Maserati’s fast SUV now becomes a genuine supercar hunter with the Levante Trofeo. But is it just a bit too much of everything?
These days, you can no longer judge a car by its shape and size. Not so long ago, SUVs were typically large, towering behemoths designed as rugged, multi-purpose vehicles that could go almost anywhere while carrying lots of gear and a full complement of five people.
Then the arms race began. BMW started building the X series, and Porsche made the radical move of releasing a fast, large and luxurious SUV in the form of the first-generation Cayenne. The luxury carmakers were blending sportscar performance with everything about urban SUVs that seemed to make them such blockbuster sellers for a new kind of urban SUV that was large, comfortable, and usually very fast.
SUV Standoff: The Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe is another monster-quick SUV with the same brief
Italian carmaker Maserati, best known for building classy and powerful GT cars, waded into the sporty and luxurious SUV fight with the Levante that went on sale in late 2017. The launch edition of the car was powered by a twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, but the Maserati engineers were already at work behind the scenes to see how much more power the platform could handle.
The Maserati Technical Department in Modena built a prototype with a V8 engine to test the furthest limits of the Levante, and the management were so blown away by the results that they okayed the idea to actually put it into series production.
Side note: A similar thing happened to the original Volkswagen Golf way back in the 1970s, and it’s only thanks to overenthusiastic car designers working on side projects that we got the original VW Golf GTI.
Anyway, the Maserati Levante Trofeo is a twin-turbo monster SUV with 580 horsepower and a 0 to 100km/h sprint time of just 3.9 seconds.
The car driven here is also unique in that it is one of the Trofeo Launch Edition limited series, of which only 100 were produced and only three have made their way into Singapore. If you’re interested, there’s one each in Giallo Modenese yellow (pictured), Blu Emozione Matte, and Rosso Magma red. They are mechanically identical to the regular, non-Launch Edition cars, but feature additional details like embroidered logos on the seats, a numbered plaque on the centre console and massive 22-inch wheels, the biggest ever fitted onto a series production Maserati to date.
The Levante Trofeo is packed with tech to manage the massive amount of power that it can put to the ground. There’s Maserati’s Q4 all-wheel drive system that sends all power to the rear wheels under normal cruising conditions, and shuffles drive to the front wheels under more dynamic driving conditions or when it detects slippage at the rear end.
Then there’s Maserati’s IVC, which is short for Integrated Vehicle Control, an integrated electronic brain that aims to keep the car going where you point it through an active balancing act between the suspension damping, driven wheel output, throttle control, and engine speed.
The pneumatic suspension system also allows the driver to toggle between six different ride heights via a rocker switch on the centre console. From the lowest to highest setting there is 75mm of difference, and despite the supercar beating ambitions of the car, it is quite capable of being driven on dirt trails and there’s a selectable off-road mode to suit too.
Still, the star of the show is the 3.8-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine, which is actually built by Ferrari. Power is transmitted through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and to get the fastest possible bang for your buck you do need to select the car’s ‘Corsa’ mode, though given the sheer amount of power on tap, the slightly milder ‘Sport’ mode is a much safer bet for us non-racing car drivers. Even in the standard ‘Drive’ mode, the Levante Trofeo is a pretty scary beast when you explore the further reaches of the accelerator pedal.
It’s also capable of being perfectly civil around town though, and at highway cruising speeds it’s as good as the best grand tourers out there. Interior space is as spacious as it is luxurious, and it’s a proper five-seat vehicle unlike some of the competition that put two individually shaped seats into the rear instead of a full width bench. A pair of USB charging ports accessible from the back seat will keep your passengers happy on long drives, which the Levante Trofeo is really excellent for.
There are some very un-Italian bits and pieces in the cabin that have been lifted straight from the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles parts bin though, and that brings the atmosphere in the car down a tiny notch. This parts-sharing business is down to the fact that Fiat Chrysler owns Maserati and the inclusion of some plain American-style components in a car of this calibre is still disappointing.
However, you could argue that these little bits matter little in the grand scheme of things, given the car’s dramatic look and feel.
It’s a real Jekyll and Hyde experience with this car, as once you start to drive it like a sports car, there’s a realisation that its limits are far above the skills of most driving enthusiasts, and even then it’s an exercise best done on closed racetracks.
The ride is cosseting enough that you and your passengers will hardly be aware of how fast the car is cruising on the expressway, but there’s no mistaking that massive surge of torque when you go in for a quick overtaking move. It’s essentially very steady at a constant speed, but reveals its supercar-esque prowess once you delve further into its dynamic ability.
It’s a car for driving and brand enthusiasts, because the base model Maserati Levante is just $380,800 without a Certificate of Entitlement. The Levante Trofeo costs $635,800 without a COE, putting it above the similarly sized, but slightly less powerful Porsche Cayenne Turbo, which retails for $607,188 without COE.
Yet the Maserati Levante Trofeo has all the bits that will appeal to a select group of petrolheads. Massive power, Ferrari-built engine, Italian styling, and a street presence like nothing else on the road. All that, and plenty of room for five adults and luggage. It’s practically a practical supercar.
Maserati Levante Trofeo Launch Edition
Engine 3,799cc, V8, twin-turbocharged
Power 580hp at 6750rpm
Torque 750Nm at 2500-5000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 3.9 seconds
Top Speed 299km/h
Fuel Efficiency 13.3L/100km
VES Band / CO2 C2/302g/km
Agent Tridente Automobili
Price S$635,800 without COE
Verdict Drives and feels like family-sized and family-friendly Italian supercar, but some cabin switches feel like they don’t belong in a car of this calibre