Mild-hybrid four-cylinder, high-performance Nettuno V6, and battery-electric drivetrain options are enabled by Maserati's innovative cast aluminum chassis.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

April 8, 2022

11 Slides

High-performance SUVs have proved to be a challenging proposition for automakers, as customers’ demands for ride comfort often conflict with the goal of making tall, heavy vehicles deliver sporty handling.

Maserati’s new Grecale escapes the trap that has caught so many other premium car OEM brands as they’ve installed stiff suspension, low-profile tires, and race-ready seats in a bid to replicate the track-focused handling of the same companies’ signature sports cars. The name "Grecale" refers to a north-easterly Mediterranean wind, in the tradition of other Maserati wind-inspired names such as Mistral and Khamsin.

The Gracale’s smooth, reserved styling serves as a metaphor for the car’s character: sporty, but relaxed. There are no overwrought character lines in the sheetmetal and the Gracale has no spine-compressing ride motions. Instead, the bodywork and the vehicle dynamics are both gracious, with an eye on the long term rather than the style of the moment or a fast Nurburgring lap time.

It is a mature approach that deserves to win over customers who may have found that similar vehicles like the Alfa Romeo Stelvio are punishing in everyday driving. The Grecale’s balance of poise and comfort falls closer to that we experienced in the Aston Martin DBX. Both Maserati and Aston Martin are storied sports car brands that each recognizes the importance of striking the correct balance to avoid alienating a new generation of customers who are shopping for SUVs with the panache to stand out from the crowd without inflicting misery in daily use.

Related:Maserati MC20 Supercar’s Engine Boasts a Patented Pre-Chamber Combustion System

The interesting thing about the Grecale, is that Maserati is achieving this welcome balance using the corporate Giorgio platform that is shared with the Stelvio (as well as the Alfa Romeo Guilia sedan). It also underpins the superb Jeep Grand Cherokee, which demonstrates the design’s ability to deliver posh ride comfort.

However, the conventional stamped steel construction of other Giorgio vehicles has been replaced in the Grecale by three large aluminum castings that simultaneously simplify construction and increase chassis rigidity. “We strongly evolved the platform,” explained vehicle validation engineer Federico De Medio.

It may have been a bit of understatement, judging from the results. The use of large castings is the same approach that Tesla is rolling out with its “megacastings” in the Model 3, but while these castings are similarly comprehensive, they are made using conventional low-pressure or die-casting techniques rather than using the high-speed, high-pressure process that qualifies as “megacasting,” according to De Medio.

Related:Maserati MC20 Supercar Debuts in Gas and Electric Versions

While simplicity and rigidity are valuable improvements, the real benefit of the change in construction to castings is that the center casting is designed to accommodate a battery pack for the future Folgore EV version of the Grecale. The EV is scheduled to debut a year after the Grecale, which comes to the European markets this spring and arrives in the U.S. in the fall.

The massive cast central section of the evolved Giorgio platforms contains the “sarcophagus” that encloses the battery pack, De Medio said. For gas-powered models like our test car, that section of the frame houses a carbon fiber transmission shaft, he added.

The available gas powertrains vary by trim level. The Grecale comes in GT, Modena, and Trofeo packages. The GT and Modena employ a twin-turbocharged inline-four-cylinder mild hybrid engine. In the GT, output is 300 horsepower, while the Modena is tuned for 330 hp. Our tested Grecale Trofeo houses a fire-breathing 530-horsepower version of the MC20 sports car’s Nettuno 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine.

The Trofeo rockets to 60 mph in just 3.6 seconds and reaches a top speed on 177 mph when it is driven somewhere other than the crowded streets and narrow country lanes where I tested it. A nice thing about the Trofeo’s Nettuno is that it has manners. Driven moderately, it doesn’t draw attention to itself with noise or aggressive downshift overrev histrionics. Instead, it goes quietly about its muscular business, and when you floor it, then there’s a chance to hear it sing.

The four-cylinder combustion engines are bolstered by a 48-volt belt-alternator-starter mild hybrid system and a pair of turbochargers. One is a conventional exhaust-driven turbine and the other is electric, so the engine never searches for boost at low rpm because the e-boost turbo is always on the job.

The electric Folgore will pack a 105-kilowatt-hour 400-volt battery pack and the electric motors will combine to create 590-lb.-ft. of torque, which promises even brisker acceleration than the Trofeo’s Nettuno V6. “It will be best-in-class for specifications,” pledged De Medio.

The Grecale’s optional air suspension and semi-active dampers are controlled by Maserati’s Chassis Domain Control Module (CDCM), just like the MC20’s suspension. The company points at CDCM with pride because it is an entirely in-house engineering project that covered the design, implementation, and calibration. The system controls all vehicle dynamics in the vertical, longitudinal, and lateral axes predictively rather than reactively.

“We wanted to provide preventative control by acting on the engine, not by just using the brakes,” De Medio said. It does this by estimating the available grip using that Modena-developed software, he said. There are five available driver-selectable modes that help the CDCM provide the desired behavior:

  • COMFORT mode: this is the ideal drive mode for everyday use, guaranteeing maximum usability and comfort. Engine boost and trasnmission kick down are limited and improve peak efficiency, while gear changes are gradual. The suspension is reduced in rigidity and the electric power steering is set to ensure maximum, effortless driving pleasure.

  • GT mode: the Pedal Map enables structured acceleration without compromising efficiency. Gear changes are regular and smooth. Engine boost is normal. Kickdown and pedal sensitivity are moderate.

  • SPORT mode: pedal sensitivity and gear changes are set to peak performance. The active exhaust valves are always open. Maximum engine boost.  The driving position is lowered by 15 mm (.60 of an inch) in “Aero Mode” and the steering feel is more rigid and responsive when the car is set to Sport mode.

  • CORSA mode (only on Trofeo): offers the driver the most extreme experience and the option of enjoying the true embodiment of the Grecale without any compromises. The pedals are highly sensitive and responsive. Gear changes are faster than ever. Kickdown is powerful enough for maximum enjoyment. Traction control is much less active and Launch Control is switched on.

  • OFF-ROAD mode: to improve all-terrain performance and driving control, efficiency is slightly reduced compared to the Comfort and GT modes. Gear changes are gradual. The rev limiter is activated and ride height is set to “High”, +30 mm (+1.18 of an inch).

Within the limited conditions of the test drive environment, the system worked seamlessly, though the differences between the settings were hard to distinguish in these circumstances. A brisk mountain road or track run would surely be more illuminating. Nevertheless, regardless of the setting, the Grecale remained poised and comfortable.

In-flight entertainment is courtesy of an impressive 1,285-watt, 21-speaker audio system provided by Italian electronics specialists Sonus Faber. This stereo has the characteristic of being able to provide sound so clean that even extreme volume doesn’t seem excessive because of the clarity of the sound.

The Grecale will start at $65,000 for the GT and $79,000 for the Modena when it arrives in the U.S. in the fall. Pricing for the tested Trofeo edition has not yet been released. The important thing is that we can reasonably expect consumers to be interested in the pricing, because the Grecale has been engineered to deliver the kind of ride comfort and control that luxury vehicle buyers expect, rather than the excessively harsh ride and rigid seats that make some sporty SUVs off-putting.

The Grecale is poised to bring Maserati to renewed relevance in the U.S. for everyday drivers. And engineers can marvel at its Nettuno V6, electric turbocharged four-cylinder engine, or all-wheel-drive battery-electric drivetrain, whichever the buyer selects.

About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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