Want to Own a Ferrari SUV? Buy This Maserati
(Bloomberg) -- The overriding impression I have of the 2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo SUV is one of speed.
Maserati’s 590-horsepower, twin-turbo V8 is faster than its big SUV body and the brand’s rather sluggish recent history in the sedan category might indicate.
On paper, the Levante Trofeo, the top of Maserati’s current SUV line, is faster and more powerful than worthy competitors such as the 541hp Porsche Cayenne Turbo ($127,800). It is nearly equal to—though, at $149,900, more overpriced than—the 600 hp BMW X5M, which starts at $105,100. But thanks largely to the 538 pound-feet of torque and the fact that it shares much technology with sister-brand Ferrari under the Fiat-Chrysler umbrella, it also feels fast. To me, that visceral feeling is worth so much more than what its papers say.
I recently had a Levante Trofeo in gorgeous, clarion blue barreling up Route 101 in Los Angeles with the insistence and fury singular to Italian sports cars of the two-door variety. Unsuspecting Prius and Tesla drivers swiveled their heads as the “Mazza” (as our friends in England say) shot past them like a cannonball. This, to me, is the side of performance that’s much more thrilling than simply beating someone off the line. (Boring!) A vehicle’s ability to double down at, say, 50 mph and effortlessly jump to 80 mph feels way more dominating from behind the wheel. In daily driving, I find, it is much more useful as well.
That the Maserati Levante Trofeo maintains such propulsion with so much sophisticated ease should come as no surprise. Under its chiseled aluminum hood lies the V8 engine, updated for 2020, that Ferrari itself builds at its factory in Maranello, Italy. The car is marginally faster than last year’s version, with a zero to 60 mph speed of 3.7 seconds and a 189 mph top speed. It is paired with standard all-wheel drive and an excellent smooth and capable eight-speed automatic transmission. Best of all, it comes with five drive modes, including a new, standard Corsa mode that, when engaged, stiffens suspension, lowers ride height, directs power to the rear wheels, reduces electronic intervention in the steering wheel, hastens gear shifts, and adds launch control.
Whether I was pushing up a hill in Angelino Heights or surging forward in I-5 traffic, the Levante Trofeo responded immediately to what I needed, with no hesitation, no wobble, no drama. (Well, there was drama in that throaty Ferrari signature engine note; if you love fast cars, you’ll love that sound.)
I felt this lovely cornucopia of Italian performance—a true gift of escape during this our fourth month of pandemic shutdowns—yet I took no exotic drive with the Levante Trofeo. Nor did I test it over a track day replete with extensive time trials. Rather, I drove my nieces to the (recently opened) beach in Venice one day; another day, we took the car to Pasadena for an afternoon of lolling around the roses in a botanical garden nestled there.
I drove it to the airport and to the grocery store, plus up Mulholland Drive’s curvaceous peaks to feel it stretch as the sunlight lengthened, glowed, and eventually dipped below the distant Pacific horizon. The excellence of the Levante Trofeo was rendered clear when it made these rather mundane drives feel special. From behind the trident-emblazoned leather steering wheel, with the commanding ride height, spanning visibility, dual-pane panoramic sunroof and accessibility to all buttons on the center console, I felt like a queen.
Maserati has given us a totally new interior in the Levante Trofeo (trofeo means trophy in Italian; in this case it refers to higher-tuned, top-of-the-line versions in the Maserati line). Bountiful accoutrements come standard and work to make it feel truly regal: Apple CarPlay, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, surround view, and parking cameras. The heated and ventilated 12-way adjustable sport seats were extremely comfortable and supportive, even after multiple hours behind the wheel. There’s enough space in the rear seat bench to fit two adults and a child with great comfort, plus rear-rear hatch space enough for big, fuzzy towels, vibrant beach balls, plastic buckets, and even circus-style umbrellas for seaside excursions that don’t end in sunburned tears.
The interior, in fact, lives up to the cool excellence promised by the exterior good looks, which—after sheer drivability and nimble performance—are my second favorite thing about this vehicle. Special Trofeo LED headlights and 22-inch wheels come standard, as do such carbon-fiber accents as splitters and lower grille blades; gloss blue-painted brake calipers with Maserati script; and full LED fog lamps and tail lamps. I loved the dual air vents on the aluminum hood, placed like flared nostrils, and the way the sides of the car nip in like the waist in Dior’s New Look.
The trim (for an SUV) body lines, arched hood, and trident-heavy badges on the Levante Trofeo don’t match the iconic shapes that one of Italy’s oldest, most esteemed luxury brands produced decades ago—search for “Maserati 3500GT” or “original Maserati Ghibli”—but they hint at the pedigree. In a sea of lookalike SUVs mostly clustered around the Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lincoln, Genesis, and Infiniti families these days, the Levante Trofeo is one of very few, truly distinguishable luxury SUVs on today’s market.
The quibbles I have with this Maserati are relatively minor but worth mentioning: The interior leather could be softer and the dials less plastic-y, and the dual gauges behind the steering wheel look a little empty for those of us used to seeing three or four (or five) round gauges spread across our line of view.
Fortunately for Maserati fans, availability of the Levante Trofeo has not been compromised by any production stalls brought on by Covid-19. According to a Maserati spokesperson, the 2020 models are already at dealerships and available to buy.
The reward will come in driving one. The Levante Troefo is the best Maserati has to offer.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.