2024 Maserati Grecale GT — The Farmer’s Daughter of Rental Cars

I’ve mentioned a few times here on Curbside Classic that I have a great fondness for rental cars. My feelings are directly and proportionally related to my lack of fondness for owning new cars. Particularly as I’ve gotten older, wiser, and poorer (one of these things is not like the others, except in my case) the idea of making a commitment to shelling out good money for a vehicle that will rapidly depreciate (despite its being termed an “asset”) and grow inevitably and increasingly undependable on my dime is not at all something that I find desirable. On the other hand, for a couple hundred dollars, I can have that whole new-car experience for a handful of days; and at the end, I can just fly away with no commitments whatsoever. Many things in life should work this way, but don’t.

In short, I love rental cars.  And sometimes they – or at least the rental car companies – love me back.

Like a couple of weeks ago at the Omaha, Nebraska airport.

Arriving on a late flight in from BOS, I stumbled to the Enterprise portion of the rental car garage to pick up what I had arranged to be an entirely unexciting Corolla. This trip was one that would take me on a 300+ mile arc of central and southeastern Nebraska. The logistics – flying in Tuesday night, flying home Friday afternoon (as always, too rushed) – called for me to arrive in Omaha but depart out of Grand Island, Nebraska so that I could make the last Friday night east-bound flight back to Massachusetts. I couldn’t swing a 5 pm flight out of Omaha, but a 3 pm flight out of Grand Island – 150 miles closer to where I was than Omaha – would work. Yet doing this involved a one-way rental, and those are often crazy expensive…except with Enterprise, which has a business model that somehow doesn’t always require an arm and a leg for one-way rentals. I have no idea why, but it works for me.

Upon making my late evening way to the Enterprise booth, I was confronted by Rental Car Dude who immediately inquired if I’d consider something other than my requested Toyota. “Uhhhh, OK. What?” I asked. He replied that he had “too many luxury cars” in his lot and had to send some out, and “Would you like to take one?”.

At this point I realize that this is setting up like the joke about the farmer who has no place for the traveler to sleep other than in the bed with his daughter…but bear with me. It’s actually better in that it lasted three whole days.

OMA Rental Car Dude says that he has a Maserati or a Jaguar. “The Jaguar is newer”. I go with him to see the two vehicles and frankly neither seem familiar to me. This is because I know nothing about “luxury cars” and even less about current luxury crossover/SUV things (other than what I read here on CC by Kyree Rollerson). Regardless, the idea of a Maserati attracts me.

This is of course due to my childhood love of the Flintstones — see the Stonefinger Caper episode, season 6, episode 10, which featured Fred and Barney’s time in a “Maserocki”. There’s also the influence of a certain Joe Walsh song which we’ll get to in a bit.

So, I passed on the F-Pace (I’m fascinated by how Jaguar’s website video spends more time spying on the pretty lady in her window than it does showing the vehicle) and signed off on the 2024 Maserati Grecale GT. For Corolla money.

Maserati has decided to provide drivers on the dashboard display with a nicely-styled profile of the vehicle you’re aiming to drive as you proceed to start the car. This one, as you can see, had only 4828 miles on it as I prepared to exit the lot at OMA.

I will note that “prepared” is the operative word as I then proceeded to spend a good 10 minutes inside the Grecale, sitting in the garage, trying to figure out how to put the vehicle into gear.

I was about to turn in my man-card credentials, go back to Rental Car Dude, and actually ask how to engage the transmission (I checked…there were no manuals in the glovebox, although I later found those in their pristine baggies in the cargo are) when I noticed the row of push buttons below the central LCD.  Whew.  A push button transmission just like one might have found on this Maserati’s ancient Mopar ancestors.  I can do this!  And I won’t even get in trouble like I did with Chris Smith in 1967 when we rolled his dad’s Dodge down the driveway into the garage while playing with the buttons as our little sisters sat in the backseat.

Another thing that reminded me of Dexter’s (that would be Chris’s dad) 1964 4-door Custom was the sound of the “blinker”.  One of the first things I noticed as I started to make progress out of the garage was how loud this thing was, and how it had that same sound that I associate with a woodblock.

You know, that “instrument” popular in elementary schools back in the day.

In my school music classes, after the majority of students had been assigned instruments such as the recorder, ocarina, or (because we were in the South) the autoharp, those remaining kids deemed to have subhuman musical skills were handed really-can’t-fail noisemakers like the tambourine and the woodblock.  The woodblock being the only musical instrument that was just as useful in music class as it was as a shop supply down in industrial arts. I always liked to flail on the thing making the turn signal sound. Anyhow, that sounds just like the turn signal indicator on the Grecale, as played very strongly, by a very masculine 2nd grader.

