A weekend with some of our region’s best driving roads and a new Maserati sports SUV. Sometimes life can be so sweet. Add a twin-turbo Nettuno V6 with 530HP taken from a supercar into the equation and it can get a little spicy too.
However, this is more than a chance to steer another fast Italian car through a few corners, it’s a chance for Maserati to stop playing top trumps and prove that it can bring competition to its German rivals off the spec sheet. It’s time to put the industry on notice, and maybe sell a few cars in the process too. I took the new Maserati Grecale Trofeo to NSW Southern Highlands to find out.
Maserati Grecale Trofeo has serious competition
The enthusiast in me wanted this car to be good, but it had to be great to place itself on a level peg with the Porsche Macan GTS (from $143,200 plus on-road costs), BMW X3 M Competition (from $178,000 plus on-road costs), Mercedes GLC63 S (from $184,950 plus on-road costs), and even its platform-sharing brother in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio (from $147,950 plus on-road costs).
Here’s how the Maserati Grecale Trofeo (from $165,000 plus on-road costs) stacks up.
Let’s forget about a few of those competitors for a second before we start. The buck stops with the Porsche Macan GTS. It might be the slowest of the group but it’s also the cheapest and when you throw all the keys down on a table and tell me to drive one for the next few months, it’s the one I’d be picking up first.
The BMW is viciously quick, but it’s too stiff for everyday use and lacks the daily-driver credentials of the Porsche Macan GTS. Mercedes-AMG puts up a good fight with a twin-turbo V8 in the GLC63 S, but it’s about to be replaced by a four-cylinder hybrid.
In fact, I’d give the Jaguar F-Pace SVR (from $155,100 plus on-road costs) the upper hand over the X3 M Competition and the GLC63 S after driving one for a few weeks back in May. It’s extremely well-rounded, but where does that leave the Grecale Trofeo?
What stood out while driving?
Thankfully, the Grecale Trofeo is equally as rounded. I expected this to be a hard-edged Italian SUV with a supercar fetish, but within five minutes of driving my opinion changed.
The ride comfort stood out first. Standard air suspension turns the Trofeo into a gran-tourer with the press of a button (optional on other model grades). It’s configurable through six settings on the infotainment screen and in conjunction with the pre-configured driving modes, the height can be adjusted from Offroad 2 to Aero 2 with noticeable changes in vehicle dynamics.
In the default ‘Normal’ setting it’s great for daily driving with comfort-driven characteristics that rival the Macan GTS. Switch to either of the Aero modes (default in Corsa) and the car hunkers down and feels ready for some twisty roads like a BMW X3 M.
Attack the road and you’ll be reminded that the Maserati Grecale Trofeo shares its DNA with the MC20 supercar. The twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 ‘Nettuno’ engine is the star of the show, it produces 530hp in this form and propels the car from 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds.
It’s up more than 100hp on the Macan GTS and more than every competitor bar the F-Pace SVR with its 5.0-litre supercharged V8 that produces 550hp.
Twist the dial on the steering wheel to choose your desired driving mode from Comfort, GT, Sport, Off-Road, and Corsa. The latter of which is the most extreme mode where the system dials back the driver assistance features, sharpens the steering and throttle response, stiffens the suspension, and turns the car into a corner-eating animal.
The rear end is particularly lively in Corsa mode as the power split becomes rear bias. Combine that with an electronic limited-slip rear differential and the rear end will step out on you if you’re not paying attention. Push the car, however, and it’s as rewarding an experience as you’ll find in this sector.
In classic Italian style, the steering is ultra-sharp without being twitchy, there’s plenty of sound coming out of the exhaust with a gunshot-like crack on upshifts, and the suspension can be softened in any mode using the bumpy road mode button on the steering wheel.
It’s nice on the inside too
This theme continues on the inside with an interior that’s levels above any Maserati I’ve driven. Like most new cars today, it starts with a pair of infotainment screens.
Centrally mounted, they measure 12.3 inches for the upper screen and 8.8 inches for the lower screen. The larger screen takes care of your wireless Apple Carplay and wireless Android Auto while the lower screen looks after the functional aspects of the car, including the climate, digital clock, lighting, and suspension.
It has an intuitive swipe feature that lets you adjust the various controls by swiping on the screen. For example, you can adjust the temperature by swiping up and down anywhere on the screen, and the fan speed by swiping left or right on the screen.
The brand seems to have thought about everything and it all makes a lot of sense, which isn’t very Maserati at all.
I also love the digital clock up the top that tells you when your phone’s charging, what time it is, how much accelerator and brake pedal you’re applying, and the amount of G’s you’re pulling in a corner.
You’ll find that the steering wheel is maybe the only letdown of the entire cabin. It’s backed by large aluminium shift paddles, but the buttons are very hard to read and the general layout is haphazard. The flip-up centre storage cubby also lets down the cabin for fit and finish, the lips on each side barely lined up in my test car and it felt quite cheap to operate. I’d also love to see aluminium pedals to match the shift paddles in a car that costs nearly $200,000.
Special mention goes to the Sonus Faber 3D Audio System.
Should you buy the Maserati Grecale Trofeo?
After driving the Maserati Grecale Trofeo for an entire weekend and racking up more than 600km across a variety of terrains I’m confident that this is the closest competitor to the Porsche Macan GTS.
It’s faster, has more character, and gets more looks, but it doesn’t have the fit and finish of the Germans, especially on the interior where cheap plastics are left in plain sight. What it does have is the ride comfort to best the likes of the BMW X3 M Competition and Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S.
You’d have to really point fingers at specific features to differentiate the cars. Either option would make a fantastic daily driver with enough sporting credentials to have more than a little fun in the twisties.
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