13 July 2023

What’s a ‘mild-hybrid’? Maserati’s new Grecale SUV shows us how it's done

| James Coleman
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Maserati Grecale

The 2023 Maserati Grecale GT outside the boarded-up Richardson Shops. Photo: James Coleman.

Several years ago, a UK study by auto insurance company Hiscox found the exhaust note frequency of Maserati’s Quattroporte sedan measured 333 hertz – a magical figure, it seemed, for turning ladies’ heads.

It’s hard to say if the new Grecale would have the same effect.

For sure, the noise is there. Close your eyes and you’re wrapped in the gruff but light roar reminiscent of a sports car from the 1960s. It’s spinetinglingly addictive.

But there are no two ways about it – the face of Maserati’s new mid-size SUV is the spitting image of the Ford Puma, while someone was clearly snapping photos from the back of a Jaguar design meeting (search Google for ‘Jaguar E-Pace rear’ images and you’ll never unsee the similarity).

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Nothing with the imposing trident-badged grille can be called ugly, but the Grecale’s design is one of those “it’s-growing-on-me” things.

At this point, the critics will point out it’s also a high-riding SUV and therefore a compromise from the start. And yes, a car like this says to prospective partners you’ve settled down a bit and may have even taken up a hobby. Almost certainly golf.

But get past that, and the Grecale has what Farmer Wants a Wife hosts would call ‘a heart of gold’.

There are three models – the GT, Modena and Trofeo – with prices opening at $109,500. But no-one will ever pay that. Not when there are boxes to tick for metallic paint, 20-inch wheels, painted brake callipers, a panoramic sunroof, ‘Comfort Pack’ and … oh, hello, we’re now at $130,000.

This isn’t far off a top-of-the-line BMW or Mercedes SUV though, and the Grecale carries far more street cred.

That said, the days of boasting about how your Maserati has a Ferrari engine are over. The deal the two Italians struck in the early 2000s for the supply of V6 and V8 engines draws to a close this December. So the 3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 under the bonnet of the Grecale Trofeo is one of Maserati’s own, and is also mounted into the rear of the MC20 supercar (but slightly detuned to 390 kW).

This ‘base’ GT from the Maserati Canberra dealership in Phillip pairs a 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine from Alfa Romeo to a 48-volt electric motor to create a ‘mild hybrid’, with a total power output of 221 kW.

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Mild is the word for it, because apart from watching an image of the drivetrain pulse between green and red on the main touchscreen, there’s no way of knowing there’s an electric motor here at all. It’s not like you’ll be driving for the fuel economy either.

So I suspect this model exists simply as a way to shoosh the EV-angelists.

As a bonus, it also adds oomph, critically in those moments when your right foot has caught the turbo off-guard. While it can’t quite match the Trofeo’s 0-100 km/h sprint of 3.8 seconds, the GT model can certainly do 5.6 seconds without any hesitation.

Around town, you’ll notice the light steering and suspension that leaves you slightly baffled by how well it shrugs off pretty much any bump, but on something like Cotter Road, the Grecale also morphs into an impeccably sharp and nimble machine, and definitely not something you’d think weighs two tonnes. Then there’s the noise, extra boisterous in Sport mode.

Other traditional Maserati specialties are here too. The clock atop the dashboard, for one, even if you feel slightly ripped off by the fact it’s a screen and there are no actual 3D hands. The seats are also made from abandoned fishing nets harvested from the sea, while the door-mounted speakers could turn a chunk of parmesan into fine powder. All beautiful though.

As for real complaints? The gear lever has become a series of buttons beneath the main touchscreen, which – even if it clears the way for extra storage space – is annoying. Others may also find the paddle shifters on the steering wheel enormous, to the point you’ll reach for the indicator and find yourself dropping into third gear instead.

But not me. Because it shows Maserati still has its priorities straight.

Maserati Grecale

Yes, all of those exhaust pipes work. Photo: James Coleman.

2023 Maserati Grecale GT MHEV

  • $109,500 (plus on-road costs)
  • 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, 48V hybrid system, 220 kW / 450 Nm
  • 8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive (AWD)
  • 0-100 km/h in 5.6 seconds, 240 km/h
  • 8.7 litres per 100 km combined fuel usage

This car was provided for testing by Maserati Canberra. Region has no commercial arrangement with Maserati Canberra.

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Judging by the Tesla article, there are plenty of Labor voters who can buy this Stellantis product

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