Thoughts of push button transmission Dodges and 3rd grade music class faded quickly that night in the OMA garage as I proceeded to fall in love with the Grecale’s center-mounted dash clock. This is exactly the sort of little detail that I think is intended to draw one to the Maserati.

I never managed to take a good interior photo of the Gracale. So, this one is from the Maserati website. “Mine” looked exactly like this. So much tasteful black leather goodness.


Boosting the pleasantness was the slick black leather interior. The interior was sufficiently luxurious and plenty plush. Well, maybe “plush” is not quite right given that in this geezer’s mind, plush conjures the Broughamtastic interior of a late-1970s Oldsmobile with that creepy pillowy upholstery that always seems as if it would be impossible to properly clean off all of the cooties it would naturally acquire and therefore just …. yuck.

This is much better. Better like how anyone can feel in an Armani suit.

The controls actually seemed unnecessarily complex. There were lots of them and not all were well conceived. Worst of all were the gigantic…things…behind the wheel that facilitated the entirely pointless (and fortunately entirely optional) manual shifting of the automatic transmission. These huge chromed…things…brought to mind antique obstetric instruments (which I’ll quickly note that I only know of via a brief summer stint at the Smithsonian’s Medical History department as a high school intern). At any rate, these provided an immediate, and not at all pleasant association.

Since I fortunately had no babies to deliver and thereby accidentally render pointy-headed, these gigantic chromed…things…could remain attached to the wheel where they manged to get in the way of more common tasks such as turning on the windshield wipers or changing from high to low beam headlights.

The Grecale’s LCD screen is easy to read and can be manipulated to display a considerable amount of information.  Much of this, of course, I suspect is entirely pointless and would never be viewed more than occasionally by any real-life driver. One screen had a selection for “Drag Race” mode – something I never got around to trying…a statement that would be downright astounding to Jeff from 30 years ago, but it seems entirely reasonable to me now. Instead, I was more fascinated by the Grecale’s notion that it had “E-Hybrid”.

As it turns out, E-Hybrid is rather uninteresting as well. It’s part of Maserati’s “mild hybrid” mode that basically uses a battery to power the engine’s turbocharger allowing the turbo to kick in faster. Ok. I never noticed it even though I surely engaged the turbocharger multiple times, and therefore bought gas more than once (which impressed me as kind of odd for only traveling 300 or so miles). At some point while flipping through displays I believe that I saw that my Grecale was averaging somewhere around 24 mpg…a number only surprising if one spends any time thinking about the fact that there’s some kind of hybrid system on-board. But really, Yabba-dabba-doo! Fred isn’t driving a Maserocki for its stellar gas mileage.

Joe Walsh’s Maserati went 185 (and now he doesn’t drive). Mine probably couldn’t go that fast. Still, I found that it seemed to be quite eager to go faster than 90, and that was in normal everyday “GT” mode (as opposed to “Sport” mode). Reviews have complained about the lethargy of the GT’s four cylinder engine. Maybe, but I can only imagine the trouble that one would get into with the more athletic Trofeo version’s V6.

Mind you, my daily driver is quite capable of three-digit speeds and from time to time I find myself in that territory. Still, to get over 100 in the E-91 I definitely know that I’m there and am quickly reminded to let off the gas (and let that car behind me who wants 110 or better pass by). The Grecale very effortlessly exceeded legal Nebraska speeds and gave no tactile indication that’s what you were doing. Kinda cool, kinda dangerous (to one’s license at least).

Fortunately in Nebraska, you can just roll miles and miles on ruler-straight roads. The Grecale’s excellent CarPlay implementation showed straight lines on Apple Maps the majority of the time.

I really liked how the driver’s side display picked up essential directional information from CarPlay. This is not something I’ve often seen on other vehicles. Unlike much of the information the Grecale was visually pushing my way – oil pressure was often being featured on the right side of the display — navigational data on the driver’s primary display seemed genuinely useful.

“Unknown” was a frequent attribute for where I was headed. 38 miles until there needed to be (or likely could be) a turn was not rare.

Enough about the car, you may say (I hope), let’s talk about where Signor Grecale took me.

On my first day, it was to rendezvous with Nebraska colleagues and their 2023 (?) Silverado HD crew cab, which often pulls a ginormous trailer. The trailer-pulling activity takes various agricultural education activities to students throughout the region. Husker Harvest Days is an anchor for the year, as are various other fairs, but the real meat and potatoes for the trailer are the many high school programs throughout the state. The lead trainer in my project travels many times a month to teach curriculum rooted in this project’s NSF (National Science Foundation) funding. She acquired her CDL for this project, and so should we ever move up to a full-blown 18-wheeler for this or a future project, she’s all set. I am always glad when she offers to drive wherever we need to go, leaving me to ride shotgun and make inane comments/ask questions about the various things we pass on our way to one destination or another.

