- As beautiful as an SUV can get
- A Ferrari-developed heart
- Excellent driving dynamics
- Very, very expensive
- A Maserati SUV still feels a bit wrong
- SUVs don’t need to be this sporty
It only seems five minutes ago that we were having heated discussions over Maserati’s ambitions to build its first SUV. For many people, the decision to put the famous Trident upon an SUV was borderline sacrilegious. Maserati, a sports and luxury car builder with a history and pedigree as prestigious as anybody else’s in motoring history, was jumping on the bandwagon.
Skipping a chapter or two, and here we are in the last months of 2019, putting to test the fastest and most expensive version of the Levante – the new Trofeo. Is there any need for a 580PS SUV? Absolutely not, but it’s here - and we’re going to try our best to get our heads inside the minds of those who want one. And maybe, just maybe the Levante Trofeo will be quite good.
On The Road
As you can probably guess, this is the headline-grabbing part of this car. There is a mouth-watering engine under the bonnet, a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 developed in partnership with Ferrari that pumps out a whopping 580PS. Maserati has tweaked it and trained it to be one of the most potent engines the firm has ever produced. Zero to 62mph is done and dusted in 4.1-seconds, and if you've got a stretch of tarmac long enough, you can keep your foot planted all the way to the top speed, which is listed at 186mph.
Together, these figures put the Levante Trofeo near the top of the league table for the fastest SUVs ever made, and that's probably why you're going to want one. Acceleration is aided by Maserati's Q4 all-wheel-drive system. And the cog-swapping duties are taken care of by an automatic gearbox with some F1-style flappy paddles to override it with. Obviously, you’ll have some concerns about stopping something this fast, so Maserati has upgraded the braking systems and has tuned the ABS to cope with the demands that this beastly V8 puts upon them. Make no mistake about it; this is a serious car with serious performance that will command your attention; it just also happens to be an SUV.
There is just no way that an SUV will ever drive as well as a sports car - so whether a super-SUV like this is even relevant is up for debate. In many ways, this is a ridiculous proposition, but you need to take your hat off to Maserati’s engineers. Because, despite the intervention and meddling of that little thing called physics, they’ve managed to make the Levante Trofeo behave very well. A big part of this is down to sophisticated software that looks at what’s going on and decides what it can do to help you stay on the tarmac. It’s a necessary and vital system in such a vehicle.
Recalibrated air suspension and damping take care of most of the issues that the extra power and weight provided by an engine this big can cause. It gets into and around corners with enthusiasm, and it’s difficult to make the Trofeo feel flustered. This is precisely what you want from a car like this. Let's not forget that SUVs are still family cars. Even if some parents are cool enough to opt for this thundering V8 version of one – it's still got to be safe, and it's still got to be tame.
Furthermore, the Trofeo gets a special driving mode no other Levante gets – 'Corsa'. It drops the car by around 35mm and stiffens everything up. So, it’s not the mode you’re going to want it in when you’re popping to the shop. But on a quiet road at the right time, you're going to pop it into 'Corsa' and gurn all the way to your destination or a speeding ticket.
Okay, so this is a bit of a tricky one. All SUVs need to be quiet, composed and calming at times. On the other hand, there's an absolute gem of a Ferrari-developed V8 engine under the bonnet, and obviously, we want to hear it sing to us. Maserati has a pretty good balance in this package, with the V8 remaining subdued until it's told to push on. In many ways, this makes the car feel quite organic, despite all the fancy computing going on under the surface. If you poke a Tiger softly, it might grumble a bit, but give it a kick up the backside, and it's bound to roar at you, and that's how the noise levels work here in the Trofeo.
This is a Maserati, so overall refinement is excellent, and the quality is there. But it’s not going to blow your mind, and at this price point, it really ought to. Is it too much to ask for a Maserati to feel more special than a BMW X5? We don't think so, and we'd be lying if we told you it was.
In The Car
Purchasing a car with the Trident on is going to cost you considerably more money than rivals. The interior and infotainment system feels a bit outdated, which is a bit unusual so close to the 2020s. It isn’t just the infotainment that feels passé, the interior design may date too, which buyers may question.
This is probably the biggest reason to buy this over a proper sports car, although we can’t quite understand it. It’s a 2.1-tonne SUV, so of course, there's going to be room in the back for a couple of extra occupants. And there’s plenty of boot space for a large shop or a collection of golf clubs. There’s no need to worry about practicality here. But if you are worried about this over some other attributes, we suggest you look at one of the less expensive Levantes, with a tidy petrol V6. They have the same space and boot, so you can stack all the many thousands of pounds you’ve saved into it.
Let's be honest; if you're buying a V8-powered luxury SUV, you're not going to care about running costs, as you can afford it no matter what. There’s no efficiency whatsoever when it comes to the Levante Trofeo. The official mpg figures are at around 13. That’s right, thirteen miles per gallon – and that’s if you’re behaving yourself. It’ll be single figures if you’re driving this car with the passion it deserves. And you'll probably be eligible for a gold membership at whatever your fuel station of choice is. Servicing and insurance won't be cheap either, and tyres and brake pads will be needed regularly. There's just no way to dress this up; this is an expensive car to run. So, if you're worried about that or your impact on the environment, this isn't the machine for you.
The modern generation of Italian cars are getting good feedback. For example, Alfa Romeo is now getting headlines for being among the better new vehicles that you can buy for reliability. Servicing this Levante Trofeo is going to be very pricey, and you better keep it up, because if something goes wrong, itwon't be cheap to fix.
Are there any real concerns about the quality of a Levante? Not really, no. This is a very well-made luxury product with a reputation to uphold.
A key aspect to any car like this is the security and safety. High-performance cars are some of the safest motors on the road. This is thanks to their upgraded braking systems and state-of-the-art software that helps to recognise and correct factors like under and oversteer. The thing is, these cars are also driven in a far more aggressive way than many, but as this is an SUV, we think it’s unlikely to be thrown around like a Lotus. All the computing and upgraded components add up to a safe car, as anyone buying a modern machine should expect. No concerns here at all.