We arrived at the Balocco Proving Ground expecting to feel the frost that comes with being designated persona non grata.
It'd been only weeks since Maserati's flagship Quattroporte Trofeo saloon was given two stars in its full Autocar road test – a real demolition, but deserved – and people tend to have long memories in the high-stakes automotive industry.
Happily, both the personnel and the new product at Maserati seem to be moving on, and our brief first taste of the upcoming Grecale suggests it is categorically not heading down the same path as the QPT. This is just as well, because the Grecale is undoubtedly Maserati’s most important car for a long time. It aims to bring a level of luxury and flair as yet unknown in the big-selling mid-sized SUV class, and it’s going to be pivotal to Maserati's finances and also to its journey into the pure-electric sphere. Under the Folgore line – Italian for ‘lightning’ – an electric Grecale will be shown in 2022, and that car will eventually sit alongside similar versions of the new MC20 supercar and the upcoming replacement for the Granturismo.
Our pre-production Grecale is a ‘synthesis’ vehicle. It exists as an amalgamation centre for the massive number of subsystems being honed on some 250 other prototypes. It means that at any given time, this particular Grecale is the most advanced Grecale, and it is currently close to being the finished article. Were it not for the shortage of semiconductor chips, development would already have been halted and the car would be on sale. As it is, the launch has been stalled until late spring, and the tweaking can continue a little longer.
One thing we can't really assess today is the interior, because the dashboard is covered up on our test car. Still, we have a peek underneath the fabric cladding. There’s lots of leather, and a broad, glossy infotainment touchscreen halfway up the dash. The traditional Maserati clock is also now digitally represented, with the royal-blue dial able to be switched between showing the time, g-force, heading and brake/throttle pressure. Elsewhere inside, the front seats strike a good balance of softness and support, and their scalloped backs means there's unusually generous second-row leg room (to match the excellent head room).