This time, the trailer brought the project’s sprayer simulator to the high school in Oakland, Nebraska.

Here I will note that I in fact spent most of my time in Nebraska interacting with many wonderful, motivated and engaged students. So as to preserve their privacy I’m only showing photos of the backs of their heads or otherwise unidentifiable images. So it goes. You should have been there though to see these kids’ faces.

Even in a very rural town, where there are only 180 students in the regional high school (and 11 teachers), at least half of these students have no actual farm experience. On the other hand, half do. So you wind up with this fascinating mix where there are (what you might assume to be) generations-deep farm boys who actually have no farm experience mixing it up with girls who can drive tractor circles around their male classmates because these girls have been helping out on the farm since they could walk. And every combination thereof. It’s not that I don’t regularly see gender stereotypes shattered in all of my work with students wherever they are, but it’s a particular lot of fun in these agricultural education classes.

Anyhow, these kids in Oakland were applicator-sprayer stars and clearly loved the opportunity to either show off their skills or explore new ones. One of the underlying pitches here was to inform these kids that the college that sponsors this activity has a variety of programs – including paid internship opportunities with their local co-ops – that in a few years these kids might be interested in.

I expect that quite a few might bite.

Let’s take a brief break in the narrative to relate a story about why this confirmed, yet jaded, northeastern guy is fascinated by someplace like rural Nebraska. To properly set this up, there are two things to note in the picture above…one is the awning on the trailer that in the photo is rolled up and stowed (on the left) and the other is the fellow in the plaid shirt walking in front of the harvester/combine.

At the end of the day in Oakland, I hit the road in the Gracale while my project folks headed out in the Silverado/trailer.  I stopped for gas as well as multiple Oakland photo opportunities, and so the Silverado folks got out of town ahead of me, headed back to campus in Norfolk (rougly an hour away).

A dozen miles or so outside of town, I come upon the Silverado and trailer pulled over on the side of the road. Naturally, I hop out asking what’s wrong. I’m told that the trailer’s awning somehow came loose and broke off over the course of a few miles. I notice another motorist (Green Honda CRV) also pulled off and soon discover that this is the guy whose field we were now parked alongside of.  He’s headed back to his place to get tools to help remove the remnants of the awning.

We have all manner of STEM supplies in the Precision Agriculture Simulator trailer, but sadly not a regular toolbox. This will soon be remedied, I’m told.

I go back to find and retrieve the bulk of the awning from a mile behind on the highway…but the Maserati is no match for carrying what turns out to be about 15 feet of rolled awning. So I head back up the road to the Silverado/trailer, where by now the tool-guy is back. While one of my colleagues attacks the awning remnants, I chat up the tool-guy. Because chatting people up is what I do. Whether or not I’m getting paid to do so.

Tool-guy turns out to be the farmer/owner of the fields we are next to. He relates his story of finding the awning pieces in the road – he pulled over and tossed them on the shoulder saying “I figure that someone would come back for those”, and then says how he came upon the pulled over Silverado and trailer. He indicates that of course no matter what he’d have stopped to help (that’s what he does…and anyway, these folks are on his property more or less), BUT he also stopped because he noticed the name of the organization on the trailer. And in fact (here’s the clincher), that’s HIS NEPHEW in the picture on the side of the trailer.

Yup. Nebraska is the kind of place where in 2024 you can still randomly run into people who are related to other people in what you might imagine (although you’d be wrong) are stock photos.

Tool-guy has some discussion with the project folks about the uncle and nephew and who’s up to what nowadays. But there’s not too much of this since there’s work to be done, and massive sections of debris to be retrieved.

The rest of the trip is not quite as rich with vehicular mayhem and local color, but is still immensely satisfying. The next two days on the road do not feature the sprayer simulator (and therefore we can leave the trailer back on campus), but instead are all about the project’s created curriculum for introducing drones as an example of precision agriculture.

Kids love drones.

These drone lessons are a terrific combination of engaging material along with focused reflection on how technology is used in modern agriculture. The material involves some truly interdisciplinary activities that require students to call forth stuff from math class (e.g. the Pythagorean equation for finding the length of a hypotenuse of a right triangle) along with coding along with practical applications for all of this.

It’s a wonderful thing to see a student slowly realize that “kind of guessing” the square root of 7200 is not going to get his drone back from the Northeast corner to its starting point at the Southwest corner of his 60″ square “field”. Point is, details matter, and there’s nothing like hands-on work to embed the notion that very often the most satisfying kind of success is one which involves carefully using your brain and your hands to achieve a synergy that the use of just one of those things cannot possibly achieve.

