A plug-in hybrid Range Rover Velar or a supercharged Maserati Grecale? Find out which is best…
The Grecale combines hybrid tech with sporting allure – but does it top the Range Rover Velar?
It’s approaching three years since the formation of the world’s newest automotive power, Stellantis.
At the beginning of 2021, there was some speculation about which hapless, unsuspecting car maker would next be subsumed by this gigantic, marauding and apparently unstoppable industry amoeba (which might well have been an inspiration for the latest series of horror show Stranger Things).
Might Carlos Tavares (aka The Mind Flayer) see synergy between the Tata Group’s Land Rover, Range Rover and Jaguar brands and his panoply of Stellantis equivalents, of which former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles marque Maserati was one? There we were, caught on his evil tenterhooks, dying to find out.
Well, there were certainly rumours. Like so many, they came to nought. But had things gone differently, the rival mid-sized luxury SUVs that are squaring up on these pages – the Maserati Grecale Modena and the Range Rover Velar P400e – might have been sibling models. In-laws, at the very least.
But which is best? Read on to find out…
Introducing the Maserati Grecale and Range Rover Velar
But the above had come to pass, you can bet your silicon-carbide power inverter that we wouldn’t now be looking at such different takes on what technically constitutes a modern petrol-electric hybrid SUV.
Diesel engines may increasingly be becoming a faded memory as electric powertrains grow in prevalence but, as you will no doubt have noticed, the hybrid system is definitely the here-and-now for cars like this.
And if you’re about to adopt one, you might be interested to know whether an intelligently boosted mild-hybrid system, fitted to a lighter SUV like the Grecale, could actually be better to drive than a more powerful and intensively boosted but heavier, plug-in hybrid system in an SUV like the Velar.
More of that in a moment. First, to the chromed bauble that Maserati is newly dangling in front of those who might otherwise buy a Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz or Porsche.
Maserati Grecale vs Range Rover Velar: interior
Outwardly, I think the Italian has the greater kerbside sparkle. A higher-grade Velar Autobiography might have challenged it but, as well as the slightly lower, curvier silhouette and the more enticing, classic-Maserati brightwork and detailing, there’s just more lustre to the Grecale. Deeper, richer-looking paintwork, greater elegance and flair.
It makes the Velar look slightly bulky, prosaic and ordinary. Inside, the Grecale’s richness and lavishness continue to distinguish it. The Velar’s interior is very nice too, though: higher-waisted and more enveloping, with comfier front seats and better-looking, more intuitive digital technology.
There’s a tidy rigour and calm restraint about the Velar’s interior that’s classy in itself. But the Grecale has the greater material richness by a fair way.
Its glossy carbonfibre-clad consoles, contrast-stitched leather-topped dashboard and bright aluminium pedals and shift paddles couldn’t fail to raise an ‘oooh’ the first time you set eyes on them. And it’s an ‘oooh’ that the plainer-feeling Velar doesn’t quite have an answer to.
Then again, perhaps the Velar doesn’t need one, with so much rational appeal on its side. Because while these cars are separated by less than £1000 on list price, they are technically different beasts.
Maserati Grecale vs Range Rover Velar: powertrains
The Velar is a PHEV with 50kW of DC rapid-charging capability, nearly 15kWh of fitted battery capacity and almost 40 miles of electric-only range, while the Grecale is a mild hybrid with no charging port and no particular tax advantage for fleet drivers and operators.
This, then, is very much a contest for private buyers who are willing to open up their everyday motoring options by opting out of the company car scheme and so wouldn’t pay benefit-in-kind tax on either car. Because if they did, the Velar would be an awful lot cheaper to run.
Yet the Grecale’s mild-hybrid powertrain offers plenty, too. It’s simple and has a particular performance-boosting remit, thanks to a secondary electric supercharger in addition to the belt-driven integrated starter-generator.
So while this isn’t the kind of hybrid system that powers the car all-electrically at low speeds, it’s much lighter than the one in the Velar, and because of that, there’s less than 10bhp per tonne between the cars in power-to-weight terms.
Twenty years ago, I probably wouldn’t have been heard uttering this aloud, but I’m coming to quite like hybrid powertrains. They are generally not hugely exciting, but they are interesting, and working out how to get the best out of them certainly keeps your brain engaged.
Here’s one for the kids. Donkey’s years ago, cars used to come with printed, physical drivers’ handbooks, rather than just QR code links to web pages to scroll through on your grubby smartphone screen. They were wondrous, inky-smelling things – and among their pages could usually be found the optimally efficient cruising speed.
It must have been a pretty simple equation to work out, derived from its gear ratios, its spread of torque and how much aerodynamic drag it had. As I remember, for my A-reg Triumph Acclaim, it was 56mph.
