RE: Maserati Levante Trofeo | Driven

RE: Maserati Levante Trofeo | Driven

Thursday 11th July

Maserati Levante Trofeo | Driven

580hp from a Ferrari-built V8 and a soundtrack to match - is this the Levante we've been waiting for?



It turns out that we weren't the only ones disappointed by the first Maserati Levante's use of a V6 diesel engine. The engineers behind the model had, we now know, already produced a skunkworks V8 petrol version, such was their enthusiasm for the introduction of a high-performance halo. Thanks to market trends though and pie charts and executives in board rooms, at the car's launch in 2016 we were presented with a Levante that used a characterless oil burner. It really hampered the SUV's ability to make an impression in the segment, and while the V6 petrol that followed drastically improved the situation, the Levante has never really stood out from the crowd. Now, three years into the Levante's life, Maserati's engineers have finally got their way; the brand is introducing two V8-powered Levantes to the market. There's the 530hp GTS and the skunkworks dream come true, the 580hp Trofeo.

Forget what you've learned about the Levante up till now because the introduction of this engine creates something substantially different from before. The Maranello-made 3.9-litre motor is based on the one that powers the Quattroporte GTS, but it's got two new twin-scroll turbochargers, new cylinder heads and a different camshaft, as well as different pistons and connecting rods, so power in the Trofeo peaks at 580hp at 6,250rpm, while torque rises to 538lb ft between 2,500-5,000rpm. Those are very good numbers for the segment, yet it's the engine's voice that most assertively establishes the V8 Levante as something separate from the rest of the range.

It really has to, because the design changes to reflect its newfound potency are deliberately discreet. Maserati still has to appeal to its mature customer base, so the fitment of 22-inch wheels - the largest yet fitter to a Maser - sportier bumpers and quad-exit exhausts are considered suggestive enough. Responsibility falls to the V8 to illustrate the pace, and it certainly sounds appropriately glorious from inside and out. The quad pipes project its muscular, foreboding growl at low revs that builds into a powerful orchestra of tones, backed by induction whooshes, gargles and sharp cracks on upshifts. It all sounds real and genuine too, with no artificial speaker trickery of fake pops and bangs. If there were an award for exhaust note alone, the Trofeo would take the win in the SUV class with honours.


It's so exciting to hear, in fact, that you might even be able to forgive the car for its sub-par interior. The seats are lovely and the cross-stitched leather is soft to touch, but the fit and finish of the trim is no match for the Porsche Cayenne, nor is the tech on offer, which looks six or seven years behind the Stuttgart alternative and has none of the theatre offered by the a Range Rover's plethora of digital screens. The Levante's dash, with its 8.4-inch touchscreen and narrow instrument cluster display, feels only a slight step up from that of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio QF, which is almost half the price of the £125k Trofeo. It's a shame the space you sit in feels so far behind its rivals, but as soon as you start that Italian motor up, your attention is completely diverted.

In the Trofeo's normal mode the bass of the V8 is permanently audible in the background, though not a significant feature. Until you spin the crank past 4,500rpm, that is, when presumably the exhaust automatically switches into its loudest mode. Avoid that, and the highly refined Trofeo takes the manner of something more relaxed, flaunting its impressively low road noise - despite the 295-width tyres beneath the rear arches - and ride quality that shames SUVs with much smaller wheels. So good is it over the cracked and often crumbling surfaces of our Modena hillside test route that we might even suggest the Trofeo - which, let's not forget, is by far the most sporting model of the Levante line-up - is actually the best riding car in the range. Combined with the effortless progress provided by the engine and the fluidity of the ZF eight-speed torque converter, it's actually rather lovely to cruise about in.


