The last time I got behind the wheel of a Maserati, the pandemic was in full swing. The automaker invited me to Willow Springs for a few laps of its freshly minted Trofeo lineup – the Levante, Ghibli, and Quattroporte. I was expecting to heap breathless praise onto the Ferrari-derived, twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 resting under the hood, but it wasn’t to be.
Without the Roma-chic flat-plane crank and equal-length exhausts, the Trofeo trio was sedate, tame, and almost boring. Detracting from the experience was a cabin that looked (and smelled) like it had been plucked from Chrysler’s clearance rack – especially in the Ghibli. Instead of Osteria di Modena Rossi and Call Me By Your Name, I got Olive Garden and Everybody Loves Raymond.
You can imagine my skepticism, then, when Maserati dropped a Grecale Trofeo on my driveway. Not only had I been burned in the past with high expectations, but this new Trident didn’t even have that Ferrari DNA to fall back on. Insteadthere’s a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 that comes from the MC20 sports car – although that’s an admittedly brilliant machine, a V6-powered crossover doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of lust. Happily, I was as wrong about the Grecale Trofeo as I was about its Ghibli sibling.
|2023 Maserati Grecale Trofeo
|Twin-Turbo 3.0-Liter V6
|523 Horsepower / 457 Pound-Feet
|Price As Tested
Gallery: 2023 Maserati Grecale Trofeo Review
It’s hard to deny that the Grecale’s one hell of a looker. The upturned daylight opening (borrowed from the first- and fifth-generation Quattroporte) adds a dash of Italianate, mid-century style to the modern-crossover proportions. Meanwhile, the sloping hood, peaked fenders, and bottom-feeder grille look as fabulous here as they do on everything from the Mistral to the latest Gran Turismo. And if you squint, you’ll see shades of the not-for-USA 3200GT in the boomerang-shaped taillight accents.
All those heritage design cues wouldn’t count for much if the Grecale didn’t already have an appealing form factor, but apart from the longish front overhang, it’s just about perfect. The stance is low and wide, with a long wheelbase and color-matched body cladding to make it look even more hunkered down. And although the Grecale’s shape recalls the Alfa Romeo Stelvio platform-mate, the Maserati’s chiseled contours give it a different visual personality.
The Grecale’s interior is suitably fabulous, and although there’s still plenty of Stellantis influence in the electronics, most of the touchpoints are unique. My tester’s black leather with red stitching gave the cabin a rich, couture aroma decidedly unlike the rubbery Ghibli, and the 3D Carbon trim is a delight for the eyes and fingertips. What’s more, the leather and carbon fiber both come free of charge, so the automaker doesn’t even charge you for the tactile, aromatic pleasure. Ask your Porsche dealer for the same courtesy in a Macan and you’ll get laughed all the way to the Exclusive department.
The only really bad news inside the cabin is the frustrating infotainment package. The main 12.3-inch touchscreen and identically sized gauge cluster use a reskinned version of the Uconnect 4 and the touch response isn’t phenomenal, requiring hard presses on the center display to make things happen. Worse still, the 8.8-inch “comfort display” mounted low on the center stack tries to do too much, with everything from climate and seat massage adjustments to headlamp and ambient lighting controls. The menu structure is byzantine at best, leaving newbies bewildered for the first few weeks of ownership.
Rebrand the ergonomic frustration “Mediterranean charm” and the Grecale Trofeo makes a tiny bit more sense – after all, I doubt the Maserati brothers cared about such things as button placement or headlight operation or airbags or seat belts. So let’s just stop quibbling about touchscreens and go for a drive.
That V6 thrums to life via a button mounted on the steering wheel, greeting me on cold starts with a vibrant little rev before settling into a sedate idle. The sound is better suited to a Monaco boulevardier than a Grand Prix legend, but the Grecale makes sportier noises than I was expecting given my previous experience with a Trofeo. In its default GT drive mode – to which it annoyingly reverts at every key cycle – the Masi is easy to drive smoothly, with genteel throttle tip-in that gives way to good around-town thrust as you dig in deeper.
Maserati claims the Grecale Trofeo will hit 60 miles per hour in just 3.6 seconds before charging to a top speed of 177 miles per hour. More impressive than the numbers is the sheer amount of thrust on tap from just about any gear and any engine speed. Part of the recipe for brilliant response is the “Nettuno” V6 engine’s pre-combustion chamber with its own spark plug. Fuel fills the pre-chamber during the compression stroke where it is ignited, and that ignition spreads to the main combustion chamber very efficiently, giving the car more power and faster turbo response than it might otherwise have.
The four-corner air suspension with adaptive dampers also provides good body control and ride comfort in that default mode, with little of the squishy, land-yacht feeling that can sometimes be a feature of balloon springs. That said, if you want a little more grand and a little less touring, you can spin the drive mode dial over to Comfort and get all the floaty, slushy responses of the DeVille you owned in 1982.
At the other end of the Grecale’s register is the Sport driving mode, which uncorks the V6 engine for a far more exciting vocal performance and the throttle response of a chopsaw. Shifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission are firmer and more aggressive, with downshifts and overruns accompanied by a scintillating crackle from the exhaust. The gearbox has an obedient manual mode with chunky, aluminum paddle shifters; it’ll even bounce off the rev limiter rather than automatically upshifting. But even with the TCU doing the decision-making, the Grecale holds gears through corners and readily downshifts on hard braking.
The suspension firms up as well, eliminating body motions and yielding a slightly firmer ride while still maintaining good wheel control over rough asphalt. On the winding, plunging road through Little Tujunga Canyon, the Grecale defaulted toward mild, safe understeer, but it also communicated those intentions very early, allowing me to ease up on the throttle and tighten the cornering line. The Bridgestone Potenza Sport tires – standard on every Trofeo – have resolute levels of grip, and they give up traction progressively so that a skilled driver can alter behavior before that happens.
Like the rolling stock and suspension, the steering is surprisingly communicative. Little Tujunga Canyon Road isn’t a paragon of smoothness, and as a result, I felt some kickback through the steering wheel over midcorner bumps. While that might not be appropriate for a more luxury-oriented crossover, it only adds to the Grecale’s charm, affording me the information I needed to extract the most performance out of the little yellow SUV. From the snappy throttle, and crackling exhaust to the chatty suspenders and helm, Maserati has almost completely made up for whatever soul may have been missing from previous Trofeos.
There's Always A Catch
I only say “almost” because there is a heady price to pay for the Grecale’s performance. Starting at $106,995 including destination, ballooning to $136,795 for the example I drove. The lion’s share of that comes from the unique “Fuoriserie” Corse Yellow paint, which costs a staggering $19,000 all on its own – an 18-percent upcharge. Ditch the special out-of-series color and the price drops to a much more palatable $117,795. But even at its base price, the Trofeo is about $18,000 dearer than a 434-hp Macan GTS and $26,000 more than a 472-hp BMW X4 M. Neither are as quick, but for 20 grand, who’s counting?
Where the Grecale Trofeo comes good is in offering a driving experience befitting its unique, Romagnolo heritage. Starting life in Bologna before moving to nearby Modena, Maserati comes from a part of Italy where everyone – from schoolboys to wizened old ladies – appreciates good exhaust notes as much as good tortellini in brodo. And while its Trofeo forebears seemed content to water that hereditary passion down a bit, the Grecale’s heritage comes through as strong as ever. Maserati is back, and it’s looking for a torrid and tragic love affair to celebrate the homecoming.
2023 Maserati Grecale Trofeo