First Drive: 2023 Maserati Grecale Trofeo Secures Super SUV Status
When Maserati first unveiled its Grecale Trofeo last year, executives on hand for the big reveal in Hollywood minced no words about vying for borderline super SUV supremacy against some pretty stiff competition. To do so, Grecale will arrive with the choice of three gasoline engine options, all of which are now available, as well as an EV variant coming next year in the all-electric Grecale Folgore. Until then, the highest-spec 2023 Maserati Grecale Trofeo currently tops the lineup.
It's got a true supercar power plant: a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 borrowed from MC20 that's dubbed “Nettuno.” Of course, hoping to wow the world (and outshine its closest targeted competitors, Porsche’s Cayenne and Macan), Maserati earmarked a loaded 2023 Grecale Trofeo as a loaner for early press reviews.
Designed With Determination
From a distance, Grecale’s svelte lines clearly build upon previous muscular Maserati forms, with modern tweaks by designer Klaus Busse that first appeared on MC20, then the new GranTurismo. But the influence of both Porsche competitors shines through, too, namely in the slantback coupe roofline so popular among high-performance European SUVs today. With the hefty dose of carbon-fiber trim and massive 21-inch wheels included, 2023 Maserati Grecale Trofeo still manages to at least embody a hint of Italian exoticism—even while competing for daily driver status with the ubiquitous Porsches.
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Other than carbon and rims, Trofeo also gets all the expected performance goodies to complement the twin-turbo 3.0-liter Nettuno, which has been detuned for this application to “only” 523 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque. The aforementioned wheels come shod in Bridgestone Potenza Sport tires measuring 255 millimeters wide up front and 295 at the rear. A familiar eight-speed ZF transmission sends power to all four wheels, with an electronically locking rear differential to help induce a bit more sporty pep under hard acceleration. An air suspension and adjustable damping system is selectable via either a drive mode dial on the steering wheel or through the touchscreen vehicle interface.
Rounding out the specs and stats, the whole setup allows the 2023 Grecale Trofeo to launch off the line for a 0 to 60 time of 3.6 seconds and a top speed of 177 miles per hour. Only a few years ago, such numbers for an SUV weighing around 4,500 pounds would have seemed absurd. Today, while the turbo boost builds up to claimed peak torque at 3,000 rpm, the Grecale merely feels capable—but all the instantaneously available shove in electric cars makes even very fast cars now seem kinda slow, sadly.
A Hard-charging Canyon Carver
When pushed hard through canyons or while highway overtaking, though, the Grecale Trofeo’s true personality emerges. The Nettuno engine still powers along with a building rush of boost, unlike so many modern turbocharged engines that use electronically controlled wastegates to flatten out torque curves to the point of boredom. As on the MC20, Maserati may well have underrated the Nettuno engine—though in the Grecale, exhaust grumble replaces the exhilarating turbo whooshes and blowoffs just behind the MC20 cockpit. Popping through gears near redline produces that symphony of crackles as the next corner braking point approaches mind-bogglingly fast. On winding mountain roads, with the suspension firmed up to the max, you'll be happily forgetting that this Maserati seats five and can haul groceries just as well as it hugs corners.
Only a hint of body roll develops in Corsa mode before the chassis squats and the AWD system compensates for that extra rear-end grip by pulling the nose right around tighter bends, right up until the Bridgestones give out—far earlier than the point at which the chassis’ capabilities feel fully exhausted.
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A set of Michelins might just take the brutal ballet too far, and that’s not even considering the unbelievable Brembo brakes—so good they simply must be carbon-ceramic and not steel (as Maserati claims). Throughout the dance, leaping from turn to turn with building urgency, the Grecale Trofeo remains surprisingly communicative to the point that hammering the throttle at the worst possible time becomes the best possible idea—inducing a bit of tail wag before traction control vainly attempts to reel in such shenanigans.
Daily Driving in Simple Luxury
Softening the suspension and turning the throttle response down from 11 by selecting GT or Comfort modes, the daily-driver Grecale emerges with nearly equal aplomb. Maserati also nails the true luxury experience: smoother and quieter than the leaning-towards-sporty GranTurismo, easy to drive, and very comfortable even on rougher roads. The simple interior contributes to a sense of spaciousness that many modern center consoles and dashes simply can’t match. Two panoramic touchscreens instead of one massive display help, along with minimalist switchgear and plenty of matte carbon-fiber trim.
And what kind of automotive journalist would fail to mention two of the largest cupholders ever seen in any car? Smack dab between the driver and passenger seat, they're hilariously large and deep enough to devour a small Americano or flat white. A few other nits to pick do emerge when daily driving the Grecale: Namely, that the steering wheel buttons come finished in classic Stellantis piano-black plastic, and changing the volume requires reaching all the way over to flick through haptic buttons almost on the passenger’s knee. Maserati’s typical column-mounted paddle shifters are also a bit of a buzzkill when using turn signals, while abysmal rear visibility due to the roofline and massive C-pillars matches just about every other sport-coupe SUV on the market today.
Clearly Benchmarked Against Porsche
Many of those concerns apply to both the Macan and Cayenne, too, against which Maserati very obviously benchmarked nearly every detail of the Grecale. The similar style almost exactly matches in size, with a wheelbase four inches longer than the Macan and identical to the Cayenne. Yet, the Grecale Trofeo hammers out a full 94 horsepower more than the top-spec Macan GTS and matches the 0-60 time of a Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid.
The handling even feels somewhat similar, if not quite as sturdy as the overbuilt German engineering that Porsche built a brand upon but has, to an extent, lost over the past few generations of electronically assisted power steering and overly cluttered plastic dashes. Light and nimble as a Macan, but with more power and the interior space to match a Cayenne, clearly, Maserati is doing something right The next-gen Cayenne recently unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show may well make up ground, to be fair. There’s also the Cayenne Turbo GT, a baby Lambo with 631 horsepower—but that’s a whole different ballgame.
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Bordering on Super SUV Status—at a Fraction of the Price
Or is it? Grecale Trofeo starts at $105,500—and this tester came in at $118,600 with options. For context, the Macan GTS with less power starts around $82,000 and the Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid stickers closer to $165,000. The Turbo GT, meanwhile, ratchets the insanity up to $182,000.
Taking this arms race even deeper into the two and three-hundred-grand realm, Grecale Trofeo can really, truly, almost come close to matching the engaging emotionality of a Lamborghini Urus S or Performante. That spirit, combined with the sublime styling, legitimately vaults this Maserati leaps and bounds above even the brutally powerful, if somewhat anesthetized, Aston-Martin DBX707—which feels akin to a gorgeous $300,000-plus minivan by comparison.
Ignoring the top end of SUV absurdity, though, the base Grecale GT at $63,500 might be the more important variant from a sheer marketing perspective. A 296-horsepower turbo-four with mild hybrid assist powers the GT as well as the mid-range Modena package, which ups output to 325 ponies and may well end up as the most popular Grecale. After all, the Macan years ago established a new era in Porsche sales success thanks to a starting price around $55,000 that included all the panache and performance of classic Porsches in a much more expansive market segment. With the Grecale, a slightly higher starting sticker buys a bit more exotic appeal. As those same executives at the debut will happily admit, therein lies the magic that Maserati aimed for, and nailed, with the Grecale.
[From $63,500; maserati.com]