2023 Maserati Grecale First Drive Review: Bringing the Fight to the Compact SUV Class

This SUV is unquestionably a winner.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Despite its cachet and century of heritage, Maserati’s been hurting. All this iconic Italian brand has offered customers in recent years is a couple of mediocre sedans and the Levante SUV that’s barely any better. But with the arrival of the MC20 supercar last year along with some important changes to its sales mix, things are finally improving. And Maserati’s revival is certain to dramatically accelerate this fall when the handsome new 2023 Grecale compact SUV arrives in US and Canadian showrooms.

Built on a modified version of Stellantis’ Giorgio platform — the foundation that underpins the Alfa Romeo Giulia as well as a few other models — the Grecale is about 191 inches long and roughly 78 inches wide, making it slightly larger than a Porsche Macan, arguably this Maserati’s key rival. Of course, the Grecale has its sights trained on the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo’s XC60, as well.

First impressions matter and this SUV passes the I-spotted-one-driving-by-and-couldn’t-look-away test. In photos, the Grecale can seem a bit squinty-eyed, but it’s properly handsome in person, beautifully proportioned and attractive from all angles, especially when wearing a matte-bronze paint job like the entry-level GT model on display here. Up front is a classic Maserati grille and there are plenty of trident emblems sprinkled around, most notably on the C-pillars. Overall, the styling breaks no new ground, but it doesn’t have to. Aside from the somewhat cheesy-looking fender vents, this SUV is clean and very pretty.

2023 Maserati Grecale: A Premium SUV With Italian Swagger

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The 2023 Maserati Grecale will be offered in three familiar trims: base GT, midrange Modena and top-shelf Trofeo. Keeping things uniform, these grades are shared with the Ghibli, Quattroporte and Levante models. A fourth version, the all-electric Folgore (Italian for “lightning”), is expected to join the lineup late next year.

Differentiating that triad of combustion-powered Grecale trims is what’s found under the hood. The two entry-level versions feature a 2.0-liter mild-hybrid four-cylinder engine. The GT grade is graced with 296 horsepower and the Modena model with 325 hp, though both have the same 332 pound-feet of torque. Blowing these mainstream models away, however, the high-performance Trofeo features a Maserati-exclusive 3.0-liter twin-turbo Nettuno V6 borrowed from the MC20 supercar. With a few changes including tuning, the inclusion of a wet-sump lubrication system and cylinder deactivation, this engine delivers a stout 523 hp and 457 lb-ft of twist. No matter the model, a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, though sometimes it’s not as smooth as other gearboxes. 

Even the base Grecale GT delivers strong performance. It can hit 60 mph in an entirely respectable 5.3 seconds, while the Modena version shaves 0.3 second off that time. In comparison, the Trofeo does the same deed in just 3.6 seconds, making it appreciably quicker than Porsche’s Macan GTS. Stand on the accelerator and the GT model has no trouble scooting off the line or surging past slower-moving vehicles on Italy’s smooth but toll-intensive Autostrada. This drive program is all too brief, but narrow village roads, winding country lanes and the onslaught of Milan traffic help paint a richer picture of how this SUV behaves.

Even the base engine delivers seriously strong performance. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Living up to its luxury positioning, the Grecale GT’s engine is mostly free of vibration and harshness, though there’s no hiding that it’s a four-cylinder. The snorty exhaust makes its voice heard when you crack the throttle, though it’s more abrasive-sounding than musical. Still, Maserati deserves credit for giving even the base Grecale some mechanical soul, something that’s severely lacking in many vehicles these days.

The GT model I’m testing features a height-adjustable air suspension system and adaptive dampers, optional bits of kit that enable you to tailor how the vehicle feels. Cycling through the various drive modes allows you to adjust the Grecale’s performance, softening its suspension and throttle response for workday commutes and noticeably tightening things up for a weekend thrashing in the mountains. Curiously, this SUV’s ride manages to be both firm and soft at the same time. In the comfort setting, the body floats around slightly when you drive over undulating pavement, particularly on higher-speed country roads, but tire impacts are still pronounced. Switching to the stiffer GT or Sport modes noticeably increases the suspenders’ starchiness, finding bumps on even smooth pavement.

In comparison, the steering is beautifully tuned, taut and crisp, with a quick but not fidgety ratio. Whether this setup is better than what a Macan offers requires back-to-back testing, but honestly, there’s nothing to complain about here and any advantage the Porsche might have would likely be miniscule.

This may be the best cabin in the compact luxury SUV segment, it’s that nice.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Unquestionably, the Grecale’s greatest strength is its primo interior, which is a cut above what you get in many rivals. Even in the GT model, the materials employed are regal and there’s tech aplenty. There’s buttery-soft leather on the door panels and on the dashboard, which is embellished with elegant waves of stitching in front of the passenger. The air vents feel superb and the secondary switches and controls, some of which appear borrowed from other Stellantis vehicles, all look upscale and work well. The electrically operated door latches feature Lincoln Aviator-style switches on the pulls, an opulent touch in this class of vehicle; for a clean look, the exterior handles are recessed and electric, too. The transmission is also controlled by a row of buttons mounted between the infotainment and climate-control screens. They’re a bit hard to see, being made of the same piano black as the surrounding bezel, and they take an unusually firm push to operate. Making things feel just a little more exotic, the engine start button and drive mode selector are both mounted on the steering wheel.

Satiating today’s tech-obsessed drivers, the Grecale comes with four screens: a 12.3-inch reconfigurable instrument cluster and a touchscreen infotainment display of the same size. There’s also an 8.8-inch screen that handles climate functions and the dashboard’s round, analog-inspired clock has been replaced by another cleverly reconfigurable screen.

Like other Stellantis products, the Grecale runs an Android-based infotainment system. This multimedia affair is intuitive and surprisingly responsive, plus the touch-based climate controls look great. Being the old soul that I am, I’d still prefer physical HVAC switchgear, but this arrangement does work well. What is annoying, however, is the lack of physical knobs for volume and tuning. The Grecale features a touch-sensitive volume slider that is confoundingly mounted on the passenger side of the center stack. Of course, there are satellite controls on the steering wheel, but just give us knobs, please. Speaking of audio, this SUV’s available Sonus Faber sound system is a delight, boasting 21 speakers and 1,285 watts of power.

The Grecale arrives in the US and Canada later this year. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Matching its premium cabin, the Grecale offers a veritable cornucopia of comfort. Its front chairs adjust in all the right ways and the backseat has plenty of room, too, though it doesn’t feel quite as spacious as Maserati claims. There’s also a surprising amount of luggage space in the cargo hold, up to 20.1 cubic feet in the Trofeo model with the split rear backrest up, another advantage of the Grecale’s relatively long 114.2-inch wheelbase.

The 2023 Maserati Grecale GT should start at just one Abe Lincoln shy of $65,000, including $1,495 in delivery fees. The midrange Modena trim is richer still, kicking off at $78,985. Pricing for the steroid-pumping Trofeo model has not been released just yet, but all three models will be available starting this fall. Drivers in the US and Canada are also able to reserve a Modena-based Limited Edition model online for a fully refundable $500 deposit. These versions come with 21-inch wheels, adaptive air suspension and a dual-pane sunroof and are available in five colors.

Of course, it’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions from such a brief first drive, but my experience with the Grecale is overwhelmingly positive. The vehicle is beautiful and its interior stellar, there’s plenty of tech and the dynamics are well sorted. Simply put, the new Grecale is a winner, which is exactly what Maserati needs.

Editors’ note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

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