Don't Be So Quick to Overlook the Maserati Grecale Folgore

2024 maserati grecale folgore
Don't Overlook the Maserati Grecale FolgoreMaserati

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Like every automaker enjoying a post-Covid inflationary feast, Stellantis is packing on the profits, including $20 billion in 2023. But there are lot of mouths to feed in this multicultural Brady Bunch, with 14 Stellantis brands to support. There's also a lingering sense that consolidation may become necessary when profits and belts tighten.

Maserati must then make a corporate case for itself, as will happen when a string of ICE models, the Levante, Ghibli and Quattroporte, fail to make a lasting dent in the luxury market. But with Stellantis envisioning a global showroom of EVs, from Fiats, Peugeots and Citroens in the EU, to muscular Jeeps and Dodges here, Maserati may have found its PowerPoint pitch: An Italian design-and-performance halo brand, but also a corporate center of excellence in luxury EVs. Despite turmoil in the EV world that has some automakers recalibrating plans, Maserati insists it still intends go all-electric by 2028. That includes a Folgore (Italian for “lightning”) version of the MC20 supercar that’s expected next year, and an all-new Quattroporte sedan that’s been pushed back to 2027, to be built on Stellantis’ “STLA Large” BEV platform.

That brings us to Puglia in southern Italy for a run in the Maserati Grecale Folgore, an electric SUV as smooth as whipped ricotta, as expensive as a Massimo Bottura tasting menu in Maserati’s Modena hometown. This Grecale shares a lame-duck Georgio platform with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Giulia, the basis for hot-handling Italians that speak the language of Road and Track.

2024 maserati grecale folgore

Like the ICE-powered Grecale, the Folgore makes a great first impression with its Trident-capped snout and muscular shoulders, even if the rest trails off into familiar luxury-SUV tropes. Maserati left that gulping mouth a bit open to the breeze, versus many grille-free EVs. The choice adds a skosh of aero drag, but ensures proper systems cooling, and designers rightly decided the signature style was worth sacrificing a few miles of range. Fan-blade style aero wheels look to stem further losses, here with 20-inch alloys wrapped in Pirelli Zero Scorpion all-season rubber. Our convoy of Grecales flashed a spectrum of appealing colors (some from Maserati’s new Fuoriserie personalization program) including Rame Folgore, a gray-brown matte that reveals rich copper highlights in varying light.

Reworked front and rear fascias meld into a flat aero underbody that shields a 105 kilowatt-hour, nickel cobalt manganese battery. Thirty-three battery modules each encase six prismatic pouch cells, sourced from China’s CATL. Where some Stellantis EVs will adopt an 800-volt architecture, this one is limited to 400 volts, for a maximum 150-kilowatt DC charging rate and a 29-minute recharge from 20-to-80 percent. For home, Maserati will throw in a free wallbox that can supply up to 22 kilowatts through a powerful onboard Level 2 charger and CCS combo plug. The automaker has no plans for now to switch to Tesla’s dominant NACS plug or network, even as several competitors jump aboard Tesla’s charging train.

Maserati cites a 311-mile (500 km) range on Europe’s WLPT cycle. Figure closer to 240 or 250 miles when our EPA generates a U.S. estimate, prior to the Folgore reaching showrooms this summer. That more-realistic range dovetailed with my efficiency readouts (on a 12.3-inch driver’s display) on a run to Santa Maria di Leuca, at the southernmost tip of Italy’s Prada heel.

Here, where the Ionian and Adriatic seas meet, gusting winds whipped up solidly 10-to-15-foot waves that only an expert surfer would dare negotiate. My own line on the curling coast was backed by the Maserati’s standard air springs, adaptive dampers, double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear. Selectable ride heights include a pair of taller off-road levels. That ICE-based Georgio platform helps push this electric SUV’s homologated weight to 5,456 pounds. That's a good 1000 pounds more than a Tesla Model Y, but a few hundred less than a BMW iX or Audi SQ8 e Tron.

Countering that mass, an identical pair of permanent magnet motors send 275 horses to each driven axle, for a 550-hp total. Motors nestle into aluminum subframes unique to the Folgore version. That compares with 295 or 325 horsepower for a four-cylinder Grecale, or 523 horses for the Grecale Trofeo and its vivid Nettuno V-6, a detuned version of the MC20’s engine. But the Folgore’s 605 pound-feet of torque whips even the Trofeo’s 538 pound-feet.

Twiddle a steering-wheel rotary controller into Sport mode, and the Maserati will leap to 62 mph (100 kph) in a company-estimated 4.1 seconds. (There are also GT, Off-Road, and Max Range modes). Figure four seconds flat to 60 mph, a dead heat with a 516-horsepower BMW iX xDrive50, but trailing the bonkers 3.1- or 3.2 seconds of a 610-hp iX M60 or Rivian R1S.

2024 maserati grecale folgore

So yeah, the Folgore is plenty fast for the families or empty-feathered-nesters Maserati hopes to attract. Steering is excellent by EV standards, if not quite as dialed-in as the GranTurismo Folgore, whose electric rack to my mind beats even the Porsche Taycan’s for natural operation. There’s a heft and directness in this Grecale’s flat-bottomed wheel, the ability to tighten a line and go, that other brands in the Stellantis Scuderia would be wise to emulate. Brakes are strong and firm, the by-wire pedal coaxing confident stops from four-piston Brembo calipers and rotors.

The ride stayed on the firmer side on rustic sections of Pugliese roadways, especially in Sport mode. Body control was very good, including when I blasted through Wonka-sized pools of chocolate-y water on a dirt road, trying to keep pace with a pro rally driver in Maserati’s employ. At one point, a large white dog dashed from his driveway and also chased the lead Grecale, staying on his bumper for a batshit barking sprint.

