I have had an affinity for Maserati going back to when I first became interested in sportscars. Back then Maserati was this tiny Italian brand with a rich history that made a few quite dodgy turbo charged sportscars that were more likely to leave you in tears than smiling. Thirty some odd years later, much has changed. Most of it for the better but Maserati hasn’t had an easy life these past few decades. I recently had the pleasure of spending time with Maserati’s leadership out in Monterey and got a firsthand look at how they see the future unfolding.
A Short History
For Maserati, its current era started in 1999 when Ferrari took full ownership and control of Maserati. Under Ferrari’s ownership, Maserati’s factories were modernized, and a range of new, vastly improved models powered by Ferrari supplied engines were developed. These models included the Coupe, Spider, GranSport, GranTurismo, Quattroporte Gen 5, and MC12 hypercar. It was also during this era that Maserati reentered the US market. The era of Ferrari’s direct control of Maserati however was short, and in 2005 the parent company, the FIAT Group (which is now part of Stellantis), placed Maserati in a new brand group with Alfa Romeo where it remains to this day. However, Maserati continued to source engines from Ferrari, under an agreement that will finally come to an end in 2024.
While under Ferrari’s wing, to a large extent Maserati became its junior sports car brand. While the cars had Ferrari power, they were softer, lower priced, and more comfort than performance focused. They were also all front engine. In addition, the flagship Quattroporte is a high performance executive saloon but no one will ever mistake it for a supercar. What all these did benefit from though, was a fair amount of Ferrari engineering and design influence. When the engagement to Ferrari ended, Maserati was married off to Alfa Romeo. The first two new models launched under this grouping, the Ghibli (which is a mid size 4 door sedan) & Levante, (a mid size SUV), in my experience lacked the same polish as the prior set and felt much more like they were thrown together out of the FIAT Group parts bin. By the end of the 21st century’s 2nd decade, all of these moves left Maserati positioned at the higher end of a very crowded and competitive luxury sports car market yet sitting on a portfolio that skewed heavily towards sedans, SUVs, with one now very long in the tooth sportscar, the GranTurismo.
Maserati 2020 ->
In 2020, things started to change again with the introduction of the MC20. The MC20 was Maserati’s first junior supercar (the MC12 was basically a rebodied Ferrari Enzo), first modern mid-engine, and first car with a carbon fiber tub. It also signaled the move away from Ferrari sourced engines with the introduction of Maserati’s new Nettuno V6 twin turbo producing 621 bhp. Looking back today, the launch of the MC20 was the first of several steps in a multiyear transformation of Maserati’s portfolio. As per what’s becoming normal industry, a MC20 convertible (the Cielo), race (GT2), and unrestrained track only (MCXtrema) versions followed over the next several years.
With the launch of the MC20, the GranTurismo Gen 1 was finally retired. It later reappeared in 2023 as a GranTurismo Gen 2 also now powered by the Nettuno V6 in a slightly less aggressive tune. Maserati also launched the Grecale compact SUV at around the same time and has announced that the Levante mid size will be replaced shortly. The two current sedans, the Ghilbi & Quattroporte are also slated for discontinuation shortly and I expect they will be replaced by a new Quattroporte Gen 7. All the models in Maserati’s portfolio today and going forward are designed to carry both the Nettuno V6 or a fully electric powertrain, which will be badged the Folgore. With the portfolio update, Maserati has also pushed pricing aggressively with both the GranTurismo & MC20 now sitting north of $200k.
Stepping back and looking at what the Maserati portfolio will look like come 2024/2025, it appears you now have a portfolio that can and will compete with Porsche as a luxury sportscar manufacturer in just about every segment Porsche currently operates in. It’s not a portfolio designed to take on Ferrari. Even though Maserati & Ferrari are now fully independent of one another, they still do share the same Executive Chairman (and significant shareholder), John Elkan. Interestingly, when I asked Maserati management on who their competitive benchmark was, they said they didn’t have one. However, when you look at Maserati’s pricing across its range, it lines up very closely to Porsches in each segment. My guess is they simply didn’t want to have the debate on if taking on Porsche was realistic. At a minimum, it’s certainly aspirational and they don’t need to dethrone Porsche, just take a bit of market share, to be successful. If Maserati is now being set up to take on Porsche, the question is do/will they now have the model line up to do so successfully?