Now, this is opening myself up to all sorts of correspondence from engineers and physics professors, I realise, but what most hybrids do, it strikes me, is lower that optimally efficient cruising speed relative to the prevailing norm.
They tend to have an especially thermally efficient engine, and many of them can run for significant periods with said engine shut down, both of which means they can run slower, fighting less drag, without compromising efficiency.
My guess is that the optimally efficient cruising speed of the Velar P400e is somewhere between 35mph and 45mph. If that’s the kind of speed at which your daily motoring is conducted, and you want the most efficient model you can get, this is the Velar for you – whether you can charge it up regularly or not.
With power in the battery, it has more than enough electric-only oomph to get up to those speeds and beyond with plenty of authority, and even when that battery is flat, it clearly retains enough voltage for quite a lot of low-speed, fairly low-demand running with the engine shut down.
For all its electrification, the Grecale does very little engine-off running, other than stopping and starting in walking-pace traffic. I suspect its hybrid system, for all its specialism, is significantly less efficient at recycling kinetic energy.
That (along with the influence of quite different engine calibration and the greater rolling resistance of the Grecale’s wider tyres) is how it can come to pass that, even though the Velar is the much heavier car here, it will average 35-38mpg in typical daily driving once the battery is depleted (and much better once you factor in regular electric-only running, of course), whereas the Grecale is hard to persuade above 32mpg, even on a good day.
Maserati Grecale vs Range Rover Velar: driving dynamics
The thing is, though, the Grecale’s sub-par fuel economy is the price you pay for a car with a fair bit of sporting flavour and soul.
One with an engine that rasps through its boosty-feeling mid-range and pops and parps through its quad exhaust pipes as you grab a full-throttle, paddle-cued upshift. One that performs and handles like a car that you might drive just for the hell of it.
The Velar, meanwhile, is a much better luxury car, at least in the way it rides, performs and generally conducts itself. It’s significantly quieter on mechanical isolation and for ride noise, it’s suppler and more cosseting and it has better drivability. Dynamically, it feels plusher and ‘nicer’ by quite a long way.
But as clearly as the Velar beats the Grecale in all of those respects, the Grecale beats it in others. Respects, I dare say, in which you would hope a Maserati would beat a more luxury-minded car, in whichever class those two brands happened to come into competition – although in recent years they often haven’t.
Even with its optional air suspension fitted, the Grecale has much keener, crisper and more athletic handling than the Velar and a closer and more informative sense of connection with the road.
Funnily enough, the P400e is the only model in the Velar range denied the option of air suspension, because pneumatic reservoirs would be power-hungry enough to penalise its EV range in engine-off running.
And so the more fun car here is, for once, the air-sprung one, and the quieter, comfier and more luxurious one is on steel coils. Just one more interesting inversion of expectations, for good measure.
When an interesting A-road presents itself, then, the Velar shoulders its way around faster bends always under control but generally making its 2.2 tonnes felt, while the Grecale is grippier and sharper, with more interactive, adjustable chassis poise mid-corner and more urgent traction on the way out.
While the Velar, with its metier steering, carves out a more languid ride gait over longer-wave bumps and better soaks up the shorter, clunkier ridges and scars on the road, the Grecale holds its body lower and tauter and lets you both hear and feel what its suspension is dealing with.
For outright acceleration, the two are near enough impossible to separate. The Velar’s powertrain gives more instant electric torque-filled throttle response, but its engine has that slightly crotchety flat Ingenium growl and doesn’t feel made to rev.
The Grecale’s engine, meanwhile, has greater audible presence and character, pausing for the merest instant on a loaded throttle before twanging through the middle of the rev range and then going at the limiter more fiercely.
Maserati Grecale vs Range Rover Velar: verdict
I think I would rather live with the Velar – as would, I expect, the vast majority of average drivers. While it’s a bit less exotic, it’s still luxurious, and what it’s good at could be tapped into almost every day.
But our winner here must be the Grecale – not for being the car that you would want to use ever day, clearly, but for being the one that you would wat to own and would really enjoy driving.
For Maserati to progress as it has – from almost nowhere as a maker of luxury cars to somewhere quietly innovative and interesting – shows what the right direction can do for a car company in a surprisingly short time.
All of a sudden, it feels like we can be excited again about what’s coming next from Modena – and, on this evidence, also confident that it won’t feel too different from the better cars that have come before.
1st. Maserati Grecale Modena
A successfully sporty and desirable take on a mid-sized luxury SUV, with more fiery dynamic charm than you might expect.
2nd. Range Rover Velar P400e Dynamic SE
Delivers quite well for fleet drivers and on comfort, refinement and real-world economy, but doesn’t have the Grecale’s allure or handling appeal.