Speaking of details, I suspect that they might also matter to those who are interested in spending roughly $70,000 on a Maserati Grecale. Although why you might purchase one when you could just rent one for a few days is entirely beyond my ability to comprehend.

Maybe purchasers just miss their woodblock playing days in elementary school. Yes, I was usually assigned the autoharp or recorder. But 50+ years later, I can’t afford a Grecale, and they can. Oh well, go figure.

All things considered, life’s been good to me so far.

Some of the Maserati’s details I found helpful.  There was something about the shape of the large side-view mirrors that was particularly pleasing.  The asymmetrical shape of the mirror glass seemed particularly well-suited to displaying a comfortable and proportioned rear view.

I don’t know how to better describe this, but it just worked in a very pleasurable and reassuring way.

Other details, such as the word “Maserati” embedded in the sidelight/headlight housing were cool although totally non-functional.

Perhaps owing to the fact that relatively few Americans even know what a Maserati is (unless they are Flintstones or Joe Walsh fans), the car is keen on displaying the legendary Maserati trident often. It’s featured four times on the exterior of the car, and at least as many times inside the car.

I’ve already mentioned the very cool led-made-to-look-analog clock. When the car is off, that display simply turns into an image of the trident. It may well be the coolest detail on the Grecale.

Then there’s the Grecale’s most annoying “feature”…the giant key fobs. For some reason, Enterprise chose to give me both of the Grecale’s key fobs chained together. This meant that I was carrying close to a full pound of fobbage every time I left the vehicle. For comparison, each of these things was about 25% larger than a classic Zippo lighter (as I recall from the days when I used to carry a Zippo) and about three times as heavy. We’re talking about something that you could actually hurt a person with if you hurled it at their head and had good aim. As far as I could tell, these things did nothing more than hold four buttons (lock, unlock, open the hatch, and sound the panic alarm) and encase the chip necessary to start the car. As is the fashion nowadays, there was no facility for actually tethering the fob to the car. So, you just had to keep it in your pocket or let it slide around the slick, leathery (not “plush”) interior.

I’ve had flip phones that were slightly bigger than the Maserati remote. Of course, they didn’t have a cool trident emblazoned on their side.

Rather oddly, there was no trident on the rear of the Grecale.


The only other ergonomic complaint I had with the Grecale is that the central touch screen wasn’t very touchy. At least that was the case on the example that I had. The screen was a bit lacking in sensitivity and often required more than one jab at the screen to activate a function.  This was most apparent in trying to dismiss the mandatory “You shouldn’t be looking at this screen while driving, and if you do and something bad happens we at Maserati are not responsible. Caio!” warning that showed up each time the ignition was switched on. One is supposed to punch the “Accept” button on the screen, except in my case that only worked about half the time. I drove most of the way from Cedar Rapids (NE) to Kearney with that warning screen on the display because I couldn’t get it to dismiss.

Speaking of Kearney (pronounced “Carnie”, as in Circus folk, nomads you know; smell like cabbage…small hands), that’s where I wound up on my last night in Nebraska.

In keeping with nearly everything that happens to me on these trips to the heartland, I discovered Kearney is so much more than I would have imagined. Not only is it the site of the largest annual Sandhill Crane migration  (I missed this 2 month long event by about a week), but it’s also famous as one of the major way stations on the Oregon Trail.

Many readers of a certain age may recall stocking up on oxen and provisions at Fort Kearney while flogging their Apple II’s across the virtual country via the classic Oregon Trail educational game.

I didn’t see any oxen (in Kearney at least), but if I needed to resupply myself with Sheltie dogs I was in the right place at the right time. I ran into someone at the hotel who was on her way to the American Shetland Sheepdog National Specialty convention in St. Louis. At least that was her excuse for having by my count 10 of these guys wedged into her 20 year old Plymouth minivan.  I probably couldn’t have gotten half as many dogs into the Grecale.

I didn’t try to find out.

Kearney definitely seems like a place to return to for what would appear to be several days worth of attractions. I’m sure it’s rather hokey, but the “Archway Museum” – both a figurative commemoration of the Kearney’s role as an archway to the west, and as a literal archway over Interstate 80 – looks promising. It appears to feature quite a few manikins dressed in historical garb…always a bonus creepy museum attraction in my book.

I also have to go talk to whoever is in charge of this operation, which is apparently still a viable business with a bunch of great old neon.

I’d love to see it actual lit at night. Next time I suppose.

I’m sure they don’t want to sell any of these signs. I’m also sure they get asked about this several times a week.

I do hope to get back, and I know that I will. Although somehow the odds of my returning again in a Maserati seem rather slim.

No, next time I’m hoping that Rental Car Dude offers up a Porsche Macan. I might as well try the Grecale’s competition…if only for a few days.