Model Line Up, Today & the Future
Starting with the MC20 as it’s the first of the new generation of Maserati’s, it’s a huge departure from where Maserati has been positioned for the last couple of decades. With 600+ bhp, a carbon fiber tub, minimalist interior, limited yearly build numbers, and a sticker price of well over $200k, it sits firmly in the junior supercar category. As mentioned above, Maserati has quickly built out the MC20 line and in 2025 will introduce electric versions of the two road cars. I did a short road test in a MC20 out in Pebble Beach and it was enough to make me want to spend more time with the car and explore its capabilities. While it seems to have a reputation of being heavy for a CF tub car, it felt nimble during our short drive. It was also the easiest CF tub car to get in and out of that I have run across. My initial takeaway was the MC20 is a supercar that you could easily live with as a daily driver and a very real alternative to a Porsche 911 Turbo.
Quattroporte Gen VII
The next generation of Maserati’s large 4 door flagship sports sedan is expected to land in 2025. Like all Maserati’s of this generation, it will come with a choice of the V6 Nettuno engine or an electric powertrain. The Quattroporte will share the same platform as the GranTurismo and Grecale. As its Maserati’s flagship, getting it right will be critical. We are current Quattroporte Gen VI owners and have been quite impressed with its capabilities. It’s a car that we have put a huge number of miles on in a relatively short period of time. It handles a huge range of driving conditions quite well and the build quality is excellent. While it’s not a sports car, it moves very smartly when pushed and barely shows its girth in corners. When we were looking for a long range GT, it came down to the Quattroporte or the Porsche Panamera. The Quattroporte won out due to it design but it was a close contest. Getting the combination of luxury, comfort, handling, and power delivery right in the next generation is hugely important to both Maserati’s reputation.
The Gen2 GranTurismo is built off of the same platform as the Grecale mid size SUV. It’s both wider and longer than its predecessor, likely to also allow the platform to be shared with the next generation Quattroporte. While I didn’t have the opportunity to test drive the new GranTurismo at Pebble Beach, I did get close look at a couple of them. The lines are definitely GranTurismo and it’s a nice update on the prior generation without losing the elegance of the design which has made it one of the best looking cars of the last few decades. The new interior is a definite upgrade on the older one which was sourced far to liberally from the FCA parts bin. Personally, the key defining characteristic of the Gen 1 GranTurismo (Mrs. SSO has had a GranTurismo Cabrio as her daily driver for close to a decade) was the soundtrack from the Ferrari supplied engine. How Maserati is going to match that from a twin turbo V6 will be interesting to see.
The Levante is Maserati’s answer to the Porsche Cayenne. I test drove one many years back when they first came out. My impressions at the time were not very complimentary. I thought it was a lot more FIAT than it was Maserati. For Maserati though, it’s been a moderate success and allowed them to fund models like the MC20. Fortunately, this Gen 1 Levante is about to come to an end with a new model sharing the same name arriving in 2025. So far Maserati is only committing to launching an EV version although I suspect to be successful in the US market, Maserati will need to add an ICE model to the Levante range shortly thereafter. If the new Levante can compete successful with the Cayenne, it will benefit Maserati enormously.
If the Levante is Maserati’s answer to the Cayenne, the Grecale is targeted very much to the same buyer as the Macan. I haven’t driven one so can’t comment on how it drives but in Trofeo spec with the Nettuno V6 in the nose producing 530 bhp, it should move down the road pretty smartly. I would definitely rate the interiors I have seen as far nicer than what was plunked down in the Gen 1 Levante.
Maserati’s journey over the last several decades has taken it from the edge of the abyss under De Tomaso ownership, to survival under FIAT, rebirth as part of the Ferrari empire, to treading water for a decade after been joined at the hip to Alfa Romeo, and now finally to the edge of a new beginning. The question now is can Maserati thrive as essentially Stellantis’ answer to Porsche? Will superior Italian design and luxury be enough to win over buyers used to German quality and performance?
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