Maserati Levante Trofeo 2019 review
Most extreme Maserati SUV is as characterful as it gets thanks to a Ferrari-derived V8
In a nutshell this is the maddest, baddest and fastest Maserati SUV a (not inconsiderable) sum of money can buy. With the thirst for high-end, high performance off-roaders showing no signs of being slaked, it was only a matter of time before Maserati, already late to the SUV party, jumped on the bandwagon with a rival to the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo and Range Rover Sport SVR.So, what have we got? Well, in the very simplest of terms it’s the Modenese maker’s slightly underdone Levante with a Ferrari engine crammed under the bonnet. In fact, it’s something of a Fiat Group team effort, because the Prancing Horse’s V8 motor is mated to a version of Alfa Romeo’s Q4 four-wheel drive transmission. However, Maserati has made been able to put its own stamp on all these bits, creating what promises to be one of the quickest 4x4s by far.The engine is the same Maranello-built 3.8-litre V8 as used in the Levante GTS, and like that car it gets its own Maserati extras. That means new camshafts and valves, plus redesigned cylinder heads, pistons and con rods. Further changes include a tweaked engine management system and a pair of twin scroll turbochargers. The result is a healthy 574bhp at 6250rpm and 538lb ft of torque, all of it available between 2500rpm and 5000rpm. To cope with the extra power the chassis has been treated to some upgrades, including a new Aero 2 mode for the air suspension that lowers the ride height by 35mm. There’s also a new Corsa driving mode that stiffens the springs and dampers, as well as loosening the ESP’s grip a little, sharpening the throttle and putting the eight-speed automatic gearbox on high alert.As with the GTS, the Q4 four-wheel drive essentially runs in rear-wheel drive most of the time, only sending torque forward when it senses slip, something it can do in as little as 150 milliseconds. Maximum torque split front to rear is 50/50. Adding to the Trofeo’s credentials as a ‘proper driver’s car’ is the inclusion of a mechanical limited slip differential for the rear axle. To make the most of this, the Levante runs the latest generation of ESP with an enhanced algorithm that takes into account pitch, yaw, steering wheel angle, road speed, throttle and gear to enhance agility by priming the systems to ‘think’ ahead, rather than reacting once the car has started to slide.The final change to the chassis is the option (fitted to our test car) of vast 22-inch forged alloy wheels that are wrapped in specially developed Continental rubber, with a 265 section at the front and a steam roller 295 at the rear.Externally, the Trofeo is marked out by those huge wheels and some bonnet vents, plus a smattering of carbon fibre aerodynamic additions including the now de rigueur ‘F1-inspired’ rear diffuser and a pair of vanes for the front bumper that ‘create a sense of stability’. So not really that aerodynamic then. Oh, and the bonnet has a pair of small vents cut into it, which are a subtle but effective indication of the car’s potential. Yet despite the inclusion of all these lightweight extras the Trofeo still tips the scales at a creaking 2170kg.Climb aboard and you’ll discover a pair of high-backed sports seats with ‘Trofeo’ logos stitched into their headrests, plus yet more carbon fibre, this time finished in a tasteful naked weave. The soft leather used for the seats and dashboard is also first rate, so it’s a shame some of the plastics and switchgear (the cheap feeling, Mercedes knock-off single wiper and indicator stalk, for example) aren’t quite up to the £124,900 price tag.