2023 Maserati Grecale HYBRID - Pre-production prototype test drive
We bag an early drive in a Maserati Grecale prototype and discover why Porsche’s Macan has a fight on its hands. Story by Shane O’Donoghue.
Maserati’s Macan 2023 Maserati Grecale test
As much as we love the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, it’s a tough ask for the brand to go up against the marketing and reputational might of Porsche. Now, however, Maserati is entering the compact SUV fray with the Grecale that’s due in spring 2022. Ahead of its unveiling, we got behind the wheel of one of the engineering prototypes at the Stellantis proving grounds in Balocco, Italy.
Using the same core ‘Giorgio’ platform as the Stelvio, but with increased dimensions, the Grecale sits below the Levante in Maserati’s line-up. It's 159mm shorter and 43mm narrower, while the Grecale's wheelbase is also 103mm less. However, it’s notably more spacious inside than the Macan, with a much larger boot, too. We were not allowed to take photographs of the dashboard, but can tell you that it represents a big step forwards for Maserati. In the middle, a new digitally rendered clock replaces the traditional analogue Maserati item and there are two separate touchscreens. A 12.3-inch ‘Ultra HD’ display uses a typical infotainment interface running the Android Auto operating system, while an 8.8-inch touchscreen below angled for easy access to the climate control and lots of other functions.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel holds the engine-start button and driving mode control, while there are deliciously huge metal gearchange paddles behind.
Elsewhere in the cabin, leather upholstery features the Maserati Trident embossed in the headrests. The outer two rear seats can easily accommodate an adult, though the high transmission tunnel obstructs anyone sitting in the middle. Those seat backs split 60/40 and fold down if the 535-litre boot isn’t big enough.
There will be fully electric and turbocharged V6 versions of the Grecale in time, the latter using a detuned version of the MC20’s phenomenal ‘Nettuno’ engine. The prototype we’re driving is powered by the entry-level powertrain, similar to that found in the Ghibli Hybrid: a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine married to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, ZF eight-speed automatic and variable full-time four-wheel drive. The hybrid tech includes a belt-driven starter/generator and an electrically-driven compressor, which Maserati calls an e-booster. Peak power is 300hp, while 450Nm of torque is on tap from 2000 to 4000rpm. That results in a rapid 0-62mph time of just 5.6 seconds.
Breathing through an active exhaust system with four tailpipes, it also sounds remarkably good for a mere four-cylinder engine. The automatic gearbox is well-calibrated, so you have little need to use those gorgeous paddles behind the wheel and its settings are altered depending on which driving mode you select.
All versions of the Grecale will get Comfort, GT and Sport settings to choose from, altering the power-assisted steering, accelerator response, transmission, all-wheel-drive split and stability control. There’s a marked difference between the modes, too, emphasised by the damp and cold test track, designed to mimic a typical Italian country road. In Comfort mode, the engine is relatively quiet unless you ask for full acceleration, the steering is alive but light, and if you carry too much speed into a tight corner, it’s safely scrubbed off in mild understeer. The stability control quickly steps in to give a helping hand.
At the other end of the scale the Sport setting provides more resistance in the steering, notably improved response to the accelerator (the e-booster is partly responsible for that) and much more of the power sent to the rear wheels. In fact, even with the stability control turned on, it’s possible to summon up modest power slides on the exit of corners. The optional rear mechanical limited slip differential no doubt helps with that. Through all this, the steering and chassis communicate clearly to the driver what is happening and it’s remarkably natural, with very little body lean. In short, it’s a lot of fun.
This prototype featured the top-spec suspension set-up of air springs with adjustable damping, which undoubtedly enhanced the experience. The baseline damping force is varied in each of the driving modes.
The air springs also allow the ride height to be altered on the move, so Maserati adds another driving mode when they’re specified – called Offroad. The driver can independently choose from two increased ride heights and one reduced, while the system automatically lowers the car further again once over about 80mph. The most basic Grecales will feature conventional steel springs with frequency selective damping and it will also be possible to order adaptive damping without air suspension, but our drive shows that the most sophisticated set-up is well worth having.
First impressions suggest that the Grecale has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the Porsche Macan in terms of driving, and certainly in terms of practicality, at the same time putting some clear air between itself and Alfa’s Stelvio. When the swirly camouflage comes off, we hope the Grecale has the looks to back it all up, as this has the potential to become Maserati’s best-selling car ever.
“ Even with the stability control turned on, it’s possible to summon up modest power slides on the exit of corners ”
Camouflage can’t mask curvaceous body styling – but we weren’t allowed to see the dashboard. Grecale benefits from Alfa Giorgio based platform. Four-cylinder petrol hybrid power suits this new SUV.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS 2023 MASERATI GRECALE HYBRID
- ENGINE: 1998cc 4-cyl turbo hybrid
- MAX POWER: 300hp at 5750rpm
- MAX TORQUE: 450Nm at 2000-4000rpm
- TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
- TYRES: 255/45 ZR20 front, 255/45 ZR20 rear
- DIMENSIONS: 4846mm (L), 1948mm (W), 1670mm (H)
- WEIGHT: 1870kg
- MAX SPEED: 150mph
- 0-62MPH: 5.6 sec