Levante Trofeo tested: The Ferrari SUV that Maserati builds
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Johannesburg - What if you were given a budget of around R3.8 million to build your ultimate daily driver?
Would you take the engine and drivetrain from the new Porsche 911 Turbo S and stick in an Audi Avant? Or how about shoehorning the guts of a new Ford Ranger Raptor into a Suzuki Jimny? Sounds awesome, right?
And I’m not talking about hacking together this money-no-object dream vehicle in your garage at home, but rather picture it as a factory-built machine, meeting all the necessary safety and emissions control standards that it needs to adhere to in this modern age.
Well, this week we evaluated a vehicle that is (sort of) the product of picking and choosing gizzards and gizmos to ultimately build something extremely unique; the fire-breathing Maserati Levante Trofeo.
What is a Maserati Levante Trofeo?
The Trofeo stands at the very top of Maserati’s Levante sports utility line-up. There’s no oil-burner under the hood here and you don’t get a twin-turbo V6 in Trofeo spec.
What you get when you sign the offer to purchase on a Levante Trofeo is a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8, designed by Maserati and built by Ferrari. The engine even has those infamous “red heads” that you get on prancing horse cars. One look under the bonnet is all it takes for you to realise that this is not an ordinary Levante. It’s that engine, of course, that steals the show under the hood, but it’s also the beefier metals and the use of high-quality materials that hint at where your money is going.
Incidentally, the Trofeo’s engine makes 439kW of power and 730Nm of torque, putting it right up there with the BMW X5 M, Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 and Audi RS Q8. It will also punch with the Cayenne Turbo and have no problems keeping things like Stelvio QVs and X3M vehicles honest at the traffic lights for that odd “Grand Prix”.
Maserati claims 0-100km/h takes just 3.9 seconds with launch control active in Corsa (its sportiest) mode. On the road, it feels as fast as they claim, and compared to the Germans that it competes with, the drama happens more at the top of the engine’s rev range. Like a Maserati sports car then, it simply hooks up as you climb on the power and hold it there, sounding ever so sweet as you grab another gear around 6250rpm. There’s just this hint of added pop and crackle and over-run noise that makes it characterful and a joy to rev out too.
Ensuring your maximum driving enjoyment is a supreme all-wheel-drive Q4 system that sends most of the engine’s grunt to the rear wheels, and particularly so in the Corsa driving setting. It feels rear-biased and thanks to a quick steering rack you are able to turn in very sharply and precisely without upsetting the body or generating too much roll in the corner (thanks to airbag suspension).
Yes, it’s heavy and at the very limit it does push at the nose like most of these large performance SUVs do, but it’s a road car at the end of the day. And what an odd experience it is to be going with such pace in a utility-like driving position. It’s quite a captivating thing when you power out of a bend into the next gear, with all its noise and poise. It makes you feel like a driving god, even at lowish speeds, responding so quickly to the accelerator and brake pedal input. There’s really a sense a sports car-ness in this Trofeo that you don’t expect when you look at it parked in a showroom.
Beyond its drive
The Levante Trofeo is scintillating to drive and it makes all the right noises when you want to go quickly. It also attracts a lot of attention, if that’s something you’re looking for in a performance SUV, even though the Levante itself has been around for around four years already. Added to the fantastic engine, drivetrain and eight-speed gearbox combination, though, is a wonderful collection of luxury and safety features thanks to Maserati being a part of the FCA group.
In the cabin, you’ll spot familiar switches and buttons from other makes and models in the group, but it’s not done in a tacky way, with some sensibility to the layout of the driving controls and digitalised instrument cluster and infotainment system. The infotainment system is a familiar Uconnect system, meaning it will support your iPhone or Android phone for handsfree calling and media streaming. The vehicle also boasts a raft of safety systems fitted as standard, including active cruise control, and a blindspot detection system.
The Trofeo model also comes standard with Pieno Fiore leather, the company’s most exclusive material to create a wonderfully sumptuous cabin that is akin to a fancy Italian living room. Soft to the touch, comfortable seats and the use of soft-touch, high-quality materials throughout the cabin also makes it a really nice place to sit compared to some of its German competitors.
Unlike Maseratis from yesteryear, and even those from the 2000s that I’m most familiar with having lived with a 2004 Quattroporte, there’s this feeling of heightened build quality in the Trofeo that is on par with the best in the business. Pay attention to things like the panel gaps on the outside of the car, and the alignment of interior panels and rocker covers. They’re all fantastically aligned. In fact, even the creaks, rattles and moans that used to make me irate when driving a Maserati are gone and I do hope that this means the new MC20 sports car will be built to such high standards.
Before you buy one
Look, spec for spec, and as standard, the Levante Trofeo is a very difficult vehicle to trump. It’s available in limited numbers (only 10 are confirmed for South Africa for 2020) with prices starting at R3.8 million but it does come with a decent warranty and maintenance plan.
You won’t see them as often as you would see an X5 M or a Cayenne Turbo and if it’s going to be your third or fourth car, you might find that by keeping the mileage at a reasonable level, you won’t be in for a depreciation scare, as someone will want your car in future due to its rarity.
I like the Levante, and more so the Trofeo for its “Cayenne” Effect. You see, in the early 2000s, Porsche shocked us all when it officially announced that its all-new model for the 2002 model year would be a new all-wheel-drive sports utility vehicle. Surely there was no need for a sports car maker to start building SUVs, particularly large, ungainly ones for families and off-road exploration, I certainly thought.
But the Cayenne saved Porsche and so too has the Levante put Maserati back on the map as a genuine contender in the premium segment.
And yes, you could save a ton of cash and buy a much more powerful Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, or you could even buy an Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV on a smaller scale if you like your performance kicks in a small SUV package, but at the end of the day, that trident on the car has provenance and the Trofeo is, after all, the most powerful production car Maserati has ever made.
All Maserati Levante models come with a three-year/unlimited distance mechanical warranty and a five-year/100 000km maintenance plan. You can contact Maserati South Africa for a one-on-one demonstration of the Trofeo during the national lockdown.