Maserati Grecale – The Passion of St. Giorgio

Stellantis, you are spoiling us!

Image: Maserati Media

In less than a couple of months we have witnessed the arrival of two new SUVs from the auto conglomerate’s revered Italian high-performance marques. We have, however, previously expressed reservations about the distinctly mass-market componentry underpinning the Alfa Romeo Tonale. As with the Alfa, this month’s debutant, the Maserati Grecale, represents a move downmarket for the marque, but the ingredients are rather more original and appetising this time around.

At its world premiere in the Alfa Romeo Museum, the Tonale featured two F1 racing drivers and brand CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato as presenter and host. In marked contrast, the Grecale had a duo of Italian actors in a film studio; Matilda de Angelis and Alessandro Borghi, with Maserati Design VP Klaus Busse[1] cast in the straight man role, an unwitting butt of jokes, in the manner of a two-metre tall Ernie Wise. It’s either rather charming or just excruciating, like an overplayed piece of drama school coursework: are these actors really so beguiled by this overtly boastful, but ultimately rather shallow machine?

We should be wondering what constitutes ‘everyday exceptional’ or marvelling at the powertrain options, but my preoccupation was just how much Stelvio there was under the Grecale’s skin. It sits on the same Giorgio platform and is built in the Cassino factory that has produced Alfa’s SUV for the last five years.

In my cynical and untrusting way, I was quick to check the comparative dimensions. Here’s a handy cut-out-and-keep guide, with a necessary footnote:

The Grecale has an 83mm longer wheelbase than the Stelvio and is 144mm longer overall. The larger dimensions are enough to place the newcomer neatly between the Stelvio and Levante[2]. Although the Grecale is described as a Porsche Macan rival, it is dimensionally closer to the Cayenne.

Image: Maserati Media
Image: Stellantis Media

Compare the side profiles and the claimed €800 million investment in tooling the Cassino factory seems credible.

With the proviso that aesthetics are something I usually leave to those at DTW better versed in the principles and unique lexicon of automotive design, I’ll briefly observe that, while its profile has a close affinity with the Levante, the Grecale’s frontal appearance is stronger than that of the larger SUV. The Levante suffers from undersized headlights overpowered by an overscaled grille, the same unsatisfactory format widely adopted by mass-market manufacturers for their SUVs.

Image: Maserati Media

I see at least a hint of the 3200GT in the Grecale’s front-end treatment, which is a good thing, yet Maserati refers to the influence of the 1998 coupé only in the design of the new SUV’s tail lights, which incorporate a boomerang shape in LEDs. In reality, it’s a tame gesture: other carmakers use LEDs with far more boldness and creativity.

Image: Maserati Media

Wishful thinking in hindsight, perhaps? The best that can be said about that rear-end treatment is that it is restrained and it just about succeeds in disguising the Stelvio hard-points.

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Engines are the very soul of the top-tier Italian carmakers and Maserati offer something truly special in the Grecale Trofeo. For those in less of a hurry, there is an up-to-the minute version of a more widely used FCA-developed power unit in the lower-order GT and Modena.

To summarise briefly, the engine line-up comprises a two-litre four-cylinder 300PS mild-hybrid from the FCA GME family for the entry-level GT model. The Modena specification, one step up, has the same engine, but with another 30PS. In both, the belt-driven hybrid system is based around a 48-volt motor and battery pack. There are no full hybrid or PHEV options, nor is a diesel available.

Nettuno. Not for our eyes. Image Autocar

The real drama is provided by the Trofeo’s 90° V6, which delivers 530pS and 457lb ft of torque. This achieves a 0-62mph time of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 178mph. Some sources state that this engine is the Nettuno from the MC20 supercar, but Maserati’s own description states that it is “based on the Nettuno”. In the Grecale, it has wet-sump rather than dry-sump lubrication and a system of collapsible tappets [3] which allows the right-hand cylinder bank to be switched off in part-load conditions.

