According to MIT, the sun is constantly hitting us with 173,000 terawatts (trillions of watts) of energy. That’s one big, yellow, hot thing. But it’s not alone. Another glowing yellow object producing humongous amounts of power has been lighting up the CarsGuide garage.
The Maserati Levante Trofeo is a properly pumped up, high-performance version of the Italian maker’s full-size, five-seat SUV. More supercar than family car, our luminous ‘Giallo Modenese’ test example is one of a hundred Launch Edition models.
So what’s it like living with a head-turning, exocet missile on wheels, capable of doing everything a normal SUV can do, just a whole lot faster?
The answer is another high-horsepower Italian in the shape of the wild Lamborghini Urus, priced at $402,750 for the five-seat version, and on paper it looks to more than measure up.
The 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 Lambo outpoints the Maserati for power (+38kW) and torque (+120Nm), not to mention acceleration, running 0-100km/h in just 3.6sec (-0.3sec).
You'll get a panoramic glass sunroof.
But, aside from splitting hairs on the engine dyno and stopwatch, anyone cross-shopping this pair will rightly expect their fair share of standard features. And on top of the safety and performance tech (detailed in the Safety and Driving sections below) the flagship Levante comes to the party with plenty on offer.
The Launch Edition specifically brings 22-inch forged alloy rims with gloss black finish, painted brake calipers, the ‘Nerissiomo’ package (shadow chrome elements around the exterior, including the grille, window surrounds and exhaust tips), rear privacy glass, four-zone climate control (up from dual-zone), 1280-watt, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio with digital radio (up from a 14-speaker system), ‘Easy Entry’ (one touch, keyless entry on front and rear doors), and a personalised badge (yes, with your name on it) on the centre console.
You’ll also have the choice of three multi-process paint finishes - ‘Blu Emozione Matte’, ‘Rosso Magma’, or our car’s ‘Giallo Modenese.’
Standard Trofeo trim is extended 'Pieno Fiore' leather, an ultra soft hide, which according to Maserati is, “processed to develop a uniquely personal character over time.” It looks and feels amazing (with yellow contrast stitching), wrapping around the seats, and extending to the dash and door panels. The sports steering wheel and gearshift are also leather.
There's an 8.4-inch media touchscreen (managing sat nav, media, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, vehicle settings, and more).
Other inclusions run to ‘3D Matte Carbon’ interior trim elements (console, dash, and doors), active cruise control, auto dimming exterior mirrors, auto LED headlights, LED DRLs, fog lights, indicators and tail-lights, a glove box cooler, illuminated door sill panels, power cargo door, 12-way electrically-adjustable and ventilated front seats, power-adjustable steering column, an 8.4-inch media touchscreen (managing sat nav, media, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, vehicle settings, and more), a 7.0-inch digital screen in the instrument cluster, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera (with surround camera function), alloy-covered pedals (and footrest), a soft door close feature, and a panoramic glass sunroof.
So, the cost-of-entry brings with it a suitably substantial basket of fruit, which stacks up well, even in this elevated part of the market.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
At a fraction over 5.0m long, close to 2.0m wide, and just under 1.7m high, the Levante qualifies as a full-size SUV, and the Maserati design team has managed to apply the sporting personality of its GranTurismo performance coupe cousin to this much taller canvas.
At a fraction over 5.0m long, close to 2.0m wide, and just under 1.7m high, the Levante qualifies as a full-size SUV.
Slim LED (adaptive) headlights sit either side of an aggressive, shark mouth grille featuring the brand’s signature trident emblem mounted in front of a series of equally recognisable (in this case, black) double vertical bars. A lower honeycomb mesh fascia sits above a racy, high-gloss carbon-fibre splitter, with huge air intakes defined by carbon blades either side.
The bulging bonnet features two deep, rear-facing heat extractor vents, ostensibly to aid engine cooling, but they look tough, too. The car’s sweeping roofline and frameless doors enhance the coupe look, with more touches of carbon along the side skirts.
Maserati says the standard 22-inch ‘Orione’ forged aluminium wheels are the biggest ever fitted to one of its production cars, and the ‘Saetta’ (arrow) Trofeo logo on the C-pillar is a neat touch.
The bulging bonnet features two deep, rear-facing heat extractor vents, ostensibly to aid engine cooling, but they look tough, too.
The body broadens towards the rear with solid haunches and a pronounced bumper enhancing the Trofeo’s imposing stance. There are more gloss carbon-fibre inserts on the rear bumper as well as around the fat, dark finish quad exhaust pipes.
The LED tail-lights follow the same pattern as other current Maserati models, and car spotters should know the Levante badge on a Trofeo receives an additional chrome ‘Saetta’ line underneath.
