like Kaukapakapa, Waimaukau and would culminate in a delicious lunch at celebrity chef Michael Van De Elzen’s ‘Good From Scratch Cooking School.’

First up was the entry level Grecale GT. Hop inside and there is nothing that the feels ‘entry level’ about this Maser. The level of refinement here and the use of quality materials for the dashboard, door inners, instrument pods and centre console feel so well put together. Due to its 2,901mm wheelbase, it also actually feels more spacious in here than its bigger Levante sibling. It feels more like a luxury lounge suite than a luxo SUV cabin, blending both the old and new to great effect.

Talking of the new, first thing which grabs your eye the moment you sit down is the Maserati Intelligent Assistant (MIA) 12.3-inch touchscreen multimedia system. Like the system found in the MC20, it offers sharp graphics and features no lag or delay when you selecting menus or built-in functions. It is also miles better than the old FCA system that’s for sure.

The gear selector buttons for the eight-speed automatic transmission are mounted below the MIA. The P button is a bit of a stretch but the rest of it are easy enough to get your head around. Below this is the new 8.8-inch touchscreen for the climate control which requires a firm press from index finger, but like the bigger infotainment system, its very clear and concise.

Another feature I rather liked was to be found atop the dash itself, the centre clock which also doubles as a compass or a g-meter. You need only swipe across to alternate between these screens which I will admit, was pretty darn swish.

You have a plethora of kit which you would expect of a car of this type but there are a couple of additions which are worth mentioning here. The Grecale comes with a new voice interface system “Hey Maserati” much like what you would find with products from Mercedes-Benz and BMW. This allows you to issue of variety of voice commands to operate much of the entertainment, communication and climate control features.

The other is the Sonus Faber sound system, with up to 21 speakers and 3D sound putting out up to a hefty 1200w of symphonic power. Let’s say I look forward to an in-car concert of the works of Verdi and Hans Zimmer.

Right, time for the off. On the road between Auckland and our first coffee stop at Warkworth, the GT was rather impressive. Being a Mild Hybrid, the GT is happy to store electric drive within its 48v battery pack and use it to aid in acceleration and fuel efficiency. This when combined with the 2.0L turbo four pot gives some pretty decent get-up-and-go. It even sounds nice high in the rev range, providing you select Sport mode for the privilege.

When in Sport mode, the steering weights up and hunkers down to be as slippery through the air as possible. The steering also weights up nicely and the GT’s throttle response is sharpened.

Aside from a smattering of tyre roar, which to be honest one would expect while navigating Kiwi back roads, the Grecale does a fine job of whisking you along in delightful surroundings. The eight-speed automatic transmission feels miles slicker than Maserati systems of previous years. It is up there with the MC20 in terms of crispness and responsiveness.

As some of my passengers on the drive would attest to, I found myself flicking up and down the paddles just for the heck of it, as each time feels just as satisfying. Another feature is that you can engage reverse gear by flicking down the left paddle, rather than having to press the console mounted reverse button. The Grecale GT’s abilities as a supple high riding tourer became more than obvious as we ate up the miles along SH1.

After our coffee stop, it was time to swap over to the flagship powerhouse that is the Trofeo, though I wouldn’t be in the driver’s seat this time around. As a passenger, I can safely say the Trofeo’s Nettuno V6 straight out of the MC20 is a gem of an engine. It makes a fabulous turbo six pot burble from idle right the way to the near 7000rpm redline. The addition of a few farts and pops between each shift in Trofeo only Corsa mode provided this Grecale’s occupants with a few giggles. While I can’t yet report on how it feels from a driver’s perspective, the flagship left a lasting impression.

Before long we arrived at Good From Scratch. Founded by TV Celebrity Chef Michael Van de Elzen and his wife Belinda, Good From Scratch Cookery School is the realisation of a dream of both Michael and Belinda to have their own farm and rear their own food which took inspiration from their tome working at Irish boutique hotel ‘Dunbrody’ which focused on serving their customers meals with ingredients grown from their own garden. Situated in Muriwai, Michael and Belinda bought the 13-acre farm in 2015 and Good From Scratch opened its doors in January 2020.

Michael and Belinda prepared a simply divine three course meal for us and allowed us to soak up the sights and tranquillity of what is probably the most picturesque setting for a cooking school in the country. Oh, and did I mention there was a whole host of Maserati art, model cars and merch displayed in the dining area?

After this it was time for my last drive of the day and it would be in the mid-range Modena. Named after the town regarded as the focal point for Italian engineering excellence, the Grecale Modena, with its blacked-out badging, 34mm wider track and extra power, offers everything GT but with an added focus on performance.

You do feel the extra power whether briskly motoring along or opening the taps a tad. In Comfort mode, the ride is both supple and soft without the car feeling too wayward. The Grecale’s 1895kg kerb weight is noticeable, but it still feels solid and planted whether in the bends or on the straights. That VDCM system keeps things safe and smooth that’s for sure.

While the traffic heading back into Auckland prevented venturing into the realms of driving exuberance, the Modena was a brisk and stylish way to rocking up to the departure gate of Air New Zealand.

The Grecale has been a long time coming, since 2021 in fact, but this wee taster thanks to Maserati New Zealand and Australia has certainly left me hungry for more. A more thorough road test on Canterbury back roads and around central Christchurch will be required to see if the Grecale gets a clean bill of health, especially the Trofeo. As far as first impressions go, it is mighty impressive. Stay tuned.


All photos courtesy of Maserati

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