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A date with the Maserati Grecale GT

Get your checkbook out

This could drive up real estate prices in your neighborhood. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

I remember the very first time the Maserati brand entered my consciousness. I was watching K-9 (starring Jim Belushi), and at the climax, the drug lord steps out of this exotic-looking car.

“That, anak, is a Maserati,” my dad pointed out. Indeed, it was a Quattroporte III, an angular, Italian luxury sedan that was fairly rare at the time compared to the more commonplace Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs. That was back in 1989, and the fact I remember it shows how uniquely memorable that movie car was.

Anyway, besides driving the crap out of the MC12 in the Need for Speed games and a very brief, round-the-block ‘test drive’ of the Levante for Top Gear Philippines in 2016, I’d never really driven one for an extended period of time. But one day, a test drive of a Grecale GT came up.

My colleagues thought I was the only guy in our writers stable who could handle the responsibility of taking care of it. Hah. If they only knew.

The author tried to play it cool when he got the key, but then he couldn't even get it to move an inch. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Walking up to a Grecale GT for the first time is not an especially mind-blowing event if you’re jaded like me. This being an SUV, there are only so many ways the designers could visually distinguish it from competitors like the Porsche Macan and the BMW X3, but it looks impressive up close.

The profile is derivative, but the front fascia looks predatory with those adaptive LED headlamps, widely spaced, vertical slats on the grille, and large, hexagonal cooling ducts for the brakes all combining to look like a snake about to devour you.

And doesn’t the proud trident badge look politically incorrect, like it’s just a bit evil? You don’t buy a Maserati to blend in the crowd, that’s for sure.

A face that exudes both confidence and just enough arrogance to assert itself on the road. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

I got in the car, managed to figure out where the engine start/stop button was (it’s on the steering wheel), got the climate control set…and then I couldn’t find the shifter.

Crikey. I could sense the service advisor and the security guard observing me as I sat there in the parking area, and I’m pretty sure they knew what my predicament was. I’d be damned if I was going to ask them, “Kuya, saan yung kambyo?”

An emblem that's a rarity on our roads. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

A loooong minute passed while I scanned and re-scanned the dashboard, looking for a telltale lever or knob that would get me on my way. I finally realized that the transmission was actually controlled by buttons on the console.

P, R, N, D, and D/M were right there all along, but they never registered in my poor brain because I never thought to look for buttons. A bit retro there, but I’ll admit it cleans up the center stack nicely.

A cockpit that's both beautiful and modern at the same time.
There are actually two touchscreens on the center console. The shifter buttons are in between.
Engine start/stop and Drive modes share space on the wheel along with more buttons for the various other functions. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

With Drive engaged, I got going and into the heart of Friday madness. With heavy traffic greeting me en route to a planned video shoot, I took the time to appreciate the cockpit. I could wax poetic about how visually scintillating, how exquisite, how bellissima the Grecale was, but it’s all these and more so I’ll just sum it up as “wow.”

I mean, for something that can cost as much as eight figures, it had better be very good. Who knows how many cow hides were used, but the cabin’s extravagant use of soft, pliant, fragrant leather—dyed a wonderful reddish/orange hue like in the test car—makes spending even an hour in gridlock a pleasure. Even just digging my foot into the plush carpeting gives you an idea of how the Italians thought about all the sensory pleasures that must be experienced in a luxury car.

Heated, perfectly shaped seats you can spend a day in without suffering any aches or pains.
It's just as comfortable and luxurious in the back with lots of legroom and headroom.
We forgot to bring our nonexistent Louis Vuitton luggage to show how spacious the boot is. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

No kidding. Stuck in Metro Manila for the weekend test drive, I think I spent a total of eight hours in a stop-and-go slog and just three hours cruising—par for the course these days. So, this sad reality makes the choice of a four-cylinder, mild hybrid powerplant in an Italian luxury car quite practical.

It lacks the sonorous rumble of a V6 (order the Grecale Trofeo if you want that one), but the little four-banger makes a good accounting of itself.

