In late 2020, amid much fanfare over the MC20 sports car, Maserati discreetly introduced another new addition to their lineup — a luxury compact SUV slotting in below the Levante. True to the Maserati tradition, it would be named after a wind — specifically a Mediterranean breeze — offering a subtle hint of its dynamic and agile nature, and aimed at those “with a sporty soul who are always on the move.” With that in mind, we snagged the keys to a 2023 Maserati Grecale Modena to see whether it makes good on Maserati’s promises for a distinctive and compelling driving experience.
First impressions sometimes make all the difference, and Maserati doesn’t disappoint with what has to be the nicest key fob in the class. A polished and heavy metallic key fob, ensconced in fine leather and adorned with the iconic trident emblem, sets the stage for the luxury that awaits. It’s a small touch, but it goes a long way.
The Grecale shares its platform with the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but overall styling is somewhat incognito by Maserati’s standards. It exudes sophistication and elegance, and skilfully adapts the coupe-SUV look and proportions for a distinctive profile. Flush door handles further accentuate the sleek silhouette and keep the design clean. The Grecale even pays homage to both Maserati’s heritage with its iconic triple air vents on the fenders, and looks to the future with its MC20-style headlights. However, the standout feature has to be the grille: it prominently features Maserati’s signature trident without going overboard, yet still proudly proclaiming its pedigree.
Inside, the Grecale harmoniously blends sportiness, minimalism, and luxury. The meaty steering wheel takes centre stage, featuring a rotary dial that allows you to switch between drive modes as well as a separate button for suspension settings, all allowing for quick adjustments on the fly. Like most Alfa Romeo and Ferrari models, the Grecale’s start button is found on the steering wheel; it’s a bit challenging for first-timers, as it only illuminates after you’ve pressed it to turn on the Grecale.
The Grecale’s materials and fit-and-finish are a tactile delight. You’ll find real leather, aluminum, and a number of trim options on offer — including open-pore wood and a number of carbon variations — all meticulously incorporated into the interior design. The beautifully shaped aluminum paddle-shifters are not only functional, but also add to the cabin’s elegance. Our Modena tester is equipped with 12-way power-adjustable seats that are heated, ventilated, and draped in fine leather with hand-stitched detailing and the Maserati logo embossed on them.
The interior’s design philosophy overall is minimalist, with a central panel for a clean, clutter-free atmosphere. Multiple displays grace the cabin, including a heads-up display, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen for the infotainment. Another 8.8-inch display below handles climate control, lighting, and seat adjustments. Sitting atop the dash like a crown jewel is a digital clock display, offering a touch of elegance to the high-tech environment. Seemingly inspired by a smartwatch, it’s unconventional at first, but it features multiple clock designs, pedal pressure indicators, G-force readouts, and a compass.
There are drawbacks to Maserati’s design choices. Forgoing a traditional shift lever in favour of a row of buttons between the infotainment and climate control displays never really felt comfortable, especially when performing manoeuvres like a three-point turn. The absence of a volume knob is also disappointing; instead, you have to rely on either the volume controls placed on the left side of the screen as far from the driver as possible, but thankfully, there’s another set of volume controls behind the steering wheel. And of course, with all the touchscreens and gloss black trim, there’s a propensity for dust and unsightly fingerprints to build up. Better keep a microfibre towel handy.
Another notable feature inside the Grecale is its Sonus Faber sound system. You get an immersive 3D audio experience through 21 speakers — including seven tweeters, three mid-range speakers, and some expensive-looking laser-cut metal grilles — with a total output of 1,285 watts. Sound quality is impressive and easily among the best we’ve experienced, on par with many Bowers & Wilkins and Burmester systems. It’s part of the $4,400 Premium Plus package, and it’s worth every penny if audio quality is important to you.
In terms of space, the Grecale offers best-in-class interior room and rear-seat legroom. The cargo area is slightly narrow, although it falls within the typical range for the compact SUV class. Aside from the usability issues, the Grecale’s interior feels special, easily one of the best in its class — perhaps even better than its big brother, the Levante.
None of this would matter much if the Grecale Modena’s driving experience was subpar, but thankfully that isn’t the case. Though it can’t match the thrust from the Grecale Trofeo’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, the base 2.0L turbo-four and 48-volt mild hybrid powertrain in the Modena is no slouch. Working with a 48-volt mild hybrid system, it puts out 325 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, and can do zero to 100 km/h in five seconds on its way to to a top speed of 240km/h. Fuel economy is on par for the class; in our week of mixed-use testing, we averaged 9.7 L/100 km.
The Grecale does an impressive job of isolating you from the sounds and sensations of the outside world, so much so that watching the speed climb on the heads-up almost doesn’t look real, but rest assured there is some definite get-up-and-go. While whisper quiet in GT and Comfort modes, Sport mode opens up exhaust valves and actually sounds good and growly for an inline-four. The drive modes make a tangible difference to turbo boost, steering feel, throttle response, and suspension firmness, which in turn gives the Grecale Modena multiple personalities.
The engine is mated to ZF’s highly touted eight-speed automatic transmission through a carbon fibre propeller shaft, giving the Grecale all-wheel-drive through an electronic limited-slip differential. Manual gear changes are responsive, giving those beautiful aluminum shift levers more purpose than simply looking good. The suspension in Comfort mode is exactly that, while Sport mode is firm enough to hunker down and have some fun in the corners.
Our Grecale tester is well-equipped, with features like automatic emergency braking, an excellent adaptive cruise control system with stop-and-go functionality, active lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring system — except those features are also part of an optional $3,900 package.
The base Grecale GT starts at $77,300. Moving up the hybrid will cost you at least $10,000, as the Grecale Modena starts at $87,600 before options; with all the bells and whistles, our tester rang in at $108,000 as-tested. The range-topping, twin-turbo Grecale Trofeo jumps up to a massive starting price of $133,100.
The idea of an entry-level Maserati sharing a platform with a Jeep may have seemed concerning at first, but we’re happy to report the 2023 Maserati Grecale Modena doesn’t disappoint. It lives up to the Maserati name, blending Italian design with quality materials and engineering into a package you can use every day, year-round, while still managing to feel special. An all-electric Grecale with 558 horsepower is on the horizon; with such a great platform to start with, it should be one heck of an EV.