That’s OK, the Point Is to Entertain You
Since when have comfort and utility been reasons to buy a luxury anything? It’s always better to look good than to feel good, right? Well, you will indeed look good in a Maserati Levante Trofeo, and as long as you’re in the driver’s seat, you’re going to feel pretty good, too. At the very least, you’re going to find yourself massively entertained because this SUV is made to move.
It starts with the same Ferrari-built twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-8 engine that’s under the hood of other Trofeo-trim Maseratis, including the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans. In the Levante Trofeo, it makes 580 horsepower and 538 pounds-feet of torque, with power sent to all four wheels through standard full-time all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. It makes the kinds of noise you’d imagine a compact, high-strung Italian V-8 would make — and it makes even more of it when you adjust the drive mode from Strada (Street) to Corsa (Race). Acceleration is fierce, but the suspension is soft enough to allow the rear to squat some when you punch it, making it feel even quicker than Maserati advertises (0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds, it says). The transmission is beautifully matched to the V-8, never second-guessing or finding itself in the wrong gear. You can shift it yourself with Maserati’s huge fixed-position flappy-paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, but I felt no need to do so.
I’ve never been a big fan of the idea of a high-performance SUV; I’ve thought of them as overpowered, oddly tuned status symbols meant to part rich folks from their money and unlikely to see a racetrack or even be driven athletically. The Levante Trofeo falls into this category (having a “race” mode on any five-seat family SUV is pretty ridiculous regardless of powertrain), but of all the examples I’ve driven, the Levante is one of the more entertaining — likely because it doesn’t feel as tall as many other SUVs. A lower center of gravity and seating position help it feel more like a Quattroporte wagon than a tall-riding SUV, and that comes through in its demeanor. The Levante turns with the same skillfulness as it goes straight, with flat, beautifully controlled body motions augmented by the excellent feel and feedback you get through the steering wheel. It feels athletic, urging you to take corners faster and get on the gas more forcefully — to actually enjoy your commute or carpool duties. The suspension is tuned quite well, too, with a “Skyhook” air suspension that’s adjustable for firmness depending on drive mode. It soaks up bumps nicely, never really upsetting the cabin even on rough pavement.
The only area not quite up to snuff athletically are the brakes, which are a bit soft and mushy, making for stops that can be jerky and less smooth than one would like. And why on Earth is there an off-road mode? Between the Levante’s lack of underbody protection, its sticky high-performance all-season tires on big wheels and an utter lack of all-terrain pretense, I doubt any Levante will be challenged by anything more than a gravel path to an equestrian center.
A Quirky Alternative to the Mainstream
What we’re left with in the Levante is a stylish, genuinely athletic and fun-to-drive Italian-fashioned SUV that needs an interior upgrade to truly match its asking price. Like most of its competitors, the Levante has a massive price spread: In the U.S., a base 2023 GT trim level with a 345-hp V-6 starts around $92,000 (all prices include destination). The slightly nicer Modena model comes in about $10,000 more, the V-8-powered Modena S rings in around $129,000, and the top Trofeo model starts at nearly $169,000. The 2022 Trofeo I tested started lower, but with every option available it rang in at $173,550 — considerably more than you’d pay for competing vehicles with more customization and technology options.
You have to really put some stock in the Maserati name to pay that kind of money for a Levante, and I’m not sure the brand has that level of cachet these days. The addition of new models like the MC20 and MC20 Cielo sports cars, plus the upcoming GranTurismo Folgore all-electric coupe, should go a long way toward reenergizing the Maserati brand, as may its vehicle customization program. Until then, the Levante Trofeo remains a flawed, fun, expensive luxury SUV that brings a little Italian style into an otherwise heavily German segment.
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