Matt Prior assesses the mid-spec option from Maserati’s new Grecale mid-size SUV range.
Maserati’s answer to the Porsche Macan has almost arrived in Australia. We’re testing the Modena, which at $128,000 and 221kW is the centre point of a three-strong Grecale range that begins with the $109,500 Grecale GT and ends with the Trofeo.
Like the GT, it has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine driving both axles through an eight-speed automatic transmission, but as well as the extra poke, there’s a mechanical limited-slip differential. Air springs are optional and fitted to our car.
The Grecale sits on Alfa Romeo’s Giorgio platform, as do the Alfas Stelvio and Giulia, but with an extra 83mm of wheelbase over the Stelvio. Given how good that SUV and that saloon are to drive, particularly in their fast forms, this was a strong basis for Maserati to work on.
First, though, to the interior, and very pleasant it is too, with well-appointed materials. Some of the stitching and carbonfibre is optional, but I don’t think you’d feel hard done by without it.The driving position is good, with an almost round steering wheel and satisfyingly large gearshift paddles fixed to the steering column, so that they’re always where you left them.
Two touchscreens adorn the dash. The lower one in particular, which handles the climate control, I’d rather featured real toggles.
Between them are gear-selector buttons, freeing up space on the transmission tunnel for cubbies, a phone charger, a padded armrest and big cupholders. Well, a fair few Grecales will be sold in the US. There’s decent space in the back and the boot is 535 litres – more than in the Macan and alike other rivals.
If 10 years ago I had told you I was going to test a Maserati with all-wheel drive and that had only four cylinders yet, cost $128k, what would you have thought? But here we are.
And, well, it’s pretty good. I’d heard indifferent things about the ride, but on 21-inch wheels (20s are standard) with 40-profile tyres, it feels pretty good to me – controlled and relatively firm but never harsh or crashy, even now, when potholes have been opened by frost but not yet fixed. You want to steer around bigger ones, but it’s pliant enough.
It’s sufficiently refined, too. I’d need a back-to-back with a Macan to know for sure, but Porsche does intentionally allow more road noise inside than some rivals. The Grecale is relatively muted, although that might not be a bad thing, given that its engine has gravelly undertones.
There’s little problem with its delivery, though, which, being augmented by a mild-hybrid system at low speeds, has a broad delivery. Peak torque of 452Nm arrives at 2000rpm and stays until 5000rpm, then peak power at 5750rpm, so it isn’t a traditional high-revving exotic Italian powerplant. Which is probably a shame but also probably in keeping with how it will be used.
Dynamics engineers often say their favourite variant of a car is the lightest one, and the Modena carries around 50kg less than the Trofeo. It’s not loads (the 3.0-litre V6 lacks a mild-hybrid system), but the biggest difference will be in the nose. And for a 1.9-tonne, 1.67m tall car, the Modena is respectably agile.
It may be tall, its steering doesn’t tell you much and its brake pedal is a little spongy but, being front-engined, being predominantly rear-driven and using a slippy diff, it has a pleasing balance. It’s a good car. I have a mate who took a Ghibli as a company car because he’d had his fill of BMWs and Audis, even though he knew it would be worse. You don’t have to pick a Grecale just to make a change.