All-wheel drive is standard across the range, using an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission controlled by push buttons and steering wheel paddles rather than a traditional selector lever. There is no manual gearbox option. All engine options have Maserati’s exclusive Vehicle Dynamic Control Module system with a choice of up to five driving modes; Comfort, GT, Sport, Corsa[4] (Trofeo only) and Off-Road.

Image: Maserati Media

The drivetrain offering will be completed with the arrival in a year’s time of the Grecale Folgore, a battery-electric version based on 400-volt technology[5], but still using the Giorgio platform.

At the presentation, the Grecale’s technology came a close second to the motori. The t-word once meant engines, gearboxes and suspension. Now it means infotainment, connectivity and driver assistance. Thankfully, Maserati is far too exclusive and rich in history to express ambitions to reinvent itself as “a sustainable mobility technology company”. Across the Grecale range, there are three display screens; a 12.3” central screen, another 8.8” display for the secondary controls and a third for the passengers in the rear seats.

Image: Maserati Media

Rather pleasingly, the clock, mounted high and centrally, is the portal for the voice and touch-screen controlled functions. It is possible to change the skins for the clock display, but Maserati does not state whether the Biturbo-era Mandorla[6] is included amongst the choices.

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Unsurprisingly, MIA (Maserati Intelligent Assistant) provides “a seamlessly connected experience for everyone onboard“, unless she’s gone Missing In Action, of course.

To my delight, Sonus Faber is now Maserati’s featured audio brand[7]. A few years back I berated the people on the Maserati stand at the Geneva show for using Bowers and Wilkins branding on the new Quattroporte’s audio system, explaining that it was a mass-market British brand, selling £200-300 speakers in non-specialist outlets while offering some high-end products for prestige value.

I suggested they investigate well-regarded high-end Italian high-fidelity manufacturers such as Sonus Faber and Unison Research. I very much doubt that I planted the germ of an idea, but at least they’ve done the right thing, going for an long-established and well regarded Italian manufacturer, albeit one that is now American-owned. The Grecale should be a treat for the hi-fi connoisseur, with 14 speaker units in Premium Level trim, and 21 if one opts for High Premium.

The Grecale is, as expected, no thoroughbred, but is cleverly positioned between the Stelvio and Levante and has performance and appointments worthy of the Trident. No mention has been made so far of pricing, nor of production targets, but the hefty investment in the Cassino factory suggests that far larger numbers than the Levante are envisaged.

Unlike Alfa Romeo, Maserati is not a brand in distress: in 2021 its global sales grew 41% year-on-year with a total of 24,269 vehicles worldwide. According to Stellantis’s figures, the brand’s operating income margin stood at 5.1% and net revenues were €2,021 million. The Levante has been the marque’s best-selling product since its introduction, giving assurance that customers see no contradictions in a Trident-badged SUV.

Image: Maserati Media

If there is any disappointment about the Grecale, it’s the lack of stylistic progression since the 2017 Levante and Stelvio. Others, including Maserati and Alfa Romeo’s Stellantis stablemates, do the SUV business with more flair and boldness, but at least Maserati has avoided the horrors turned out by certain firms on the northern side of the Alps, who really ought to know better.

 

[1] Was Maserati CEO Davide Grasso too taciturn to take on the task, or felt that the design chief had more star quality? It’s disappointing that Klaus Busse has not even a trace of West Midlands intonation from his time as a student in Coventry.

[2] There are even longer Giorgio platform variants underpinning the 2021 Jeep Cherokee in standard (2,964mm) and long wheelbase (3,091mm) lengths.

[3] Collapsible tappets sound rather alarming. In reality it’s an electro-hydraulic actuator system, similar to Honda’s VTEC, although put to a different purpose.

[4] Does this mode replicate the constantly annoying driving style of a rat-faced youth in a small Vauxhall fitted with a waste-paper bin in place of a silencer?

[5] Hyundai and Kia are already offering 800-volt technology in far cheaper cars.

[6] A geometric figure formed by the overlapping of two circles, and considered sacred by some as a symbol of female power.

