Maserati, a classic Italian carmaker from Modena, has a long and illustrious history. Over a century in existence and it has always been at the forefront of racing and high performance luxury GT’s. But the fascination with SUVs has taken the world by storm these past 25 years. The oversized and sometimes (though not always) off-road capabilities of these automobiles has taken total control of retail sales.
By 2017, over 36% of the world’s automotive sales came from the SUV segment and in the US, by 2019, over 47% of the domestic market sales came from SUVs (compared to just 22% for sedans).
So, it would be inevitable that these two worlds would collide, eventually. But would these polar opposites, in the motoring world, be able to forge together and become something worthwhile and befitting the Trident that graces the front of the Maserati? The answer was yes.
Though the Maserati concept car for their SUV first appeared at the Frankfurt Auto Show as the Maserati Kubang, in 2011, it would not be until 2016 when the first finished models rolled out off the production lines, from their Mirafiori factory in Turin, and into dealerships around the world.
These first models were equipped with a 3.0 liter twin turbo V6 engine but, in 2018, they would expand the lineup by introducing two new models with a larger V8 Ferrari engine – the Maserati Levante GTS and the Trofeo.
Reviews for these new Maserati SUVs were effusive in their praise. They felt, with the ultra-high speed, performance and the sumptuous interior made these the Ferrari of SUVs. So, it was judged that the blend of Italian Cachet and utilitarian efficiency had reached a peak with these models.
But this was a highly competitive market which was dominated by the giants from Germany. These Teutonic autobahn machines were brutally efficient though indistinguishable from each other. They could offer better performance numbers and higher specs while at a comparative or lower price.
But, for those unique drivers, who yearned for something more than just the ordinary (in luxury SUVs), who wanted to feel passion and exhilaration behind the wheel, then they had to look to the Trident and invest in the Maserati Levante GTS.
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Levante GTS V8 Ferrari Engine
The 2020 Maserati Levante GTS is fitted with a 3.8 liter twin turbocharged Ferrari engine. The powertrain produces high output of 550 bhp at 6,250 rpm and 538 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. The acceleration and speed it generates is quite staggering. It can go from 0-60 mph in only 4.2 seconds and hit a top speed of 181 mph.
Not only do you get the power of the Ferrari but you also get the wonderful sonorous engine note of the V8. Even at low revs, when the gas pedal is applied, the crackle and roar of the eight-valve 3.8 liter engine quickly erupts from under the hood and out the back of the quad tailpipes. The noise of the engine comes through into the cabin and is sure to bring a smile to any driver’s face as they push their foot down.
But a large powerful engine, driving a car that weighs over 5,000 lbs, is not shy in visiting the gas pump. Unlike other competitors, the Levante fares poorly with fuel economy. City driving is gauged at 14 mpg while highways it only reaches 18 mpg.
Maserati would still go to one of their tried and trusted partners to install the gearbox. ZF, from Germany, installed an eight-speed automatic transmission that had several driving modes (Normal, Sport, Off-Road, Manual, ICE). Running in ‘Normal’, the Maserati Levante GTS is a quiet and subdued “mall-crawler” and handles the tasks admirably.
To amplify this style of driving, the transmission can be put into ICE (Increased Control & Efficiency) which curtails the power of the engine to enhance fuel economy.
But the Maserati Levante GTS was bought to be driven at high speed, so it is only when the gearbox is turned to ‘Sport’ mode that the Trident comes alive. When activated, the throttle is livened up while the shift changes become faster whilst pushing the rev count up higher nearer the redline. To bolster this sporty feel, the valves are bypassed in the exhaust to bring out the full mellifluous tone of the Ferrari V8 engine at lower revs.
Entering a second phase of the ‘Sport’ mode lowers and firms up the dampers in anticipation of the aggressive drive ahead. But, unless you are riding on smooth road surfaces, this is best avoided as the stiff setup is unforgiving on bumpy roads.
If this is not enough of a thrill ride already, then slide the gear stick across and enter into ‘Manual’ mode. Either by flipping the gear stick up or down or using the shift paddles, located on the steering column, the driver will now have full control over the gear changes. Considering this is automatic and without a clutch pedal, the upshifts and downshifts are executed quickly at high speeds.
To round off the SUV features, the transmission has an ‘Off-Road’ mode which has two raised suspension settings to give better access to rough terrain. At its highest, it has almost 10 inches in ground clearance.
Sports Car Qualities
Every reviewer was unanimous on their verdict of the Maserati Levante GTS driving experience – exceptional. They were enthralled with how the large and heavy SUV handled itself on the road. Either speeding along straightaways or tearing through corners, the 2020 Maserati Levante GTS drove like a car half its size.
Highly responsive steering was precise and immediate, with no hint of over or understeer. With the large 21 inch alloy wheels and staggered tires, as well as the perfect 50/50 weight distribution ratio, it felt like the Maserati was riding on rails.
Even for the more inexperienced driver, they could enjoy the thrill of the Levante as they attacked tight bends and could fly out of them with confidence. This would be helped by the amount of driver assisted systems that were installed, including: stability and traction control as well as anti-lock brakes.
Similar to other models, the Maserati Levante GTS was fitted with the adaptive ‘Skyhook’ suspension that had a total of five height settings. With a range of a couple of inches, the adaptive system had two heights above and below the “normal” setting.
For easier entry and exit as well as for loading items, the level lowered below the normal driving height. Once the ‘Sport’ driving mode had been engaged then this would set the suspension at its lowest level to improve the racing profile (as well as firming up the dampers). For off-road there were two different heights to allow for the rough ride.
But whether the SUV was cruising over bumpy roads, clambering over off-road terrain or attacking sharp turns, the adaptive suspension ensured a smooth ride and very little body roll
From the one of a kind body shape to the sumptuous and bespoke interior, the Maserati Levante GTS is a standout amongst the rest of the luxury SUV market.
The distinctive aggressive sweeping nose that blends into the large iconic front grille and the flared rear wheel arches, all signify an alluring Italian thoroughbred and a breed apart from the rest of the amorphous crowd.
The cabin seats five comfortably while the front seats and two main rear seats are well padded and comfortable. The interior is awash in exclusive pieno-fiore (open pore) leather from Poltrona Frau. While covering all the seats, it also encases the dash, central console, steering wheel and door panels. This is complemented by a multitude of different colored thread for the hand stitching and piping.
As an added touch, the seats and door panels can be given a silk cloth accent which have been designed by the Italian design house, Ermenegildo Zegna.
Hard surface finishes can be accented in choices of wood or titanium while the shift paddles come in carbon fiber and the floor pedals are made in drilled aluminum,
The exterior is just as bespoke with a full artist’s palette of colors to choose for the body paint. The alloy wheels come as 21 inch or upgraded to 22 inches, while the Brembo brake calipers are fashioned in red.
However, most of the switchgear would come from other FCA vehicles, most notably from the Grand Cherokee Jeep. For a luxury SUV, that costs a minimum of $121,000, this might be considered as somewhat disappointing.
Installed with the easy to use, Uconnect Infotainment system, the Maserati Levante GTS came standard with the 14 speaker setup from Harman Kardon (though $4,000 extra got you the 17 speaker surround system from Bowers & Wilkins). This is linked to the 8.4 inch touchscreen that accesses the satellite radio, sat nav, front dual climate control and connectivity via Apple Carplay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, MP3 player and several USB ports.
For those seeking something more than just the usual array of bland but efficient models in this segment, they should look no further than this Maserati – the Supreme Utility Vehicle.