For most folks, the name Maserati likely brings to mind images of racy, low-slung performance coupes like the GranTurismo. But in 2020, it’s an iteration of the brand’s high-riding, mid-sized SUV which serves as the automaker’s halo car. Call it a sign of the times. Fortunately, the Levante Trofeo is more than just a mundane people mover with a trident affixed to the grille.
Like the Levante GTS before it, the Trofeo is motivated by a Ferrari-derived 3.8-liter V8 that’s built in Maranello alongside the mills that power sports cars like the F8 Tributo and 812 Superfast. Bestowed with new parallel twin-scroll turbochargers, redesigned cylinder heads with unique camshafts and valves, an updated rotating assembly and revised engine mapping, the Trofeo gains 40 horsepower over the already-potent GTS for a neck-snapping total of 590 ponies, while torque figures remain unchanged at 538 pound-feet.
The Levante also gains a Corsa driving mode in Trofeo guise. Once in Sport mode, a second button press conjures up the sport-utility’s raciest settings, which lowers the air suspension by 1.4 inches and stiffens the dampers, sharpens throttle response, uncorks the active exhaust, and eases up the traction and stability control systems. Boasting a near-perfect 50/50 weight balance and outfitted with Continental summer tires measuring 265/35R22 up front and 295/30R22 in the rear, this is an SUV that feels (and sounds) legitimately at home on a winding mountain road. While the GTS isn’t exactly a slouch when it comes to performance, the Trofeo feels like an order of magnitude more potent.
It’s not all fire and fury, though. Leave the drive mode in its most relaxed setting, open the panoramic sunroof, and crank up the 1280-watt, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system—all of which are standard here (along with LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera, among other things)—and the Levante Trofeo proves it’s more than just a one-trick pony.
But a lingering question remains. At 150 grand, is that really enough?
2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo, By The Numbers:
- Base Price (as Tested): $149,990 ($151,190)
- Powertrain: 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 | 8-speed automatic transmission | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 590 hp @ 6,250 rpm
- Torque: 538 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
- 0-60 MPH: 3.6 seconds
- Top Speed: 189 mph
- Cargo Capacity: 20.5 cubic feet | 57.4 cubic feet with rear seats folded
- EPA Fuel Economy: 14 mpg city | 18 mpg highway | 15 mpg combined
- Quick Take: The style and performance live up to the Maserati name, but interior components plucked from the FCA parts bin look out of place in a $150K SUV.
Item: The Trofeo’s look is bold enough to attract a significant amount of attention, even amongst the jaded citizenship of Los Angeles. But the important part is that it does so for the right reasons; the exterior design isn’t fussy or overly adorned with scoops, vents, and superfluous embellishments. While the intentions are made clear, particularly in hunkered-down Corsa mode, the Levante Trofeo doesn’t need to shout its abilities from the hilltops. There’s a sense of class here.
Item: The Ferrari-derived V8 engine is one of Maserati’s favorite talking points, and for good reason: It’s an absolute gem, and a lot of the Trofeo’s personality is tied to it. There’s virtually no turbo lag, it revs to seven grand, and it never seems to run out of breath.
However, if anyone tells you it sounds like a Ferrari, please note that they’re full of shit. As with the Levante GTS, the Trofeo V8 uses a cross-plane crankshaft rather than the more exotic flat-plane crank found in Ferrari’s iterations of the F154 engine. With that change comes a more conventional V8 firing order, and in turn a more traditional muscle car growl that’s more baseball and apple pie than weekend in Tuscany. I'm not complaining, though.
Item: The air suspension goes a long way toward selling this SUV as more than just a straight-line performer. In Corsa mode, the Levante Trofeo handles more like a tall car than a slammed SUV, and a low center of gravity helps reduce the jack-in-the-box effect that plagues most sport-utilities when you start tossing them into corners. Yet the Trofeo also never feels objectionably harsh, even on less-than-perfect tarmac, and it’s downright civil in Normal mode. Although this is the most aggressive version of the Levante, ultimately it’s still tuned for rapid grand touring rather than hot laps, and that suits its character perfectly.
Item: Little touches exist to remind you that you're driving something special, like big, column-mounted aluminum shift paddles that feel expensive to the touch. Sure, there’s Maserati badging everywhere you look, along with carbon fiber accents and full-grain “Pieno Fiore” leather, but that stuff is obligatory at this price point. Heat extractors that you can gaze into from the driver’s seat do a lot more for the exotic performance vibe than contrast stitching does.
Item: The well-appointed interior lacks any sort of genuine “wow” factor. While the 12-way adjustable sport seats are comfortable and everything before you is logically laid out, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’ve seen all this before. That’s due in large part to the fact that so much is borrowed from other FCA brands—all of which sit lower on the luxury totem pole than Maserati. That’s a tough pill to swallow at $150,000 when the gauge cluster and much of the switchgear are reworked versions of the stuff you’d find in a Dodge Charger at the Avis parking lot.
Item: Moreover, the FCA-sourced infotainment system is noticeably dated when compared to rivals like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, BMW X5 M and Mercedes-AMG GLE 63. The 8.4-inch touchscreen equipped here is responsive and intuitive to use, but it’s really just a re-skinned version of the Uconnect system currently found in everything from the Jeep Wrangler to the Chrysler Pacifica. That screen resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio might be acceptable for a minivan. Not in this realm, where designed-for-luxury systems like Mercedes' MBUX continue to set new benchmarks in features, usability, and customization every year.
Item: Speaking of customization, there's no way to create a custom “pre-set” of your preferred vehicle characteristics, unlike practically every other sport-utility at this price point. You’re out of luck if you, for instance, want to combine the exhaust sound from Corsa mode, the transmission behavior of Sport mode, and the ride quality of Normal mode. Dialing in a similar setting manually is a frustrating exercise in mental gymnastics; the exhaust setting is intrinsically tied to the drive mode, so you’d have to start by switching to Corsa, then press the damper button to get those back to Sport mode, then bring the ride height back to normal via a toggle switch on the center console. And after all that, the transmission is still going to behave like you’re waiting for the green flag to drop at Daytona unless you upshift it manually.
Item: Nobody buys a Maserati SUV for its efficiency, but it must be said: The Levante Trofeo’s fuel economy is pretty abysmal. We’re talking single digits if you’re driving it enthusiastically. And like, why wouldn’t you be driving it enthusiastically?
The Bottom Line
At $150 large, it’s tough to see this as a more logical choice than the aforementioned German options unless you absolutely have to have a Maserati. And at nearly half the price, a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk would likely take it in a drag race, too, though the Trofeo is undoubtedly more sure-footed in the corners and a more refined all-rounder.
Maybe you just really want that Ferrari-derived V8 and the sharp Italian sheet metal. At the end of the day, the mission of an SUV like Levante Trofeo is to strike a balance between emotion and pragmatism, and in that regard, there’s certainly a lot to like here. But it’s also clear that in a segment with no shortage of worthy alternatives, Maserati is still betting that lust will triumph over logic. It worked in the past, when the object was a combustible exotic. The super SUV game has different rules today.
Got a tip? Send us a note: email@example.com