[7] Bentley has Naim, Aston Martin has Linn and Mercedes-Benz has Burmester. The audio makers’ input varies in such cross-branding; sometimes very much hands-on, for others not much beyond superficial details and a final tune-up.

19 thoughts on “Maserati Grecale – The Passion of St. Giorgio”

    1. Mr. Miles of this parish also seems to be rather taken with loudspeaker maker Sonus Faber, going by the message he sent me earlier this evening. The craftsmanship is spectacularly good, and the sound quality matches the appearance.

      I think the firm may have lost some direction after the untimely passing of founder Franco Serblin nine years ago, McIntosh Group seem to be intent on leveraging the brand; some of their speakers are surprisingly affordable.

      This probably needs to be seen in an international context – in the UK and USA the premium manufacturers have moved rapidly upmarket. Do they realise that they are turning hi-fi into a rich old men’s hobby? That’s not a sustainable strategy.

  1. Good morning Robert and thanks for the comprehensive introduction to the new Grecale. I hope it succeeds, not for its own sake, but because it might provide the funding for more of the sort of cars that I associate with the marque, high-performance saloons and coupés. If having to put up with another SUV carrying the trident, then I suppose it’s a price worth paying.

    1. The point of car companies is ultimately to make money so I doubt if any money earned on saleable sludge will be diverted to passé formats like coupés and saloons, much as I prefer coupé and saloons to these sausages. Tradition is lovely as long as it is living tradition. Jaguar inherited a brand dependent on a fading tradition of preference for large saloons. They ought to have implemented diesel by 1992 and ought to have had an estate car as soon as it became apparent M-B were doing good business with the W-124. It would seem to me that the most prefered car format is now the large hatch. Well done, Renault for your work in laying down the guidelines. Would I be right in guessing that most BMWs sold are hatchbacks? It was a canny move of BMW and Mercedes to refuse to make 5-doors until they´d almost outcompeted their near-peers. Now all the arguments heard that five-door cars are declassé and not for toffs are long forgotten. And let´s not forget L-R for showing punters how posh a mud-plugger could be.

    1. Good morning HGraber. I can certainly see what you mean:

      That said, there is a depressing similarity between so many of these SUVs.

  2. It’s OK, but nothing special, is it? The front is too Ford Puma (the current small crossover, not the fun little coupe of yore) and the rear lamps actually look like those of the Ford Kuga.

  3. “High Premium.” This is good. It leaves room for Ultra High Premium and Super Ultra High Premium. Innovation is not dead inside Stellantis.
    I notice both the Grecale and some Volvos have the same wheel arch treatment.

    1. It doesn’t do to ridicule the strata of “premiumness”. The extras are where the profits are made, and the conspicuously rich love that sort of thing – just tick every box to be sure your car is better than your friends’ and neighbours’?

      The issue, I suppose, is whether the target customer will simply go for the Levante – more of a proper Maserati – rather the Grecale which, above all, is an Alfa.

  4. Another SUV, another yawn. Then again. as long as it brings in the cash that’s needed for Maserati to survive, who am I to judge. I like saloons and coupes. I drive a coupe, but selling cars is not about sentiment. The Lotus Eletre (how am I supposed to pronounce that?) is next. And then there is the Ferrari Purosangue. What will they think of next?

    1. The Eletre is a ‘SPUV’ apparently – a ‘Sports Performance SUV’. It’s the first 4-door Lotus (Cortinas and Carltons aside) and is huge and complex – it’s estimated to weigh well over 2 tonnes. Colin would be pleased. Still, you know, money.

  5. Oh, finally! The Cereale is out. The car I’ve been waiting for all my life.

    What was the reason again why one should buy the Cereale and not one of the other cars that look pretty much the same? I think I missed the paragraph about the USP, or I fell asleep at this point during the video.

    1. After looking at the picture of the interior again, I was struck by the sloppiness and ostensible indifference of the designers. With a little more effort and commitment, another place for another touchscreen could have been found. Who buys a coal mine with less than half a dozen touchscreens these days?

