Maserati’s return to North America has not been the resounding success Stellantis was hoping for. Oh, the products have been stellar: the Ghibli is an excellent entry-level luxury sedan with panache and passion; while the Levante is a pretty stylish and sporty SUV. Only the top-of-the-line Quattroporte is a little out of its depth, the result of age and a European edge too focused for a North American clientele.
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The problem is that Ghibli and Quattroporte are four-door sedans, a dying segment even amongst the über-wealthy. And, while the Levante is a sport-brute, it competes in the mid-sized segment already thoroughly dominated by Porsche’s Cayenne and BMW’s X5. Maserati probably expected a more welcome reception on its arrival to our shores, which is probably why it didn’t come out of the gate with all guns blazing.
That’s about to change right now. First it was the recent launch of the MC20, only the company’s second mid-engined supercar, yet already a formidable challenge to Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren. No, it’s not going to be a volume player, but the company is certainly hoping it becomes the halo that shines a light on the Maserati it thinks will—the 2023 Grecale.
Aimed right at the heart of the luxury market, the Grecale — which, like all Maseratis, is named after a wind, this one that blows northeasterly through the Mediterranean — is a compact SUV meant to champion the Italian brand against the like of BMW’s X3, the Porsche Macan, and Mercedes’ GLC.
It comes to the fight well-armed. Both base GT and mid-level Modena are powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged mild-hybrid four. In this case, however, the 48-volt belt-starter-generator is used to run an electric supercharger — an “e-booster,” in Maserati parlance — for quicker throttle response at low revs. In the base GT, this totals in at 296 horsepower, while the Modena turns up the boost to 325 hp. Both, however, produce as much as 332 pound-feet of torque at a low, low 2,000 rpm, promising grunty performance for such a small engine.
At the other end of the spectrum likes the Trofeo, powered by a 523-hp turbocharged six. Surprisingly, this is not just the Ferrari-built Alfa Romeo 2.9-litre twin turbocharged V6 transplanted from the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, but a slightly tamer rendition of the 3.0-litre Nettuno V6 that powers that MC20 supercar. Replete with the same Maserati Twin Combustion (MTC) technology sourced directly from Formula One, It’s an all-Maserati design built in the company’s Termoli plant.
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First Drive: 2022 Maserati MC20
Like the MC20, the Grecale’s MTC 3.0L uses a pre-chamber system — think circa-’70s Honda CVCC cylinder heads, only tuned for big power — to maximize performance and emissions. The main differences between the MC20’s version of the Nettuno and the Grecale’s is that the SUV retains a traditional wet-sump oiling system (the supercar gets a dry-sump system) and unlike the MC20 comes fitted with a cylinder deactivation system that shuts down one bank of cylinders for reduced emissions and increased fuel economy. Despite this concession to practicalities — and a slight lowering of turbo boost — the Grecale still boots to 100 km/h in just 3.8 seconds.
The big surprise, however, is that there will also be a full-battery-powered Grecale, the Folgore. Details are few and far between, but Maserati says the 400V electric architecture will pump out 590 pound-feet of torque, and will be powered by a 105-kilowatt-hour battery, which is substantial by compact SUV standards.
That’s about all the tech we have on the electric Grecale, but we do know that the topmost trims — Modena and Trofeo — will be blessed with an air suspension system that has no fewer than 65 millimetres of ride height adjustment. From its normal mode, it can be lowered 35 mm for parking; or raised as much as 30 mm for off-roading.
The suspension is married to a five-mode Vehicle Dynamic Control Module that transforms the Grecale into everything from a sport-brutish off-roader into a typical Italian corner-carver, with a comfortable ride in between. The Comfort mode obviously has the suspension on full squishy, and the engine’s throttle response dialed down. Sport sees the suspension get stiffer and hunker down some 15 mm for a lower centre of gravity. A Corsa mode is available on the V6 Trofeo, which sharpens both throttle response and suspension damping even further, while Off-Road jacks up the air suspension those aforementioned 30 mm, softens throttle response, and programs the transmission to upshift earlier. It’s also worth noting that both the Modena and the Trofeo have a 34-mm wider rear track for even more confident cornering.
Inside, Maserati says the Grecale is similarly brimming with high-tech gadgetry. There are, for instance, no fewer than four digital screens: a 12.3-inch classic gauge cluster, the 12.3-inch touchscreen that dominates the centre dashboard, an 8.8-inch “comfort” screen underneath it, and a small, bejeweled digital clock. It’s not quite the 56-inch expanse of LCDs that we see in Mercedes’ new EQS, but touchscreens are a prominent feature inside the new sport-cute.
The central screen works with Maserati’s Intelligent Assistant (MIA) multimedia system, which is itself based on an Android Auto operating system. It can store up to five user profiles, Bluetooth two smartphones at once, and works with either Alexa or Google assistants. A sound system by Sonus Faber — whom Maserati labels “the Italian Artisans of Sound” — boasts 1,000 watts of amplification working across no fewer than 21 speakers.
All this goodness comes at a price, though, and the base GT version of the Grecale starts at $71,900 here in the Great White Frozen North. Look for it in Maserati dealerships this fall.