Maserati has its DNA seared in their racing car roots. This was why they came into existence and continued for over a century, to live for the passion of building and driving racing cars. The peak of Maserati’s racing heritage came in the 1950’s, when Juan Manuel Fangio drove for Maserati in F1. During the decade, he would win the World Championship five times and this was a record that held until the 1990’s when Michael Schumacher broke the record with Ferrari. In its history, Maserati have won a lot of trophies. In Italian, trophy is spelt Trofeo.
In 2018, Maserati would see the culmination of several years of work come to fruition. They wanted to create a top of the range edition for all of their current models that would celebrate their racing history. As well as producing a higher standard of excellence inside the cars, they wanted to build the most powerful engine yet for the Maserati lineup.
Both the Ghibli and Quattroporte models would be given the same treatment as the Maserati Levante Trofeo. All three would be the fastest production cars Maserati had ever developed. These would be sold only to their most discerning customers who had a deep appreciation of owning a vehicle that was as near to its racing roots as it could be. And one of them was a SUV!
In order to create an engine that was to be their most powerful, they took the existing 3.8 liter twin turbocharged V8 Ferrari engine from the Levante GTS and went back to the drawing board to reengineer it. They were able to squeeze a further 40 horses out of the eight valves and this would be installed into each model in turn.
This meant that the Maserati Levante Trofeo had the power of 590 bhp at 6,250 rpm and 538 lb-ft or torque at 2,500 rpm. This gave the SUV blistering acceleration and speed with 0-60 mph completed in only 3.9 seconds and making a top speed of 189 mph (304 kmh).
With great power comes great sound. The sensational sonorous engine note that erupts from under the hood and out of the quad tailpipes is a delight for any red-blooded driver. As soon as the engine is ignited, the crackle and pop of the V8 comes alive and pressing the gas pedal releases more of the growl of the Prancing Horse that rests beneath.
But this big and powerful Ferrari engine is a very thirsty animal. Its fuel economy is one of the lowest in its class with 14 mpg in city driving and 18 mpg on highway driving, giving it a combined score of 15.
The Maserati Levante Trofeo would come with the same transmission as the other SUVs. The German built, ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox that has several driving modes (Normal, Sport/Corsa, Manual, Off-Road, ICE).
This is an automobile that is meant to be driven to the extreme and this can only be achieved when engaging the ‘Sport’ mode. The effects are immediate; the throttle becomes more lively while the shift changes are completed far quicker. and at a higher rev count to enhance the experience, the valves in the exhaust are bypassed to allow more of the vibrant V8 roar to emerge.
Activating ‘Corsa’ sets the SUV up for a more racing profile as it lowers and firms up the suspension in readiness for the full-throttle driving to come. This mode should only be really used on closed circuits or smooth road surfaces as the ride can become quite punishing otherwise.
To complete the racing experience to the fullest, it is best to slide the gear stick over and enter into ‘Manual’ mode. By flipping the gear stick up and down or via the shift paddles, located on the steering column, the driver has full control of the shift changes and they are executed in a split second.
But, around town, this can behave quietly and compliantly as it cruises in ‘Normal’ mode, functioning as a regular SUV. This state can be augmented by activating the ICE (Increased Control & Efficiency) mode which subdues the engine and transmission for better fuel economy.
With the all-wheel drive installed, the transmission can be engaged to ‘Off-Road’. This has two height settings for the suspension depending on the terrain conditions while the AWD usually sends all the power to the rear axle. But when the system senses wheel spin it will instantly divert up to 50% of the torque to the front wheels.
Riding on Rails
The Maserati is ever mindful to their high standards of driving performance. The Maserati Levante Trofeo is no exception. Reviewers were astonished by the handling and precision driving of the large SUV. For a vehicle that is two and half tons in weight and over 16 feet long, this Maserati handles like a car half its size.
Whether speeding along straightaways or tearing through corners, the steering was instant and precise. With a perfect 50/50 weight distribution ratio, the Maserati SUV handled splendidly with no over or understeer. The wide and staggered width tires also ensured the Levante gripped the road at all times.
This was bolstered by a series of driver assist aids that were installed including: stability and traction control as well as anti-lock brakes. This prevented any of the “excitement” getting out of hand.
The Maserati Levante Trofeo would have the adaptive ‘Skyhook’ suspension system that set up the vehicle to five different heights (three inches between all). Apart from the “standard” setting that was used for most of the driving, the SUV could be lowered slightly to make it easier for entry and exit as well as loading into the car.
In ‘Corsa’ mode, the suspension would setup in its lowest height and become firmer, as it presented the driver with its lowest profile The ‘Off-Road’ raised the SUV to two different heights depending how rough the terrain was.
The ‘Skyhook’ always delivered a smooth ride for the occupants. Whether riding over bumpy roads or rough ground or attacking tight bends, the suspension ensured a smooth journey with minimal body roll.
To match its racing heart, the overriding theme of the Maserati Levante Trofeo was carbon fiber. This composite would accent a lot of the exterior fixtures while covering all the hard surfaces within the cabin. The front bumper has been redesigned to enhance the facia with deep wide apertures for greater air intake.
The curvaceous and flowing bodylines culminate in the swooping and aggressive front nose that finishes with the iconic concave grille. Squatting under the flared wheel arches are bespoke 21 inch alloy wheels which can be upgraded to 22 inches and accented with large red Brembo brake calipers.
Inside the cabin the four main seats are very well padded and comfortable while smothered in exclusive ‘pieno fiore’ (open pore) leather from Poltrona Frau. This durable but very supple hide is also present on the steering wheel, dash, central console and door panels.
Hand stitching and piping complement the fine leather and available in a multitude of different colors. This contrasts to the plethora of tones for the upholstery that are also bespoke to the model.
The 2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo Launch Edition would have a customized triple layer paintwork along with a whole palette of other body paints to choose. This model, as it says on the tin, has an extra function for high speed standstill starts. This explosive driving mode makes powerful drag racing very possible (though not on public roads, perhaps?).
The switchgear is not unique but borrowed from other FCA models (Jeep Grand Cherokee) which is disappointing for a luxury SUV retailing at US $150,000.
The Uconnect Infotainment system is very easy to use and the 2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo has upgraded the unit so it’s more responsive. This has access to most features, including: front dual climate control, sat nav, satellite radio and connectivity with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and MP3 players via USB ports.
The SUV comes standard with the 900 watt 14 speaker Harman Kardon audio system or it can be upgraded to the 1,280 watt 17 speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system.
This unique and highly expensive luxury SUV will not be to everyone’s tastes. The price range for the Maserati Levante Trofeo places it in illustrious company of the Lamborghini and the Bentley, though both of these are probably better suited for performance and luxury respectively. But the allure of the Italian Maserati Trident is quite special as it blends both aspects to make a thrilling and enjoyable drive.
While the Germanic autobahn rockets (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Porsche) are ruthlessly efficient they are somewhat amorphous and soulless inside. The Italians know how to bring panache to their automobiles and put heart and soul behind the wheel and under the hood. Whichever way you look at it, the Maserati Levante Trofeo is the perfect combination of luxury and power.