  6. Perfectly encapsulated, Robertas. It’s an SUV so I don’t like it, but with that proviso out of the way, it’s more or less all right. The design is a little neater than that of the Stelvio and Tonale, although the rear features a few to many creases. The Puma connection is depressing, especially considering Fords smaller SUV’s make clever use of Porsche’s design language from the Macan.

    What I find very interesting is that they apparently found a way to electrify the Giorgio platform, famous for not being able to be electrified (or however you want to term it). Either the Folgore (nice word, though a little uncomfortably close to ‘folklore’) uses an entirely different platform or Alfa has some… electrifying news in store. There are rumours (or was it spread by the boss himself) that Alfa wants to make an EV Guilia successor. Maybe they’ll be able to do so quicker than expected.

    I hope a great many things for the world, and this is only a small niggle in the grand scheme of things, but God, I hope the SUV trend dies soon. If the EV revolution had happened fifteen years earlier, they’d all be MPV-shaped like the ID3. That wasn’t a very edifying trend in itself, but at least there was a whiff of functionality about those cars.

    End rant 🙂.

    1. We now know that there’s going to be a BEV Grecale, so a fully electric Stelvio and Giulia must inevitably follow, unless Carlos T is as mad as Sergio M.

      Carlos T’s wiping out of Opel platforms was quick and brutal, probably because of GM IP issues, and the number of PSA-GM “before they were married” joint ventures.

      The Stellantis CEO’s attitude to FCA platforms seems surprisingly reverential. The use of an evolution of the decade and a half old Grande Punto platform for the Tonale was a shock. I’ve suggested it was down to timescales. With the electrified Giorgio it could be down to recouping unamortised investment. I just hope that they’re keeping a close eye on what’s happening in South Korea, China, and the west coast of the USA.

    2. Carlos seems like a good business man (and a car guy). it’s a bit obscure history by now, but Rover were intimately familiar with the difficulties that arise from having your divorcee’s IP in your products. As I understand it, they had to pay Honda for the entire lifespan of the 200/400/45/ZS, etc.) so cutting loose those platforms makes sense.

      The Tonale’s platform is, as you say, probably because of the timeline. Fortunately Tavares seems to have little patience with FCA’s customary strategy of grandiosely announcing something and then going “sorry, next year maybe” for five years.

      For all its faults, Giorgio is – apart from super-low-volume Maserati platforms – probably the most ‘premium’ platform Stellantis have. Maybe Tavares is something of a romantic as well?

  7. Horrible. Just not worth the money to purchase. Not at all. Who is it that is foolish enough to finance these things anyway? You’d really have to be blind (literally, figuratively, economically, operationally).

    Quoting, “I just hope that they’re keeping a close eye on what’s happening in South Korea, China, and the west coast of the USA.”

    Probably are, though it is not going to matter much. The days of manufacturing stuff like this in Europe are ending very, very soon and in a prompt manner. Further, Stel will not be able to access markets in China, much (most) of SE Asia, Russia, the Russian Near Abroad or anywhere else that really counts.

    The days of SUV production throughout Europe are numbered. It is becoming more and more untenable to manufacture in Europe. Further, these SUV vehicles are not going to be what people will want in the home markets because they are becoming increasingly unaffordable to purchase, maintain and operate there. It matters not whether they are electric powered, diesel powered, gasoline powered, kerosene powered or even steam powered.

    So that leaves export. Trouble is, those foreign markets won’t be available to take the number of vehicles required to break even, let alone take profit. For this type of over-complex, over-regulated, unaesthetic and dull vehicle the game is all but over. The game is well into injury time already.

    Now, who is able to guess the form of vehicle which is likely to dominate?

    Ok then. What about some of the specification details?

    No?

    Here is a hint. Look carefully at what just happened up at AvtoVAZ. There is a new trend starting- a shift in the automotive world’s CoG looms.

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