Then, cracking open the bonnet is like lifting the lid on a Bulgari jewellery case. Forget plastic trim smoothing over the oily bits underneath, here you see the 3.8-litre, twin turbo V8 in all its glory. Scarlet red cam and intake plenum covers are matched with a slim carbon-fibre piece on top, proudly wearing chrome trident and V8 badges. Brilliante!
The LED tail-lights follow the same pattern as other current Maserati models.
Inside, the look and feel is beautifully composed and the sheer quality of execution is impressive. Think top-shelf German with a Modenese twist.
The sculpted sport seats are works of art, with an elaborate quilted treatment enhancing their classic sporting flavour. The dash and console design is relatively simple but hand-stitched leather detailing lifts it to another level.
Open-weave style carbon fibre trim elements are another point of visual (and tactile) difference, solid alloy paddle shifters on the steering column enhance the impression of quality, and the analogue Maserati clock in the centre of the dashtop features a unique dial. Cool.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
The Levante is 5003 millimetres long, with 3004 of them sitting between the front and rear axles; an unusually lengthy wheelbase measurement for a car of this size.
So, while the Trofeo’s engine bay has been filled with V8 muscle, the rest of it remains as practical and family-friendly as its less volatile siblings.
Those up front are provided with plenty of breathing room.
Those up front are provided with plenty of breathing room, as well as multiple storage options including, a large lidded storage box/armrest between the seats, twin cupholders in the centre console with a cigarette lighter next to them (naughty), a carbon covered oddments tray in front of the gear shift (also housing a USB-A media connection socket, ‘aux-in’ audio jack, and an SD card slot), a decent (cooled) glove box (with two USB charge points inside), and pockets with room for bottles in each door.
Jumping into the back, sitting behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm (6.0ft) position, I enjoyed plenty of leg and headroom, with enough shoulder room to accommodate three adults over medium length journeys.
Jumping into the back, sitting behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm (6.0ft) position, I enjoyed plenty of leg and headroom.
Storage back there runs to small door pockets and twin cupholders in the fold down centre armrest. Big tick for rear air vents with temperature control (thanks to standard four-zone climate control on the Launch Edition), and there are two more USB-A charge points and a 12-volt outlet in the top of that ventilation unit.
With the 60/40 split-folding rear seats upright cargo volume is a relatively modest 580 litres, although a through-port flap allows for accommodation of lengthy stuff.
With the 60/40 split-folding rear seats upright cargo volume is a relatively modest 580 litres.
Drop the rear seats (via a switch near the rear door) and that number grows to 1625 litres. Tie down anchors, elastic straps on the sides, and a 12-volt socket enhance flexibility, as does a power cargo door.
For those keen on hooking up the horse float and giving the ponies a scare, towing capacity for a braked trailer is 2825kg (750kg unbraked). And don’t bother looking for a spare of any description, a repair/inflator kit (or a flat bed) is your only option.
Drop the rear seats (via a switch near the rear door) and that number grows to 1625 litres.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 9/10
The idea of an ultra high-performance V8 version of the Levante arrived well before the SUV’s launch in 2016. Maserati’s engineering team had built a V8-engined test mule, designed to push the new car’s chassis to its limits. But the combination proved so compelling that pretty quickly a twin-turbo ‘super’ V8 Levante was added to the future model mix.
Assembled by Ferrari in Maranello, the Trofeo’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 belongs to the Ferrari ‘F154’ engine family, although Maserati Powertrain developed its own version, specifying a smoother crossplane (rather than flat plane) crank arrangement, and wet sump (as opposed to dry sump) lubrication.
The Trofeo’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 belongs to the Ferrari ‘F154’ engine family.
It’s a 90-degree, all-alloy unit featuring direct-injection, high-tumble cylinder heads, an upgraded camshaft and valve train set-up, and two parallel, twin-scroll turbochargers (one per cylinder bank) each fed air by a single intercooler.
Producing 440kW (590 hp) at 6250 rpm and 730Nm from 2500–5000rpm, Maserati says it’s the most powerful production V8 in the brand’s history.
Drive goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed (ZF-sourced) automatic transmission, and Maserati’s ‘Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive’ system, with a mechanical limited-slip differential at the rear.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 13.5L/100km, the twin-turbo V8 emitting 313g/km of CO2 in the process.
In our time with the car, over a combination of city, suburban and freeway conditions (including some enthusiastic B-road running) we recorded an average of 19.1L/100km, which is a big number, but not unexpected for a 2.2-tonne SUV powered by a twin-turbo V8 with this kind of performance potential.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 9/10
The Maserati Levante hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, although you could argue the Trofeo’s dynamic ability is its biggest active safety advantage. But, there are in fact numerous systems built in to help avoid a crash.
The Maserati Levante hasn’t been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP.
The auto LED headlights feature an ‘Adaptive Matrix’ active high-beam control system and there’s also tyre pressure monitoring.
