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Reviews

2024 Maserati GranTurismo Folgore First Drive Review: Quick As Lightning

New or classic, two-door or four, gas-burning or electric, there are certain things that a Maserati-badged vehicle must do. It must be beautiful, it must be uncommon, it must be idiosyncratic, it must be fast, and it must exhibit exceptional handling character on compelling roads.

The challenge for the 2024 Maserati GranTurismo Folgore – “folgore” meaning “lightning” in Italian, as well as the weird-to-pronounce new sub-brand for all Maserati electric vehicles – is how to avoid the one common flaw in EV performance vehicles: homogeneity.

Managing Editor Brandon Turkus said it as well as I could hope to, in his recent review of the 2022 Mercedes-AMG EQS.

“First, all electric motors accelerate cars from all brands in the same way. And while that immediate torque is delightful, the intensity is all that changes – the overall experience, regardless of brand, is relentlessly linear and, therefore, one-dimensional.”

For Maserati, a tiny brand sitting atop the Stellantis portfolio like a trident-shaped crown, creating a “one-dimensional” experience for its first EV, in its most storied and important vehicle nameplate, simply wouldn’t do. Thankfully, because of a cleverly shaped battery back, a no-holds-barred approach to drive mode modulation, an Italian approach to chassis and suspension tuning, and a dash of magic, this little lightning bolt is anything but homogenous.

A vehicle’s ratings are relative only to its own segment and not the new-vehicle market as a whole. For more on how Motor1.com rates cars, click here.

Mass In The Middle

Most of today’s electric vehicles that boast either high performance, long range, or both, accept the compromise of putting a large, flat battery pack under much of the floor of the vehicle. More cells, more juice, more range.

The downside to that strategy is, of course, weight, but also distribution of that weight out to the all-important corners of the vehicle. Big-battery EVs feel amazingly stable at high speeds in a straight line; some, like the Lucid Air, also manage to feel pretty good at quick speeds on curvy roads. Very few, this new Maser now among them, feel light and magically agile mid-corner, when pushing hard.

At nearly 5,000 pounds, the GranTurismo Folgore is not a lightweight thing, but it does have the distinct advantage of a T-shaped battery pack. With the mass of that 92.5 kilowatt-hour (84 kWh usable) battery confined to the center and rear of the vehicle – you know, like a race car – a whole world of precise and subtle handling opens up. Putting the center of mass in the center of the vehicle turns out to be a great idea.

I was lucky enough to drive this early Folgore on the excellent country roads north of Rome, directly after hours behind the wheel of the new, gas-engined GranTurismo. I was shocked to find that the GT EV mimicked the way in which its ICE counterpart joyfully turned in, was correctable mid-corner, and generally excelled at dancing around a bend rather than simply powering through.

Steering feel isn’t overwhelming here but there’s enough information about the grip coming from the front to keep you pushing and smiling. Short of Porsche’s incredibly nimble Taycan, this might be the new standard bearer for enthusiastic EV driving.

Race-Derived Power

Maserati is one of the OGs of the Formula E grid, competing since the all-electric series’ inception in 2014. The brand has used what it’s learned in that strenuous competition setting to develop an electric powertrain with real pedigree.

Three 300-kilowatt radial motors, two on the back axle and one out front, put a magnificent 751 horsepower and 996 pound-feet of peak torque to all four wheels. Fully deployed, Maserati estimates that the GranTurismo Folgore can sprint from zero to 62 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds and grind out a top speed of 202 mph. For raw acceleration, that puts the Maser in the mix with cars like the Lucid Air Grand Touring Performance and Audi RS E-Tron GT and a shade slower than the Tesla Model S Plaid and the sub-2-second Lucid Air Sapphire.

The way in which that power is deployed to the wheels, with the torque vectored out to each corner, is colored hugely by which drive mode you select, too. Maserati offers drivers a choice of four distinct modes that affect power delivery and torque vectoring, suspension setup, stability control, and auditory experience.

Max Range mode tamps down the fun in favor of power conservation but might also be well-used due to GranTurismo’s range shortcomings (more on that in a minute). GT mode limits drivers to 80 percent of the available power with a softer suspension setting that I appreciated on the often poorly surfaced Italian roads. Sport mode gives 100 percent of the power and a louder engineered drive sound (which still isn’t very noticeable); it alsoloosens the reins on traction and stability control.

Corsa mode, well, Corsa gets its own paragraph. Our minders from Maserati were characteristically laid back during the day of driving, with a notable exception being their insistence that using Corsa mode on public streets wasn’t advisable. Of course, I’m a car writer and a sometimes moron, so I decided I’d go ahead and see for myself.

