The 2022 Maserati Levante Trofeo Is a Luxe Driver’s SUV Coasting on Pedigree

Years ago, a Maserati badge and a Ferrari engine may have been justification enough to drop big money on a car like this. These days, we’re not so sure.

byKevin Williams| PUBLISHED Aug 25, 2022 11:00 AM
The 2022 Maserati Levante Trofeo Is a Luxe Driver’s SUV Coasting on Pedigree
Kevin Williams
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Big, Ferrari-based V8. Svelte, distinctly Italian styling full of drama and machismo. An eye-wateringly high price tag with options that I can’t pronounce. It’s loud, it grabs attention, and in a lot of ways the 2022 Maserati Levante Trofeo is the perfect driving enthusiast’s SUV, despite it not being an all-that-new design. 

Yet, in the midst of probably one of the most volatile and ever-changing eras of the automobile—an era where hyper luxury and driving enthusiasm increasingly means techno-wizardry and electric propulsion—can the Maserati Levante Trofeo still hold its own? 

Over my not-quite-three-day loan from Maserati, I learned that the answer, unfortunately, is no.

Kevin Williams

2022 Maserati Levante Trofeo Review Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $155,200 ($173,550)
  • Powertrain:  3.8-liter, turbocharged V8 | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel-drive
  • Horsepower: 580 @ 6750 pm
  • Torque: 538 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
  • Curb weight: 5,070 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Cargo volume: 20.5 cubic feet (57.4 cubic feet with second-row folded)
  • EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city | 20 highway | 16 combined 
  • Quick take: Beautiful styling, amazing engine, and near-sublime driving dynamics can’t cover the sins of the rest of the vehicle, and aren’t worth the high price of entry. 
  • Score: 6.5/10

Originally introduced in 2016, the 2022 Maserati Levante is a mid-sized luxury SUV. Bigger than the new Grecale compact, it was also the brand’s first SUV. For the 2021 model year, Maserati gave it a mid-cycle refresh, giving it revised front and rear fascias, some driver-assistance tech, and an updated infotainment interface. Otherwise, the car isn’t that different from when it first debuted six years ago.

Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams

Underneath, it uses a variant of the same platform that underpins the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans. Powertrain options are very similar between all three cars, with the topmost Trofeo trim gaining a V8 that’s essentially a more pedestrian version of the same eight-cylinders found in Ferraris such as the F8 and SF90. The top trim Levante also adds cool junk like full-grain leather, carbon fiber interior trim, big 21-inch wheels, and red brake calipers. As a whole, the Trofeo is the sportiest trim, not unlike a crossover from Mercedes-AMG or BMW M

And, yeah, that engine really is the shit. It’s a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 580 horsepower that Maserati says has had a plethora of changes to make it more powerful, economical, and free-revving than its application in the Quattroporte GTS. For example, each of the twin-scroll turbochargers gets its own intercooler, and a redesigned cylinder head is said to improve responsiveness and fuel economy. Put the car in Corsa mode, and the exhaust roars from a pleasant but demure rumble to a full-bodied growl not found in any comparable SUV. It’s probably one of the best-sounding engines on the market.

 

Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams

Whatever Maserati did, it resulted in an engine that is near-immediate in its responsiveness. In Sport or Corsa mode, the Levante Trofeo urgently revs up to its 6,700 rpm redline, propelling its 5,000-pound self from zero to 60 mph somewhere in the mid-three-second mark. The powerband is flat, turbo-lag imperceptible. Sometimes when engines are this good, they can almost feel too perfect to the point of dullness, but the Levante avoids this. It likes to rev, and the motor feels free and easy in ways that make competitors with similar outputs feel lazy. As if the entire engine is trying to spin through plaster of Paris.

All 580 hp is sent to all four wheels through a ZF eight-speed torque converter automatic. In normal modes, the transmission is sometimes too hesitant to change gears, but in Sport or Corsa mode, it is stunning how it’s always in the right place at the right time. The car is flirty and it encourages you to drive it hard, even if you don’t really know how.

Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams

On the road, the Levante Trofeo’s flirtatious character continues. The steering ratio is quick, resulting in a razor-sharp feel that doesn’t lack in communication despite this being a 5,000-pound SUV. The Levante’s body motions are well-controlled—obviously, as the Trofeo trim is meant to be stiff—yet the ride over bumps isn’t overly harsh for the level of performance the vehicle promises. Grip levels are exceptional and it feels at home on nearly any curvy road. It really is a driver’s SUV. 

I tootled my chosen parents around the Detroit metro area in it, letting them soak in the aura of the Levante. Whilst driving to Buddy’s Pizza, I looked over at my dad—who was taking in the ambiance of the interior. The dash is coated in soft-touch leather with red stitching. The headliner and roof pillars are coated in Alcantara. All four seats are lined in high-quality natural leather that look and smell premium. “How much does this thing cost?” he asked while caressing the passenger door panel.

Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams

“$173,000-ish,” I said. He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, “Yeah, right.” I laughed, explaining that the car has a Ferrari-derived V8 and $17,000 worth of custom paint, but he was absolutely right. Compared to his roughly-$40,000 Lincoln Corsair Standard, the Maserati Levante Trofeo’s interior didn’t feel that much more special. Yes, the materials are a grade higher, but is the Levante Trofeo interior and engine enough reason to make the car as expensive as a starter home in any midsized midwestern city?

No. 

The Levante is littered with pre-Stellantis touchpoint relics. The door switches, engine start button, headlight toggles, and other bits and pieces are identical to any 2008-and-up Dodge Grand Caravan. The infotainment layout, although supposedly brand new for 2021, looks like a reskinned version of the Uconnect system you’d find in, say, a Jeep Renegade. The Renegade’s, er, Levante’s infotainment is snappy and easy to use, but decidedly basic compared to Merc’s MBUX, BMW’s iDrive, or the screen in a Tesla. The setup works, but where’s the verve? Where’s the fanfare? Where’s the uniqueness and drama? Manufacturers are constantly trying to outdo each other, with setups that have voice control, gesture control, beautiful animations, and graphic design that explores the limits of touchscreen technology. By contrast, the Levante’s interface—full of square buttons with no pizzazz—feels almost like Windows 98 in an iPhone world.

I should note that the Maserati Levante Trofeo is by no means a bad vehicle. But its pricing makes it wildly uncompetitive. At $80,000, I’d be willing to let old switchgear and parts-bin pieces slide. But at nearly $180,000 as-tested, I think it’s fair to expect something damn near bespoke.

By comparison, the Tesla Model X Plaid offers a new take on luxury that seems to resonate more with folks who have the cash to play in this space. A Model X Plaid is quicker and less expensive. True, it doesn’t have a Ferrari engine note, and maybe the interior isn’t as nice, but sales numbers increasingly show that those things don’t really matter as much to buyers as they used to. And if you’re bound and determined to buy a super Italian SUV, Alfa Romeo will happily sell you a Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It’s two cylinders down, smaller, and arguably from a less prestigious brand, but the Stelvio QV matches the Levante Trofeo’s performance in many metrics, all while being $60,000 cheaper.

Thinking about Maserati makes me wonder what exactly luxury is now. What constitutes as “luxurious” is an ever-changing idea that isn’t as immutable as one would think. For example, when I was a kid, Champion was relegated to cheap, sad clothing sold at discount retailers that were assured to get any late-'90s grade-schooler bullied at lunch for wearing. Now, it has transformed into a desirable streetwear brand and has collaborated with on-trend luxury fashion brands like Vetements, Rick Owens, and Off-White. 

By contrast, longstanding fashion brands have found themselves radically adapting, competing for new clientele in a market where they must adapt or die. Rich Gen Zers can be brutal, commonly taking old-luxury brands to task for being stodgy, low quality, and poor value, even amongst high price tags. 

In a huge way, Maserati’s in a similar predicament. Maserati is asking a lot of its buyers; it demands that prospective buyers pay the piper to the tune of at least $154,000 for a car that is kind of, well, mid. Are a loud engine and an admittedly stylish body worth the price of entry? Does Maserati’s heritage justify the high cost of entry?

I don’t think so. Modern luxury is different; a brand’s pedigree and image aren’t as relevant as they once were. Now more than ever, young folks are willing to take a chance on new brands, and names like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and yes, Maserati, aren't necessarily the automotive luxury tastemakers anymore. Now, these older marques have to compete against new-age startups like Lucid, Tesla, and Rivian. Like it or not, those electric upstarts are offering a new take on luxury, one focused on tech and environmental impact—even if both are just veneers, paying lip service to the concept that a hyper-fast, very expensive BEV can also harm the environment.

Cars like the Lucid Air, with its almost-Raymond Loewy style, and super-techno user interface, feel like a dark magic UFO on the road by comparison. Those brands have captured the hearts of new-money young folks in search of a new vehicular status symbol. People name-check Tesla in rap songs and pop music, and Rivian’s order list is miles long. How could a fundamentally-kind-of-old crossover hope to compete with cars that damn near do magic on the road?

This isn’t an argument for full Maserati electrification; au contraire, I think the 3.8-liter Ferrari-derived V8 and ZF eight-speed auto is one of the best powertrain combos on the market right now. But, take those things away from the Levante Trofeo, and you’ll realize that the rest of the car isn’t that great for the price. For some, that Ferrari V8 is worth the six-figure price of entry. But for others, I suspect it isn’t.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated that the Levante was originally introduced in 2014. It was, in fact, introduced in 2016.

Email the author at kevin.williams@thedrive.com