If, despite all that, an impact is unavoidable there are six airbags on-board (driver and front passenger front and side, and dual curtain).
There are three top tether points for securing baby capsules/child restraints across the rear seat, with ISOFIX anchors in the two outer positions.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
Maserati offers a three year/unlimited km warranty across its model range, which is off the mainstream market pace of five years/unlimited km (with some at seven years), and Mercedes-Benz has ratcheted up the pressure with its recent move to five-year cover.
On the plus side, 24-hour roadside assistance is included for the duration of the warranty, and servicing is only required every two years, or 25,000km, whichever comes first.
Pre-paid servicing is available in two levels - Premium, covering all required inspections and components/consumables, and Premium Plus, which adds brake pads and rotors, as well as wiper blades.
What's it like to drive? 9/10
So, let’s get it out of the way. The Levante Trofeo is ferociously fast, and sounds it. With a press of the brake pedal, push of a ‘Corsa’ button, and pull of a gear paddle, launch control is engaged and 100km/h is only 3.9 seconds away.
With all 730 of its newton metres available from just 2500rpm, remaining on duty until 5000rpm, this beast pulls like a freight train, and if you keep sinking the slipper into the right-hand pedal maximum power of 440kW takes over at 6250rpm.
With a press of the brake pedal, push of a ‘Corsa’ button, and pull of a gear paddle, launch control is engaged and 100km/h is only 3.9 seconds away.
Somehow the Maserati boffins have managed to get some serious exhaust noise past the turbos because a growling rumble at idle joins the engine’s roar through the mid-range, both producing a full-blown scream beyond that.
A five-seat SUV simply shouldn’t accelerate this quickly, but it does. Just like the brutally fast Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, it will slingshot you towards the horizon, bellowing all the way. But the Levante Trofeo does it with satisfying precision, the engine’s Ferrari DNA and the chassis’ sophistication shining through.
Turning that forward momentum into lateral grip is the next challenge and the Trofeo has a few aces up its sleeve, the first being a 50/50 weight distribution between the front and rear axles.
Five drive modes are available - ‘Normal’, ‘ICE’ (Increased Control & Efficiency), ‘Sport’, ‘Corsa’ (race) and ‘Off Road.’
Suspension is by double-wishbones at the front and multi-links at the rear, with adjustable air springs, and adaptive dampers in support.
Five drive modes are available - ‘Normal’, ‘ICE’ (Increased Control & Efficiency), ‘Sport’, ‘Corsa’ (race) and ‘Off Road.’
The pneumatic springs provide six levels and 75 mm height variation from lowest to highest position. In Corsa mode the Levante Trofeo automatically drops to the lowest ‘Aero 2’ level (35mm lower than normal).
Corsa also sharpens throttle response, cranks up the soundtrack, and loosens the reins on the stability and traction control systems. Gear shifts are faster, damping is buttoned down, and all-wheel drive settings are tweaked up. With default drive mode sending 100 per cent of torque to the rear axle the Trofeo is set up for your favourite backroad run.
Despite a relatively high (SUV) centre of gravity, the Levante feels taut, balanced and planted in quick corners. Maserati says the car’s fat Continental SportContact 6 rubber (265/35 fr / 295/30 rr) was fine-tuned expressly for the Trofeo, and it grips hard.
Torque vectoring (by braking) works seamlessly to keep understeer in check, the AWD system shuffles torque to the axle (and wheels) that can use it best, the electrically-assisted steering is accurate and well weighted, and shifts from the eight-speed auto are quick.
That said, I’m not a fan of shift paddles on the steering column (as found here) rather than the wheel itself.
The electrically-assisted steering is accurate and well weighted.
Huge ventilated and cross-drilled discs (380mm fr / 330mm rr) are clamped by six-piston aluminium monobloc calipers at the front, and aluminium floating calipers at the rear. They wash off speed rapidly, keeping the car steady even when trailing into a corner, with a progressive pedal a big plus.
At a more sedate pace around town, in a more family-friendly ‘Normal’ setting the Trofeo rides surprisingly well, despite the huge 22-inch rims and licorice thin tyres, the air suspension and tricky dampers able to smooth things out. A Jekyll and Hyde transformation of the highest order.
The front sports seats are grippy yet comfy on longer runs and the ergonomic layout is simple and user-friendly. An 8.4-inch ‘Maserati Touch Control Plus’ touchscreen can be accessed via a rotary dial in the centre console, touch (drag, scroll, swipe and rotate gestures), or voice, and the interface works well.
Full-bown GT performance in five-seat SUV form isn’t a new formula, but the Maserati Levante Trofeo Launch Edition executes it beautifully. Not for shy, retiring types, it's a big, bold take on family-friendly transport that delivers practicality with outrageous performance on demand.