Click through to Corsa mode and the damping rates tighten a tad (you can switch them back to normal without affecting the powertrain setting if you want), although not so much as to make the ride harsh or uncomfortable. It's probably a 10 per cent change that is only really noticeable when you turn up the pace, in this case around the hairpins and successive bends of an Italian route that Ferrari routinely uses for testing. The 2,170kg Trofeo is properly fast, the swiftness of each gearshift made all the more noticeable in manual mode, when using the metal wheel-mounted paddles is a real joy. Corsa drastically reduces the stability control's interference, but even on a rainy Modena day there's ample traction and enough grip from the tyres to provide security and confidence. On-throttle oversteer can be encouraged with a flick of lock and heavy dose of power, should you want it; but the Levante's temporarily-driven front axle means slides are measured and limited to a few metres of travel. In a big SUV like this, that's no bad thing.

It also better suits the manner of the Trofeo, which, despite its motorsport-esque name, is more a jacked-up GT than sports car-aping SUV. The steering is too slow and lacking in feel to offer that (its hardware is shared with the Ghibli), while the Levante's two-tonne-plus mass means it can lift and duck over undulations at speed. The front end never feels unresponsive, nor does the body ever feel loose; but it's a fair step away from the rapid, hunkered down movements of a Cayenne Turbo. This is, we're told, a deliberate move in order to retain the Maserati characteristics of a comfortable, fast continent-crosser, rather than an Alfa Quadrifoglio-like raciness. In that regard, this Levante has the philosophy nailed, and most importantly, it does it while also being genuinely engaging and fun, largely thanks to the elasticity and exotic vocals of that powertrain. It is an SUV in which you might opt to take the long and winding road home, which is not something we'd have said about a Levante until now.

The lesser-powered GTS does, admittedly, offer about 90 per cent of the Trofeo's overall performance, for a £20k saving. And since we couldn't notice the 50hp deficit, and the ever-so-slightly softer Sport setting (there's no Corsa in the GTS) had a miniscule impact on lateral responsiveness, you might argue that opting for the Trofeo defies logic. But, let's be frank; a V8 Levante is unlikely to ever be the sensible decision. The better-finished, better-equipped and faster Cayenne Turbo would, relatively speaking, be a smarter candidate for that. No, we suspect a V8 Levante will be most interesting to those who want an additional car that's different, exciting and very Italian above all else. Those who could easily justify forking out the added premium for the top variant - a first year tax rate of over two grand should ensure that. In the case of that person, the Levante Trofeo ought to be a very desirable offering. One that we're very happy has finally joined the range.


SPECIFICATION - MASERATI LEVANTE TROFEO

Engine: 3,799cc, twin turbocharged V8
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 580@6,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 538@2,5000-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.1sec
Top speed: 186mph
Weight: 2,170kg
MPG: 21.4
CO2: 319
Price: £124,900

Inspired? Search for a Maserati Levante here





Author
Discussion

Robert-nszl1

Original Poster:

369 posts

31 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
As the owner of a Cayenne S this should have been an alternative when choosing, but it falls way short given the price. Maserati doesn't seem to be able to work out where it sits. It wants to be premium, with a more driver focused remit, but if you look at their product range it is either old, or seems to answer a question nobody has asked. I'm sure the engine is amazing, but their interiors let them down hugely, and in this type of vehicle you really do want all the toys. If you just want a performance SUV the Alfa ticks all the boxes for so much less money. And is it just me or has Maserati lost the ability to make decent looking cars? They have ruined the GranTurismo, the QP is nowhere near as good looking as the previous version, and this with its huge cheese grater mouth looks very awkward.... I think it will sell in tiny numbers

dxg

5,294 posts

203 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Looks like a cross between a US-market Toyota and Infiniti with hints of Honda...

Baldchap

1,185 posts

35 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Take a semi decent car, make it heavier and slower and worse in every way, charge more, they will come. confused

urquattroGus

1,050 posts

133 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
This engine in a facelifted Ghibli saloon please.

Or even more obviously in something that replaces the ageing Gran Turismo.

Still, I think this is the first car that maserati has produced in the last few years that has that "wow" factor; pleased it exists!

Paddy78

153 posts

89 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
I still don't think it's an attractive car, but this is more pleasing to the eye than some and it's got a Ferrari derived V8 which means it must sound wonderful. I can think of worse things to be in and I especially like that blue!