Even displacing just 2.0 liters but equipped with a turbo and a 48V mild hybrid system, the GT still generates 296hp and 450Nm of torque from 2,000rpm to 4,000rpm. With all-wheel drive and an eight-speed slushbox, acceleration is less than six seconds for the 0-100km/h dash, and top speed is around 240km/h. Not bad at all for a car that weighs 1,870kg.

The turbo, mild-hybrid in-line-four does the job quite well, but lacks the character of a six-cylinder. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The engineers have done their best to make the in-line-four snarl at high revs, but there’s only so much you can do with this engine type. One can’t argue with the fuel efficiency, however.

While crawling in Makati traffic brought fuel efficiency down to 6km/L, a fairly long stint on the highway brought it up to the 10-11 km/L range. Not great, of course, but acceptable for such a heavy vehicle. A late afternoon drive to Tagaytay via some back roads was in order.

While Maserati offers optional air suspension, the stock all-independent setup of the standard model is no slouch. It’s smooth and composed at speed, with modest body roll in the corners.

The steering is precise and the brakes are powerful and easy to modulate, making the Grecale feel athletic but not overly sporty. There’s hardly any road rumble or harshness making it through the seat of the pants or the steering wheel despite the car running on 40-series, 21-inch Pirelli P Zeros.

You have several wheel options to choose from. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

You have decent sightlines from the driver seat, but you have to take care at slow corners because the A-pillars are quite thick and make large blind spots. And that makes the driver aids essential for something as precious as this.

Lane-keeping assist, auto on/off high beams, blind spot warning, and multiple cameras kept me from scratching this very expensive test car. Like a proper modern car, two screens on the center stack help you navigate through most of the functions, with redundant screens on the instrument panel. I wish they had used analog dials for the tachometer and the speedometer, though. Even the clock is a digital unit, with several faces to choose from.

Analog gauges would have been classier, but the digital system lets you see more information at a glance.
An old-school, analog clock would have looked better. Or worse, since everything is digital here. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

With effective sound-deadening material and an absolutely fantabulous Sonus Faber sound system (21 speakers!), traffic time was an opportunity to crank up the volume and enjoy my playlist.

With crisp high notes, smooth bass, and powerful midrange, the cabin of this car easily doubles as a listening room for all your favorite tracks. Pop, classical, rock, R&B…however eclectic your musical tastes, this car is like a front-row ticket to a live concert.

You can spend hours just enjoying your tunes in this car.
Sort out your playlist before you roll for hours of aural bliss. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

All too soon, it was time to return the car and reflect on the difference between something as pricey as this and something fairly pedestrian but still expensive like the current crop of Japanese, Korean, and American SUVs.

The Maserati may also have a utilitarian side to it, but you’re not going to the hardware store and filling it with carpentry woodworking supplies unless you just want to flex. The most off-road a real-world owner would subject it to might be a gravel path to the summer house.

The wife was sufficiently impressed by the whole Maserati experience that we had to have dinner at a restaurant with a view (and pretend for a few hours that we were actually wealthy).

Sunday drives are something to look forward to when you have a Maserati. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Visit the Maserati Philippines website and you’ll be faced with a bewildering number of options to personalize your Grecale. For example, my test unit had the Maglia Rosa leather trim with the Bianco Astro (ghost gray to my eye) metallic paint.

Were you to order your own Grecale, you could choose the color of your brake calipers, the size and the style of your wheels, the type of carpeting, the interior trim materials, the color of the leather upholstery, heated or non-heated seats…the list of options is as deep as your pockets.

In theory, you could do more or less the same with other luxury brands as long as you’ve got the cash, but the Grecale GT’s impressive marriage of Italian style and practical performance leaves a very long and lasting impression. Heck, that test drive was more than three months ago, and I still remember it to this day.

Personalizing your Grecale GT is something you'll deeply enjoy with so many options. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Finally, in a market that’s dominated by excellent automobiles from the likes of Mercedes, BMW, and Lexus, few can still elicit an almost child-like awe from bystanders when you pull up to a roadside.

“Look, dad. A Maserati!”

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.