It could have been a scene straight out of a Fellini movie. A weather-beaten Italian signore riding his putt-putting Vespa on the outskirts of Italy’s car-crazy Milan. He pulls up alongside our sunflower-yellow Maserati Grecale Trofeo at a stoplight, flashes a big, toothy grin and ever-so-slowly begins clapping his hands in applause. His words are unmistakable. Che bella macchina. What a beautiful car.
To show him just how bella this macchina is, it’s hard to resist the theatrical. The red light turns to green, the Corsa (track) setting is dialed up, foot flat to the floor and the Grecale catapults off the line. Unleashed are SUV’s potent 523 horses and 457 ft lbs of twist, courtesy of a detuned version of the 3.0-liter twin-turbo Nettuno V-6 shared by Maserati’s $210,000 MC20 supercar.
In an explosion of revs (the redline is 7,000 rpm), a crescendo of guttural exhaust barks and neck-snapping gear shifts, the Grecale continues to surge as the digital speedo’s needle whips past the 60 mph mark in just 3.6 seconds. That’s BMW M3 quick. Quicker than the arch-rival Porsche Macan GTS and as quick as Mercedes’ thundering V8 Biturbo GLC 63.
As we explained in-depth after the Grecale’s recent global reveal, this is Maserati’s make-or-break entry into the booming, mid-size performance SUV market. Built on a modified Giorgio platform from Stellantis, one that underpins everything from Alfa Romeo’s Giulia and Stelvio to Jeep’s Grand Cherokee, the Grecale will be offered in three versions—GT, Modena and Trofeo—with pricing from $64,995. First examples land stateside around fall.
The Trofeo is the performance flagship, perched high above the base GT and what’s expected to be the best-selling Modena, both of which feature a mild-hybrid 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill packing 296 hp and 325 hp, respectively. No word on Trofeo pricing yet (though we suspect it to be just under six figures), but it’s lavished with features like adaptive air suspension, huge Brembo stoppers, 21-inch rims and a 21-speaker Sonus Faber sound system pumping with 1,285 watts of output. And then there’s the leather, lots of leather.
One look at our Grecale Trofeo tester, painted in the retina-searing shade of Giallo Corse yellow, and it’s clear the design team has done a fine job of adorning it with visual cues from Maserati’s lineage. The thrusting, oversize grille and lights are shaped from those of the MC20, the trio of portholes adorning the front fenders are pure Maserati and the marque’s distinctive trident badging stands proud on the grille and rear roof pillar.
In the metal, the Grecale Trofeo does look bigger and beefier than the Macan, and less angular than its larger sibling, the Maserati Levante. Yes, it’s all a little generic and conservative, but Maserati’s design chief Klaus Busse tells Robb Report that this was the intention, preferring what he calls “visual longevity” to faddish design.
Arguably, it’s the Grecale’s interior that will have luxury SUV buyers signing on the dotted line. This leather-rich cabin boasts best-in-class space, with stretch-out rear-seat legroom and a generously sized trunk beneath the high-lifting tailgate. There’s proper quality and refinement here, with gorgeous quilting and double-stitching accents, lots of carbon fiber and lovely satin-finished metal. And the front seats are terrific, with deep side bolstering and plenty of power adjustment.
The big story here, however, is the new infotainment setup, with no fewer than five screens. Smack in the center is a 12.3-inch display with an 8.8-inch glass panel below. Admittedly, it’s a bit busy, with no physical knobs or buttons, but the graphics are pin-sharp and the controls fairly intuitive.
One innovative feature is the traditional, dash-mounted Maserati clock that’s now digital and configurable. It also facilitates a voice-activated personal assistant, who sadly failed to comprehend every single navigational request I made. Something about the accent.
But all is forgiven when you press the wheel-mounted “start” button and hear that sonorous V-6 burst to life. While power is down 98 hp compared to the MC20, it’s 89 hp up on the Macan GTS (also powered by a twin-turbo V-6), and plenty sufficient to make the Trofeo a thrill ride.
Fit with a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic and elephant-ear-sized metal paddle shifters for manual control, the Grecale Trofeo always feels eager and responsive, especially in Sport or Corsa modes.
Although our route through the congested back streets of Milan, interspersed with the odd traffic-camera-blighted stretch of autostrada, was far from ideal for wringing out the Grecale, it offered glimpses of the car’s rarified potential. The star is the Trofeo’s laser-precise, nicely weighted steering, which heightens the SUV’s athletic feel. Enhancing this further are the rear-biased all-wheel-drive system and seemingly time-stopping Brembo brakes.
Less impressive was our tester’s often brittle, fidgety ride and the occasional creak and groan from the body over particularly nasty Milanese ruts and potholes. But all-in-all, this a hugely appealing addition to the Maserati lineup, one that will be complemented by the arrival of the all-electric Grecale Folgore closer to fall. In the meantime, we concur with our Vespa-riding friend, Che bella macchina, indeed.