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soad

30,087 posts

119 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
No interior pics?! SUV, they all at it lately.

sealtt

2,403 posts

101 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Such a boring / generic looking car that it is hard to get excited about.

Fire99

9,602 posts

172 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
I'm not a big fan of these road-focussed SUVs (They seem to create a big problem with a huge off-road body and then spend a fortune trying to solve it and make it handle on the road... It's neither strawberries nor blackberries).

However, I quite like the look of this one and at least the V8 appears to have an air of credibility to it with a more organic soundtrack.

Craigybaby69

363 posts

74 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
That looks properly frugal

Jonny TVR

2,538 posts

224 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Robert-nszl1 said:
They have ruined the GranTurismo,
Its more or less the same as it ever was ..do you mean the new one due out next year, I think it looks fantastic. However one of the great things about the GT was its huge rear seats, does the new one have rear seats at all?

Edited by Jonny TVR on Thursday 11th July 11:00

Jonny TVR

2,538 posts

224 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
urquattroGus said:
This engine in a facelifted Ghibli saloon please.
agree

moldy

86 posts

48 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Jonny TVR said:
urquattroGus said:
This engine in a facelifted Ghibli saloon please.
agree
agree also

, i do like these however look much better in the flesh and quite classey, please, please, lets not start on onslaught of abuse from anti suv er"s

Robert-nszl1

Original Poster:

369 posts

31 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Jonny TVR said:
Robert-nszl1 said:
They have ruined the GranTurismo,
Its more or less the same as it ever was ..do you mean the new one due out next year, I think it looks fantastic. However one of the great things about the GT was its huge rear seats, does the new one have rear seats at all?

Edited by Jonny TVR on Thursday 11th July 11:00
I think they've rather spoiled the nose. Ruined is possibly a bit of an overstatement! I can't recollect if I've seen the new one.

I agree with the other posters that this engine should go in the ghibli. Always felt a bit under engined given the badge.

Helicopter123

5,929 posts

99 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Looks fantastic on paper so disappointing to hear that the interior is disappointing.

In a £125k SUV you need to get this right or else it just won't sell.

The engine looks a belter.

Motormatt

215 posts

161 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
At that price, I couldn't look past a Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo.

Whilst I'm sure the Maserati's engine will sound better, I expect the Porsche would be on another level entirely to drive, and its interior and tech at least looks like its fit for a £125k car.


knebworth01

59 posts

63 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
What crap. Who the hell is buying cars like this. Even the main photo is daft, like anyone who buys one of these things is going to be tearing about in the dirt like a WRC car!
Grrrr. Rant over

nickfrog

9,913 posts

160 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
sealtt said:
Such a boring / generic looking car that it is hard to get excited about.
I think you'll find Andy20vt will shortly get VERY excited about it. wink

Helicopter123

5,929 posts

99 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Motormatt said:
At that price, I couldn't look past a Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo.

Whilst I'm sure the Maserati's engine will sound better, I expect the Porsche would be on another level entirely to drive, and its interior and tech at least looks like its fit for a £125k car.
+1

The new Cayenne has the same interior if you really need an SUV.

Birky_41

2,747 posts

127 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Robert-nszl1 said:
As the owner of a Cayenne S this should have been an alternative when choosing, but it falls way short given the price. Maserati doesn't seem to be able to work out where it sits. It wants to be premium, with a more driver focused remit, but if you look at their product range it is either old, or seems to answer a question nobody has asked. I'm sure the engine is amazing, but their interiors let them down hugely, and in this type of vehicle you really do want all the toys. If you just want a performance SUV the Alfa ticks all the boxes for so much less money. And is it just me or has Maserati lost the ability to make decent looking cars? They have ruined the GranTurismo, the QP is nowhere near as good looking as the previous version, and this with its huge cheese grater mouth looks very awkward.... I think it will sell in tiny numbers
Agree with this. Alfa QV fair bit cheaper and faster

Gecko1978

2,430 posts

100 months

Thursday 11th July
quotequote all
Jeep GC track hawk faster cheaper crap interior still want