There is something odd about driving a Maserati every day. Odd as in extraordinary. Maseratis are traditionally temperamental, quirky, impractical, and often frustrating. Not the sort of thing seen loading up at Sam’s Club or in the Starbucks drive thru. But a Maserati is compelling, nonetheless. There have been great Maseratis and terrible Maseratis, but the weirdest thing about the 2023 Grecale crossover is that it’s a Maserati that isn’t extraordinary. And in Trofeo form, it’s fast.
Think of it as a Porsche Macan that’s been pan fried with capers and covered in a chunky marinara; an al dente Alfa Stelvio. Not-too-Italian, but still Italian. Like The Olive Garden.
And the Grecale Trofeo is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that sings with 523 hp. That’s 89 more horseys that the top spec Macan GTS. That’s a lot of breadsticks and salad bowls.
Grecale is the Italian word for a wind from the northwest. So, it joins the Volkswagen Scirocco, Pontiac Tempest, Mercury Cyclone, and GMC Typhoon among others as a vehicle named after a weather event. More pointedly, it’s a companion to the 1963 to 1970 Mistral touring coupe, the mid-engine 1972 to 1978 Bora, and the ongoing Ghibli sedan, all of which are also named after winds. Also, it’s amazing how many different names for wind there are in Italian.
The Grecale is built atop Stellantis’ “Giorgio” platform which is the same basic structure under Alfa’s Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover and which Jeep uses for the Grand Cherokee. The Grecale’s 114.2-inch wheelbase puts it smack between the Stelvio at 110.9 inches and the Grand Cherokee which puts 116.7 inches between its front and rear axles. All three are tautly drawn SUVs with short front and rear overhangs and a steeply raked windshield. While Jeep, being Jeep, has overlaid some off-road cred onto the GC, the Maserati is more like the Alfa in making no pretense of off-road prowess.
The cheapest Grecale, the base GT powered by a 296-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four, starts at $65,300. That isn’t inexpensive, but hardly outrageous. The Grecale Trofeo, in contrast, starts at $105,500. Much of that thick price increase must be the engine. This isn’t some generic V-6 hauled out of the Stellantis parts bin, but a version of the same “Nettuno” powerplant installed into the mid-engine MC20 supercar… which ought to be named after a wind but isn’t.
With V-6s and V-8s, German turbo engines typically nestle the turbos in the between the cylinder banks. This leads to short exhaust paths to the turbo impellers for quick spool up and near instant boost for low-end torque production. But the Nettuno powerplant goes old school with the turbos outboard of the engine block feeding through intercoolers back up to the intake atop the vee. That’s not swell for low-end torque, but the engine has a revvier nature. Some internal combustion spunk.
Behind the Nettuno V-6 is ZF’s latest version of its familiar eight-speed automatic transmission. That in turn feeds an all-wheel-drive system which then turns 21-inch wheels inside 255/40R21 front and 295/35R21 rear Bridgestone Pontenza Sport summer-spec performance tires. The double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension is fitted with air springs which can be driver-tuned to six different settings depending on conditions. And when the Grecale is parked, it squats slightly to aid ingress and egress.
There’s a lot of Stelvio in the Grecale’s appearance and DNA. After all, they share most of their chassis parts, use the same transmission and are built alongside each other at the Stellantis’ Cassino Assembly plant in Piedimonte San Germano just about where the ankle would be in the geographic boot of Italy. But the top Stelvio, the Quadrifoglio, uses a Ferrari-built 2.9-liter V-6 peaking at 505 hp. That’s only 18 behind the Grecale Trofeo’s 523, but bragging rights matter in this class of crossover swingers. And the Maserati engine isn’t just a bigger meatball, it has a spicier personality.
The 90-degree angle vee Nettuno engine was designed by Maserati and is built by Maserati to be entertaining. In the MC20 mid-engine sports car, it’s rated at 630 hp and practically giggles with eager glee when it’s started. It has lost 107 horses in the Grecale, but it still makes a sound like Frank Gorshin’s Riddler anticipating the death of Adam West’s Batman in the 1966 Batman TV series.
Yeah, there was a time when Batman wasn’t taken too seriously, and the Grecale Trofeo shouldn’t be either. And the ancient pop culture reference seems appropriate for a machine built by a 110-year-old marque that hasn’t had much motorsports success since Juan Manuel Fangio won his fifth and final World Championship driving the Maserati 250F back in 1957.
Getting the most out of the Grecale Trofeo means giving it plenty of spur. It’s only when the engine passes its 457-lb-ft torque peak at 3000 rpm that it becomes a happy screamer. The ZF gearbox is among the best manual shifting automatics around and that adds to the playfulness of this 4500-or-so-pound bear. Alfa’s Stelvio is one of the best handling and rewarding SUVs to drive… and this Maserati is an exaggeration of all that is good about it.
And it’s quick. The 0 to 60 mph sprint should run about 3.6 seconds with the quarter-mile going by in the mid 11s. Strong, but not overwhelming.
But the transmission controls shouldn’t be indistinct buttons on the dash. And at this six-figure price, the interior materials are disappointing. The flat bottom steering wheel, however, is about perfect and the paddle shifters are large, aluminum, and work perfectly. Maserati needs to cut back the number of digital displays, bring back some real dials, and give the Grecale a volume knob. A cabin without one is inexcusable.
It's not the roomiest SUV and its ride quality is acceptable for daily use. But though this is a Maserati built to be driven every day, it should make every day feel special. It doesn’t do that. And it lacks the nth-degree precision that makes high-end Porsche SUVs so astonishingly good to drive
Back in 1939 and 1940 Wilbur Shaw drove an 8CTF to victory in the Indianapolis 500. Not two 8CTFs, the same 8CTF winning twice in a row. Maseratis won the Targa Florio four straight times between 1937 and 1940. Ferrari may carry the glamor today, but it was Alfa Romeo and Maserati that did the heavy lifting establishing Italy as the land of great sports cars. Of course, Maserati needs a compact SUV—something for running errands around Boca Raton—if it’s going to be a successful business.
It’s a brand from a time before there was “brand marketing.” In 2024 it will have been around for 110 years. And it didn’t market itself to prominence. It earned its glory. More of that glory needs to be apparent in Grecale Trofeo.
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