A quick twist of a steering wheel-mounted knob changes the drive mode, and to be honest, I’d flicked into Corsa mostly just to see what changes it showed on the fully digital instrument cluster. A few minutes later traffic through a slow village cleared, and the road opened after a steep righthand turn over a very small bridge. I cleared the bridge with just a whisper of lock still applied to the steering wheel and got overeager on the accelerator. In any other drive mode traction control would’ve mitigated wheel spin, but in Corsa the tail stepped out immediately and violently.

The upshot is this: Maserati is differentiating its range-topping EV by allowing it to be as unhinged and as driver-determined as you’d like it to be. I love it.

Made In Italy

The architecture of Maserati’s all-new battery electric system is impressive in ways other than how it sends power to the wheels. Built mostly in-house (pouch-style cells in the battery pack come from blue chip supplier LG Chem) and in Italy, the powertrain is important for Maserati and likely a critical first stake in the ground for future Stellantis EV products. Compact and power dense – the company quotes a figure of 9.2 kilowatts per kilogram – the triple electric motors are driven by the same silicon carbide inverters used in the Formula E program.

The 800-volt system offers DC charging up to 270 kW, with Maserati estimating that it’ll take only 18 minutes to go from 20 to 80 percent state of charge. There’s also a 22-kW onboard charger for AC charging at a rate of roughly 55 miles per hour (extrapolated from WLTP figures).

We’re still a bit away from knowing how the Folgore will net out in terms of EPA range ratings, but what we can infer from the quoted figure of roughly 280 miles (450 km) according to WLTP standards isn’t entirely promising. The company was mum on US range targets, but something like 230 to 250 miles of maximum range seems likely given the data we have. Stretching to 250 miles would put GT Folgore just a few ticks above the Taycan Turbo S (222 miles) but still well behind a class leader like the Lucid Air Grand Touring.

If your need for range outstrips your desire for something really special, best to look elsewhere.

Works In Progress

You are encouraged to click over to Motor1.com, where I’ve reviewed the ICE version of the car, for a deeper conversation about the “vibes” inside the cabin of the new GranTurismo. Ultimately, no matter the powertrain, Maserati has created a spacious (for a coupe) evocative driving environment with infotainment technology that puts even other recent offerings from the brand to shame.

With that said, the GranTurismo Folgore that was available for me to drive in Italy wasn’t close enough to production spec for me to draw subtle conclusions. To give you some idea, the front cupholder spaces were occupied by twin kill switches – something required by an Italian watchdog agency for non-production-spec electric vehicles. There were a lots of rattles and weird noises, not-quite-flush trim pieces, and a few glitches within the infotainment menus. None of that was evident in the gas burner, so I have high hopes that the Folgore will come close to justifying its $200K-plus price tag.

Some in-cabin items that won’t change are seats trimmed in a new kind of material that Maserati has dubbed Econyl. Essentially recycled nylon derived from old fishing nets (a nice nod to both a traditional Italian profession and the brand logo’s origins), the material is a tangible expression of the company’s desire to find sustainable solutions. The trouble is that Econyl isn’t particularly nice to touch or look at (though it does seem quite grippy), and ultimately doesn’t feel correct in a car at this price point

There isn’t truly a “segment” for EV sports cars yet, at this stratospheric price point or any other. The Maserati GranTurismo Folgore finds itself either at the tip of the spear then (or trident), or weirdly wedged in next to the likes of cars like the Audi RS E-Tron GT, Lucid Air Touring, or Porsche Taycan Turbo S.

The GranTurismo is unquestionably more exotic, with more overt sex appeal than any of those excellent contenders. But it remains to be seen how much brand equity Maserati will bring to the table for EV enthusiasts, who are often keyed in on performance and efficiency even in very expensive products. (To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter. There are enough rich folks in the cadre of existing Maserati owners to fill the order books in the early going, without an issue.)

I also want to point out that our vehicle scoring system doesn’t work elegantly when a vehicle has no true competitors. We make a big effort to appropriately categorize vehicles for true apples-to-apples comparisons, but in cases like this, that’s not possible. Does my “gut” tell me that this sensuous, innovative, high-performance EV should rank an 8.3 on a scale of 10? No. But when it’s priced like an exotic, favors performance over range, and offers space and storage of a big coupe, not a sedan or wagon… well, the score goes down.

Here’s hoping that Bentley, Tesla, and Porsche all have entries in this extraordinary segment, sooner rather than later. In the meantime, Maserati and future GranTurismo Folgore owners can bask in exclusivity while also enjoying one of the most singular EV driving experiences on the planet.

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