That canine chase scene might have been the most exciting bit. To put it in European Vacation terms: If the premium-guzzling Grecale Trofeo is your unbuttoned pal who’s looking to dance ’til dawn, the Folgore has a list of antiquities and classy restaurants to visit, and an early wake-up call. The Nettuno V-6 howls and baits you into transgressive romps into the triple digits. The Folgore’s dual motors hum a chill note that calls for a grown-up’s grand-touring pace; or even preserving miles via a Max Range setting that tamps down throttle response and climate control, and limits top speed to 81 mph. In other modes, top speed is 137 mph.

Don’t get me wrong. The Folgore flicked ICE-powered cars aside like gnats, including Stellantis’ ubiquitous Fiat Pandas. That’s what happens when you get more horsepower than any Sixties muscle car, and enough torque for two vintage Mopars, instantly on tap. But beyond 90 mph or so, the Folgore slows noticeably. After the 4.1-second burst to 62 mph, it takes another 12 seconds to reach 124 mph, a pace that only serves to suck down the battery.

The physical manifestation of the difference between ICE-Trofeo and EV-Folgore is found in Maserati’s “shift” paddles, the sweetest set of metal slabs this side of a Ferrari. Here, they serve only to adjust the threshold of regenerative braking The tease is like putting a Ferrari gated shift lever in a car but using it to open the glovebox.

The Maserati does score by offering four well-chosen levels of regenerative braking, from a coast mode to full one-pedal braking. That’s simply the correct approach, as exemplified by Hyundai and Kia’s award-hogging EVs — versus Porsche’s stubborn if pragmatic refusal to admit that most EV drivers appreciate choice in their regen levels.

2024 maserati grecale folgore

The Folgore’s faux engine sound also deserves spreading to every corner of the Stellantis empire; I look forward to Jeep Wranglers that don’t sound like crap, no matter what powers them. Unlike some try-hard EVs, the Folgore doesn’t pretend it’s the Millennium Falcon or Lightning McQueen. Instead, it mostly sounds like a luxury car, a muffled background burr that’s just enough to mask pesky wind and tire noise. Sport mode lightly dials up the volume. Many EVs — from a Ford Mustang Mach-E to various Hyundais and Mercedes — have you reaching for the “Off” button after 10 gimmicky minutes. I left the Maserati’s digital sound on for an all-day drive. That’s a testament to the unobtrusive experience. Ears were further cocked to the Maserati’s warm, crisp audio system, with speakers sourced from Italy’s Sonus Faber.

The cabin can’t match the 21st-century techno-swagger of the BMW iX, but a more traditional sport-luxury vibe works here. An embossed pattern accents the leather-topped dash, with “carbon copper” details. Two-tone seats in a range of colors feature Econyl inserts, which extends to the headliner and carpets. This soft-touch fabric, made from recycled fishing nets, is decorated with a laser-cut seat pattern (inspired by ballerina’s movements), since it can’t be stitched. As in the GranTurismo, the Maserati cabin gets trickle-up benefits from its corporate parent, via capable yet low-key infotainment that never screams “parts sharing!" That includes a pair of reskinned center touchscreens angled like the world’s biggest flip phone, a 12.3-inch upper and a lower 8.8 inch “comfort display” for climate controls. A few onscreen controls resisted initial touch commands. The same goes for dashboard PRND transmission buttons whose piano-black surface and vague feel aren’t in keeping with this critical luxury touch point.

There’s a HUD display, and Maserati’s analog clock has gone digital, and is the hub for Intelligent Assistant voice commands. Working with Google, Maserati becomes the first Stellantis brand to integrate Google Street View in its Android Automotive-based platform. Those views can help hone in on EV chargers tucked away in shopping-center lots or other unfamiliar locations.

2024 maserati grecale folgore

As with gas-fueled Grecales (ranging from $69,995 to $106,995 for the Trofeo) or GranTurismo (from $175,995 to $207,000-and-up for a Trofeo or Folgore), the only numbers standing in Maserati’s way seem to be prices. Maserati hasn’t finalized things, but confirmed the Grecale Folgore should start right around $100,000.

But Maserati’s push into EVs may give it a market opening. Where ICE-packed Grecales and GranTurismos can seem like suspect values, a roughly $100,000, low-volume luxury EV doesn’t raise eyebrows among a certain set of shoppers. At $100,000, the Grecale Folgore should perch in the middle of its class. It's about $8000 more than an iX xDrive 50 or Audi SQ8 e-Tron, but about $10,000 less than an iX M60. A 2024 Porsche Macan EV will start from $80,450, but with just 402 horsepower. A 630-hp Macan Turbo EV starts from $106,950, which of course means $140,000 or more after options and dealer markups.

2024 maserati grecale folgore

Under home-team terms of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Cassino-built Folgore won’t earn buyers a penny of a maximum $7500 consumer tax break. But lease one and the full $7500 becomes yours, slicing about $200 off a monthly payment over three years. Throw in traditional concerns over Maserati resale values, and I’ll venture that lessees will outnumber buyers by a huge margin.

Maserati has struggled for much of its 109 years, with serial owners (Citroën, de Tomaso, Fiat, Ferrari) trying and largely failing to revive its past glory. Buying a Maserati has often seemed a leap of faith that too few people — content with Benzes, Bimmers and now Teslas — are willing to take. With Maserati looking to reinvent itself as an EV brand, this could be their best chance in years to make a case with a new generation of luxury buyers, and earn their seat at a crowded Stellantis table.

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