Is the Maserati Levante Trofeo the ultimate performance SUV? We’ve driven one around the UAE to find out…
It is always exciting when you get a call with an Italian accent on the other end. Usually it means an exotic is part of the conversation somewhere down the line. It’s especially neat when that exotic is a Maserati, even if it is another SUV.
So what I ended up with this week is the new 2019 Maserati Levante Trofeo, which is the Italian company’s top of the line SUV. Its rivals include the new Jaguar F-Pace SVR, the new Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and several more Germans from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. You could also throw the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio in there, the one that set a lap record at the Nürburgring Nordschleife two years ago, except no one’s buying those.
When Alfa Romeo relaunched itself somewhat with the release of the rear-wheel drive Giulia saloon and the Stelvio SUV, the Italians were anticipating sales of up to half a million cars annually. That turned out to be wildly ambitious because last year they sold just over 120,000 cars.
Maserati, too, has been facing a challenge and posted a double-digit loss for 2018. The Italians will be hoping the Levante Trofeo stirs up a bit of a buzz. Levante loosely translates to the rising of the sun in the east, so let’s see if this SUV can help with a rise in sales for Maserati.
If you just spot the Trofeo passing by you will be hard pressed to tell the difference between a regular Levante and this flagship model. Carbon fibre bits for the side skirts and rear diffuser look premium enough, but the bonnet scoops are a telltale sign that this Levante packs a V8 engine. The headlamps are also new Matrix LED items and the exclusive 22-inch wheel design features trident spokes inspired by the brand logo. If you can make them out as the Trofeo passes you, there are special badges on the C-pillars too.
Viewed head on the Levante Trofeo stands out with a new grille, and as per the current trend, it’s a bigger grille. This of course was necessary to increase the cooling capacity required for the bigger new engine, a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 updated to develop 590 horsepower. This enables the Trofeo to reach 100km/h from rest in 3.9 seconds, which is quicker than Maserati’s own two-door GranTurismo sports car. The trick is in the all-wheel drive traction off the line, and 730Nm of torque.
This engine is both brilliant and capable, with plenty of power on tap under your right foot. The sound it makes is great for a turbocharged V8, and the eight-speed automatic transmission features ergonomically paddle shifters that are actually inviting to use. If you want to change manually, the carbon fibre paddles make the car come alive in your hands with a satisfying kick in your back added to the mix with every downshift.
In the mountains outside of the urban confines, for a two-tonne SUV the Levante Trofeo handles itself very well. Various drive modes are offered, however my favorite is Corsa, or simply ‘ Race’. When you activate Corsa, the suspension lowers itself, the gearbox becomes snappy and aggressive, and the electronic power steering weighs up nicely in your hands, although it doesn’t offer much in road feel from the low-profile 22s.
The Levante Trofeo is a dynamic and fast car. It hugs you, and you feel part of it and feel confident enough to drive it hard and fast. It shrinks around you, and that is a sign of a well-balanced vehicle. In regular comfort mode, the car is a proper grand tourer, comfortable and supple, perfect for long distance drives. It even has an off-road mode, but I wouldn’t dare damage the beautiful rims.
What’s telling about the Trofeo is that it’s the only Levante available with launch control, not to mention a top speed of 304km/h – so you know you’re dealing with a pretty focused super-SUV.
The interior of the Trofeo is also what the interior of the Levante should have been from the start. It’s full of gorgeous Italian leather with Trofeo stitching on the headrests, and generously applied carbon fibre throughout the cabin adds to the sporty feel. The new gear selector is nice to the touch, and the premium sound system lives up to the class standards. New safety features include adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist with forward collision warning as well as pedestrian recognition.
Priced at AED650,000 the Maserati Levante Trofeo is in amongst a tough crowd of rivals. It’s hard to see how this niche SUV could light up the sales chart for the Italians, but every bit helps and the halo effect just might work on standard Levantes down the line-up. Maserati needs all the help it can get at the moment.
2019 Maserati Levante Trofeo
3.8-litre twin turbocharged V8 | eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive | 580 horsepower at 6,250rpm and 730Nm of torque from 2,500rpm | zero to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 304km/h | AED650,000