SUVs are one of the most popular vehicles on the road today. The initial desirability stemmed from practicality. Off-road capabilities and a high driving position contributed to its image as a solid jack of all trades, but as the SUV developed over time, it took on the guise of the perfect family car — a purposeful purchase that could fulfil various duties.
Car makers naturally set about making them both faster and more comfortable with enhancements that exceeded utility, but as luxury players entered the arena, the SUV’s stature heightened even further. In this exclusive realm, captivating design, a formidable powertrain and cutting-edge technology formed the fundamentals.
Maserati was fairly late to the party when it announced the launch of the Grecale last year. It inaugurated the Italian marque’s mid-sized luxury SUV segment, which sits below the larger Levante crossover, released some seven years ago. Currently, the Grecale comes in three distinct models: GT, Modena and Trofeo, with the Folgore — Maserati’s first fully electric SUV — set for 2024.
Even with the entry-level GT, the Grecale stands as a testament to the brand’s commitment to visual splendour and meticulous attention to detail. The exterior, sculpted with dynamic curves and graceful lines, evokes a sense of motion even at a standstill. The Grecale’s LED headlights and boomerang tail lights call to mind the MC20 and Giugiaro 3200 GT, while essential and iconic signatures like the triple side air vents and Maserati Trident anchoring the grill are a nod to the brand’s heritage. It is a pleasing car to look at — in Blu Intenso, the metallic finish reflects a stately gleam under the sun.
Inside, the vehicle envelops its occupants in a realm of understated luxury. It is clearly where efforts are most conscientious. Dressed in the finest Italian leatherwork, the spacious cabin is flush with hand-stitched details enriched in a sumptuous chocolate colour. The seats are supple yet supportive, with ample head and leg room even for the standard European, so Malaysians need not worry. The second row is equally capacious, comfortably accommodating a couple of adults or two or three kids. And if you intend the Grecale to be your next family hauler, its 535-litre boot space should come in handy.
But the focal point of the car has got to be the front cabin. While behind the wheel, the eyes are immediately drawn to the mixed materials and fine details across the dash, which features Maserati’s first digital clockface. The smell of leather sends an olfactory reminder of the Italian marque’s masterful and lavish craftsmanship, but the aluminium touches, such as the shift paddles, underline the Grecale’s sporty soul. As you slowly slide your hands into position on the steering wheel, key features like the engine start and stop button, the drive mode selector and the ADAS control are at your fingertips.
The cockpit’s volume is maximised through streamlined, functional design. One may notice the absence of a traditional gear shift — it has been incorporated into the space between the 12.3in central screen and 8.8in control display as buttons. It makes room for the spacious armrest, two big cup holders, a large storage compartment with double butterfly doors and a mobile phone charging area.
While this surely adds cleanness to the aesthetic, the move unfortunately shaves off a few practical points. For one, the buttons need a lot of getting used to. Secondly, they are inconsistent in terms of sensitivity. Imagine being lucky enough to find an empty space in a congested car park only to realise the Reverse button has failed to engage, jolting your Maserati forward as impatient eyes bore into you. Thirdly, having the gear buttons near an area the front passenger frequently interacts with feels a little too close for comfort.
Touch screens seem like the inevitable way to go. It makes sense when it comes to navigation, media, climate control and other peripheral settings, but the Grecale’s display also takes charge of the headlights, which feels unintuitive and could potentially spell danger. Thunderstorms are common and unpredictable here. Jabbing the screen to turn the lights up while squinting through sheets of rain hitting the windscreen does not seem like an ideal situation to be in.
On a jaunt to Janda Baik, a 40-minute trip from Kuala Lumpur, the Grecale GT cruised with composure, letting out a little bit of grit in Sport mode. The GT is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that comes with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that sends drive to all four wheels, the car serves a max power of 300hp with 450Nm of torque, has a max speed of 240kph, and can complete the 0-100kph dash in 5.6 seconds.
The specs are adequate but not top-of-the line. For a marque that is all about Italian flair and character, the barely-there soundtrack makes the Grecale GT feel like it is not quite within regular Maserati territory. Drivers who live for thrills and shrills will find the Grecale’s — the GT and Modena variants anyway — lack of fanfare a bit of a letdown. Perhaps the Trofeo, equipped with a 530hp V6, would satisfy better in this respect.
That said, the Grecale GT makes a well-rounded daily driver. These days, personal vehicles are an extension of one’s lifestyle and an embodiment of one’s values. This specific Trident pairs well with owners who are less interested in supercar specs and care more about sophistication, design and luxuriating in the finer things in life. It is certainly apposite to itinerants and those with peripatetic occupations. Besides, who can deny the cachet a marque from Modena brings to the table?
This article first appeared on Aug 28, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.