This is the brand new Maserati Grecale
The top version pictured here is called the Trofeo. It's blasted along by a version of Maserati's own V6 engine, the Nettuno, which first appeared in the delicious MC20. But here it's detuned to a 'mere' 530bhp. Maserati says it does 0-62 in 3.7 seconds.
The other petrol versions get a 2.0-litre that's adapted from the Alfa Romeo four-cylinder turbo. Maserati has adapted it by adding a second blower, an electrically-powered compressor for lag-free pickup at low revs. That comes in two versions, 300bhp and 330bhp. The compressor runs at 48 volts, and that circuit is also used to power a mild hybrid system using a motor/generator belt-driven from the engine. It keeps the CO2 emissions below 200g/km.
All versions are four-wheel-drive for the moment, and most have air suspension.
In early 2024 there will be a full-electric Grecale, badged Folgore - Italian for lightning - ready to face off against the electric Macan. No more details about performance on that one. But remarkably Maserati has squeezed a 105kWh battery into a platform originally designed for combustion only. So we should be talking of a very decent electric range. If not the very fastest charging because it runs at 400 not 800 volts.
The Grecale uses Alfa Romeo's 'Giorgio' platform, which makes us optimistic for ride and handling as the Alfa Stelvio is good at both. Especially handling. The Grecale will be built at the same factory as the Alfas too. But the wheelbase is longer in the Maserati – over 2.09 metres – so space will be increased, and of course there's more room under the floor for that massive battery in the Folgore.
In the cabin, a new connected infotainment system is based on the Android Auto OS. Count the screens. Apart from upper (infotainment) and lower (climate) touchscreens, there's the main instrument screen and optionally a head-up display. Even the little dash clock can face-swap to become a g-meter. But it all sits among Maserati's usual plush leather, with some pretty sudden colour options and contrast stitching. The optional sound system is a 1200-watt 25-speaker job.
Underneath, air suspension is optional, which will be useful to owners who take the 'utility' part of SUV literally. It can self-level, and rise up for rough terrain. The V6, called Trofeo, has complex torque vectoring. There's a new in-house electronic dynamics control system that controls – predictively in some cases – all the powertrain, braking, diff, damping, air suspension and other actuators around the car.
You can read of the effects in our prototype drive here. TL:DR, it was fun, a car that felt smaller than it is, with a feeling of rear-drive playfulness as we ramped up the mode dial. We only had the 300bhp four-cylinder, but concluded, "this is a characterful engine and it works just fine in this installation".
We ended up driving the prototype because this full launch has been delayed by about six months, which will have lost Maserati a lot of business. Blame a combination of the chip shortage, and things not being quite ready anyway.
Maserati reckons the Grecale will be its biggest-selling car. Not a great challenge, as the Levante SUV was supposed to challenge the Germans but never did the business. Although to be fair it has had a 'long tail' and managed to have a pretty good year in 2021. Maybe the MC20 really is having a halo effect.
In Maserati tradition, Grecale is the name of a wind. In this case a cold north-easterly one that hits Malta and the western Mediterranean. We knew you'd be asking.
TEXT Paul Horrell