Maserati’s Electric GranTurismo Folgore Is Really Complicated—And Really Fun
- Maserati is preparing to launch its first set of battery-electric vehicles, with the 2024 GranTurismo Folgore the first of them to hit the streets.
- With pricing estimated at over $205,000, the GranTurismo Folgore is built on a modular chassis shared with its ICE companions, power figures rise to 750 hp and 995 lb-ft of torque.
- By using a modular chassis and co-producing, Maserati says it is learning how to build proper performance EVs while maintaining profitability and tradition through its ICE derivatives.
Stepping out of the metallic, trackside paddocks at the ACI Vallelunga Circuit, I was more excited than nervous, as the opportunity to drive a prototype model all out doesn’t regularly present itself. Gliding out of the pit lane with a droning electric bass line underneath, my Rome-born driving instructor guided me through a few laps of the circuit, as it was set up in Superbike-series spec and the sporty but road-going tires needed some heat.
Pointing the nose and pushing the accelerator seemed easy enough—reaching over my shoulder and grabbing the seatbelt was more difficult—but the challenge of lapping a battery-electric beast soon became clear. As the pace picked up, egged on by a driving instructor and the unending feeling of battery-powered acceleration, adequately slowing down the nearly 5000 pounds of aluminum, steel, and lithium-ion cells that make up the 2024 Maserati GranTurismo Folgore required a concerted brake pedal push. But that’s just how the forces of weight, inertia, and gravity work, right?
Let’s backtrack for a moment, though, and acknowledge that Maserati is set to release a fully electric version of its historic GranTurismo coupe by the second half of this year. And that’s historic for a number of reasons. For one, it will be Maserati’s first battery-electric offering, though it will be shortly followed by an electric version of Maserati’s Grecale SUV. Additionally, it will signal the official introduction of the first GranTurismo lineup under Maserati’s Stellantis overhead. Within that rapid rollout, however, lies Maserati’s not-so-secret plan to electrify the niche and historically flamboyant luxury brand.
For starters, the GranTurismo Folgore and its internal-combustion siblings, the Modena and Trofeo, are built on the same chassis from the same Turin-based production line, a production line that can be adjusted to meet ICE or BEV demand. And Maserati was so proud of the modular engineering feat that it actually brought a bare chassis as well as both ICE and BEV drivetrains to show us how it works. While the Nettuno-engined gasoline-powered version is assembled and runs in a way familiar to even those with rudimentary car knowledge, the construction and assembly of the electric Folgore are where Maserati could give competitors a run for their money.
Laid out and arranged in an upside down T-shaped pack are 92.5-kWh and 1300-pounds’ worth of pouch batteries (LG-produced cells that are internally packaged at a facility in Turin), allowing Maserati to place the pack through the ICE version’s transmission tunnel and create an identical feeling and mechanically undisturbed interior. Additionally, the GranTurismo Folgore has three, 300-kW radial electric motors, with one in the front and two in the rear. These motors provide direct propulsion to each of the rear wheels and run power through a differential to the front wheels, in addition to acting as an all-wheel-drive torque management system and providing adjustable regenerative braking. Yes, that means that drift mode is possible. Altogether, the GranTurismo Folgore makes 750 hp and 995 lb-ft of torque sent to all four wheels, with an unlimited top speed of 201 mph.
Does it really feel that fast? Oh yes, it certainly does. Despite its chunky build, the Folgore builds speed deceptively, thanks to its padded grand touring interior and relative lack of drivetrain sound. Accelerating out of the final “Roma” hairpin and onto the front straight, the Folgore reached 125 mph with a light press of the go pedal, though useable power felt practically endless. The dramatic, sonorous Nettuno-engined version has a playful, lively character to it, while the Folgore’s hard-hitting power delivery is the same note played at a volume-dependent on throttle position. Ultimately, the only powertrain similarity is that both feel genuinely fast yet relatively composed, even at high speeds.
Of course, being battery electric means that there is a limit to how long the fun can go on, and the prototype Folgore went from 97% to 71% charge after a 30-minute track session. Even 400 kW of available regenerative braking power wouldn’t have been enough to recharge it. Either way, the blend between electric motor regeneration and the traditional Brembo six-piston front, four-piston rear steel brakes was generally seamless, with braking forces in excess of 0.56 g required to engage the steel brakes. However, because the traditional brakes were carried over from the 1000-pound lighter GranTurismo Trofeo, even a track novice would notice the extra time and space it takes to slow the car down. That said, the overlap between Folgore customers and regular track days will be slim enough that it will matter little.
What was most surprising about the Folgore on track was the way it transferred weight. Whether pinning it through a chicane or trail braking into a hairpin, turn-in was direct and responsive at almost any speed or angle. The masked weight and rewarding steering are owed to the proprietary Vehicle Domain Control Module (VDCM). Thanks to the VDCM, even the wrong throttle inputs or aggressive steering can be fixed by blending a series of traction and stability control systems with the electronic adjustable active suspension and torque vectoring electric motors. This capability felt especially exaggerated in the Folgore, with the torque vectoring system automatically monitoring and managing grip levels on both acceleration and deceleration. You can even select a dedicated screen to see how power was being delivered to each wheel in real-time. With a 50/50 weight distribution, a whole lot of power, and a host of electronics keeping it all together, the car is well tuned and fun to drive at fractions of what it can actually do.
It’s hard to give a final evaluation of Maserati’s GranTurismo Folgore when the version I drove was a prototype, but perhaps an analysis of the lineup itself is more apt. At face value, this sort of modular construction and ultra-complex electronic handling system may seem like a lot of work for not so much profit and is especially surprising when you remember that Maserati is owned by mass producer Stellantis. And while there’s no doubt that engineering the GranTurismo chassis to accept both BEV and ICE drivetrains required a lot more work upfront, it will probably save the company money and headaches in the long run.
By allowing customers to choose between ICE and BEV drivetrains while maintaining the same quality design and interior experience, Maserati is actually giving itself a better shot at a profitable transition. At least that’s what Maserati Americas CEO Bill Peffer thinks, as he emphasized the unique market share that a luxury manufacturer like Maserati occupies in the move towards electrification.
“I think as you see the fast adoption of electrification, right, we’ve reached a tipping point in the marketplace where it’s not going to go away,” Peffer explained in an interview with Autoweek. “And I think we found a unique solution, that for a subset of people who are intending to buy a luxury product, like a Maserati, it will serve. There still will be people who want the ICE and I think we can serve both.”
Would you rather drive an internal combustion or electric car on track? Share your thoughts in the comments below.