First Drive: 2021 Maserati Levante Trofeo Review
That the next few years represent a fin de siècle for the internal combustion engine is in little doubt. They will certainly carry on in some form; perhaps converted to run on green hydrogen or synthetic zero-carbon fuels but for day-to-day use, the electric era has undoubtedly begun. Not that this – considering the stratospheric power and torque outputs already being seen – is a bad thing. Certainly not a bad thing if we would like to all carry on existing in a non-Mad Max hellscape. However, while even the best ICEs are already down on performance they more than make up for it in terms of character and drama. And when it comes to those two aspects there is nothing to beat a Ferrari-derived twin-turbo V8 powering an in-your-face Maserati SUV. Meet the Levante Trofeo.
- Incredible engine with silly power
- Still looks fresh and sharp
- Beautifully finished interior
We don't like
- Chassis can feel overwhelmed at times
- Somewhat outdated tech
- Expensive compared to the opposition
Controversial as a Maserati SUV was when it was first announced, the Levante managed to win over many naysayers with its dramatic styling that did justice to the Trident’s historical styling tropes. It captures elements of the Gran Turismo and enlarging them for the higher riding, more practical Levante, including the toothsome grille and exaggerated haunches.
The Trofeo as range-topper adds various carbon-fibre addenda which are probably largely cosmetic on an SUV if we’re honest but they do serve to sharpen up the Levante’s looks still further, at least at the front end which also benefits from full-LED adaptive headlights. The Trofeo car is signified by red elements on the outside trim which were slightly lost against the glorious red of our test car. Well it is Italian.
Performance and Handling
I was entirely remiss in not lifting the bonnet of our test car. Well these days there is little point for all that is usually on display is a plastic cover designed to reduce noise and vibration. The Trofeo however does not hide its light under a bushel, lift the bonnet and there in its unadorned crackle red-finished glory is Ferrari’s 3.8-ltre twin-turbo V8 as seen in 488 and Roma. Outfitted with a crossplane crank to benefit torque at the (slight) expense of power it produces 580PS (426kW) and 730Nm (538lb ft) of torque. This officially makes it the most powerful production Maserati to date given that the MC12 was limited series only, capable of 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 187mph.
It does so quite hilariously as this is not your traditional large V8-powered off-road behemoth which relies on waves of torque but remains a supercar-style screamer with peak power not arriving until 6,250rpm. A wafty Range Rover this is not. Under normal circumstances 100 per cent of the power is delivered to the rear axle which also benefits from a mechanical limited slip differential. As grip starts to slip, up to half the torque can be transmitted to the front axle to even things up.
Public roads in the south east of England are not the place to test the limits of a lively leviathan but the Levante is impressive within the bounds of legality. Despite the 22-inch wheels the (somewhat creaky) air suspension copes with our parlously potholed roads well although the size of the rims plus run flat tyres does mean harder edges are transmitted through to the cabin. The new Corsa drive mode sharpens everything up to a degree that would be more suitable for the track were this not an SUV, although separate buttons to trigger the drivetrain and suspension’s readiness do mean that the driver isn’t constrained to an all-or-nothing approach. The gearbox seems to be intelligently on its game regardless of mode with quick shifts either in auto or manual modes and an almost telepathic readiness to change ratios.
The interior, with just the one, relatively compact touchscreen in the centre console comes almost as a refreshing change, a throwback to a more elegant era when dials were physical things and iPods had actual scroll wheels.
Speaking of which, the Trofeo’s cabin is a tactile delight with beautiful contrast-stitched leather throughout, actual carbon-fibre on the centre console and the second best pair of gearchange paddles (second only to the aluminium jobs in the Ghibli Hybrid) , also in carbon-fibre and very satisfying to use indeed. As with the Ghibli however there are the curiously offset pedals which cant my legs over to the right thanks to a bulbous transmission tunnel. That is the only cramped area of the car however with both back seat and boot offering plenty of space.
Technology and Features
The aforementioned 10-inch screen does benefit from the latest Maserati Intelligent Assistant software meaning it responds quickly to both screen presses and via the clever stacked dial rotary controller. As expected the car does come loaded with the latest driver assistance and safety features including the sophisticated Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which strings together a range of sensors to offer hands-on-the-wheel Level 2 autonomous driving.
For moments when the driver would like to be more involved the Levante also provides the smart Integrated Vehicle Control system which Maserati says anticipates rather than reacts to incipient loss of control. By monitoring steering angle, speed, throttle inputs and so on and using predictive algorithms to intelligently shuffle the power around Maserati claims the system is subtler than traditional ESP in a Minority Report-esque manner.
Although much derided, the Levante and others of its ilk are the last hurrah of the internal combustion engine. It doesn’t objectively make a lot of sense, it will definitely get you frowned upon but it really is a lot of fun. If your last chance to have fun and make noise is with a V8-engined SUV, why not make it a Maserati with a twin-turbo Ferrari V8?
|Engine||3.8-litre twin-turbo V8|
|Power||580PS (426kW) @ 6,250rpm|
|Torque||730Nm (538lb ft) @ 2,500rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive|
|Price||£124,900 (£149,610 as tested)|
Reviewed by Henry Biggs