The Maserati Levante Trofeo is both a refined luxury touring supercar and an impressive off-roader.
To get to know a car well you should take it on an adventure. So we drove the Maserati Levante Trofeo up to visit the Great North Air Ambulance Service helicopter rescue for a two-day extravaganza of training, tactical emergency simulation and marauding terrorist attack.
The Levante Trofeo is the top of the range Maserati SUV with a Ferrari engine lifted from the Ferrari Portofino and Roma. A 3.8 litre Twin Turbo V8 with a stonking 580 BHP that does 0-62 mph in 4.1 secs and a top speed of 187 mph. This engine won the best engine of the year four years in a row and the best engine of the last two decades. So does the Maserati Levante Trofeo appropriately enshrine this magnificent mechanical heart?
The Maserati is a fabulous looking animalistic beast, particularly in the Rosso Magma, a sparkling red paint with an exceptional luminous gloss finish that truly stands out. Though it will set you back a whopping extra £15,895. The waist is fluted with high muscular wheel arches that complement the sinusoidal side window and the chunky rear. There are little side vents by the front wheel arches which serve to highlight the silver Trofeo badge, all capped off by the sliced V patterned 22-inch low profile rims. The carbon fibre sills are a nice touch too.
The car’s physical presence is exceptional, impressive yet not too showy, with a focused front end that tapers to an aggressive grille underpinned by a sharp carbon fibre splitter that brings to mind the Joker’s smiling grimace. The front lights resemble razor-sharp wide-bladed chef’s knives. In a world full of SUV’s of every shape and size this conveys a convincing sports persona. The beautifully balanced slope of the roof visually reduces the height, even though it towers over the ground with plentiful interior head height. You can raise the body by 3.5 cm for off-road capability but who would be crazy enough to take a Maserati with a Ferrari engine off-road?
Well, now that you mention it, you can’t visit highly trained paramedics who spend their lives leaping from helicopters to rescue people without going a little off-road. So we took it over fields and country roads with ruts and rocks scattered everywhere. To cut a long story short the Maserati behaves like a Formula One car jacked up for trouble. The 8-speed gearbox not only performs well on the road but is smooth and light with fine granular control off-road. No mean feat for a 3.8-litre twin-turbo engine. You can slip gently down into mud hollows and rise out triumphantly with deft poise and balance. It will easily leave a wheel hanging whilst the other three maintain complete stability.
I am aware that few will buyers this to take this “Maser” cross country but, in the spirit of James Bond, it’s nice to know that it not only can but will outrun anything chasing it in short order, beating almost anything else off-road. It is Maserati’s most powerful production car ever.
The interior is low key with carbon fibre touches everywhere. A soft explosion of charcoal leather cowhide with red contrast stitching. An understated interior with a gravitas that feels and smells luxurious. One tiny criticism, I’m not a fan of the gearstick, an easy push and pull, but I’d prefer something with greater physical feedback, that tells me I’ve changed from first to reverse with a clunk or click, not just a light flicking from D to R.
The clock and infotainment are pleasant on the eye and fit well in the dashboard. Overall the layout and design are excellent, well thought out, minimalist and solid. The control dial is simple and fast to use, without taking your eye off the road. Infinitely better than leaning over to mash the touchscreen. It also comes with all the latest tech, CarPlay, traffic sign recognition and lane warning.
The back seats are plush and comfortable and you feel special, vital in an Italian SUV, plus there is ample boot space (580 L) for the hunters, skiers, fishers and water-sports enthusiasts out there. The Sports 12-way seats are works of art. Furniture design that takes its cues from fine Italian haute couture and even handbag craftsmanship. Smooth outer flat sections cut into curves, interwoven with softer padded inner parallelograms to cushion your back. Supremely comfortable over long journeys and supportive if you push the speed in the corners.
On the road the Maserati is a joy, it handles that Ferrari V8 with extraordinary style. The software keeps you in rear-wheel drive under normal conditions and will spread the torque evenly across the front and rear when needed.
There is far less roll than you would expect and the predictive vehicle control enables you to speed in and out of corners with distinct non SUV capability. Drive this even a short while and you forget this is an SUV at all. It behaves more like a hot hatchback. Plus it never feels big on the outside, whilst spoiling you for interior space. The steering is pinpoint accurate and adapts to your speed, not mushy like most SUV’s.
There is a slight lag from the accelerator pedal, the engineers clearly placing refinement before brutality for the acceleration. A sensible choice as the car is magnificently powerful already. Stay in normal mode for luxury cruising and switch into Corsa (sport mode) when you want to hear that engine and benefit from all its lovely torque. The engine sound is superb and finely balanced, positively barking the moment the V8 snaps into life. Corsa mode bumps up the revs, stiffens the suspension, lowers the car 3.5 cm and ramps up the brakes.
Ping the carbon fibre paddles down a notch before slamming the accelerator down and you’ll find it leaps forward with surprising alacrity for a car that weighs in at just over two tonnes. The eight-speed ZF auto gearbox is a triumph delivering swift super smooth changes, though the automatic is so good that the temptation to paddle play is slightly removed.
The brakes are a little soft for my taste, but again that is probably a conscious decision for a smoother ride and they do perk up nicely in Corsa mode, but I would like them stiffened slightly more to balance all that power under the hood.
The ride is genuinely engaging, fun and way too powerful to test on public roads, particularly in Launch mode. Luckily we had the airfield at Great North Air Ambulance to test it out. Without restrictions the acceleration is thrilling, you get all that torque served up around 2300rpm onwards in Corsa mode, but so well contained by the body and suspension that you’re not thrown back into your seat. Maserati has conjured up two cars in one, a luxury SUV that is refined for long touring and a super-fast sports SUV that you can also take off-road.
The Maserati Levante is more passe-partout than a Bentayga, a pleasing combination of looks, performance and luxury but understated. A Grand Touring car par excellence with more than enough torque to fly up the Alps or the Pyrenees with ease and deliver a lot of driving thrills with tremendous cornering, enticing engine sound, lush comfort and an impressive powertrain. The Maserati Levante is the more considered choice over its German rivals for style, cool cachet and an inspiring passion-fuelled experience. Do the Paris Dakar in this in total comfort and be in with a chance of winning.
Maserati Levante Trofeo starts at £123,070.
Our model with extras: £149,610.