Pricing starts at $94,290 in Canada, $75,690 in the US.
The Trofeo’s power is visceral and beyond addictive.
The Levante is extremely exclusive mostly because of the perceived value.
Or is the brand off the mark? Debates about Maserati’s place among luxury brands in North America goes two ways. Without a shadow of a doubt, its history and pedigree are legendary, far greater than some popular luxury brands. In this respect, it absolutely belongs. When it comes to the product, such as the Levante SUV, the case is no longer as clear.
Despite being Maserati’s best-seller nearly since it arrived in late 2016, the Levante remains relatively obscure and unknown. For some, this level of exclusivity is worth the cover charge but there can’t be all that many out there given the Levante’s extremely low sales numbers. The question that needs to be asked is why is the Levante so under-appreciated?
It’s not the price, although it certainly does not help. With a base price close to $95,000 in Canada, the Levante is deep in Audi Q8, BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz (AMG) GLE, Range Rover Sport, and Porsche Cayenne territory and none of these players take too kindly to competition. American and Canadian luxury SUV buyers have proven that they are willing to shell out huge sums of money for the most of everything when it comes to their SUVs but clearly, even they will draw a line.
And the insanely powerful Maserati Levante Trofeo is the worst offender. At $168,560, it’s nearly $25,000 more than a “less powerful” Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and close to $45,000 pricier than a more powerful BMW X5 M. This is like having your legs cut out from under you… So, maybe price is an issue, as in, Maserati’s suffering from delusions of past grandeur.
The ups and downs of the drive
The Levante Trofeo’s Ferrari-built twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 is the SUV’s golden ticket. It and the accompanying 8-speed ZF automatic transmission are paired to perfection like few other powertrain combos I have ever experienced. They are of one mind, impeccably-tuned accomplices in delivering speed, and lots of it. The V8’s 590 horsepower and 538 lb.-ft. of torque propel the large SUV and heavy SUV to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds. Thing is, these numbers don’t make it the most powerful or fastest in the segment… It may very well generate the most glorious V8 bellow of them all though.
Where the Levante fails me in the greatest way is in the chassis’ unconvincing communication abilities. The standard Skyhook air suspension and adaptive dampers do have the competence to coast with gentle ease when carting the kids around or going about the daily routine.
Setting the drive mode to sport opens up the exhaust, among other functions, but keeps the dampers in Normal – this is the best combination. Pressing and holding the Sport button opens up the Trofeo-exclusive Corsa mode, with launch control. Short of taking the Levante on a closed course, the Corsa mode is all but pointless as the Sport mode delivers all the real-world advantages.
Even with everything set in Sport or Corsa, including the dampers, the Levante Trofeo is not an SUV that feels at ease with being tossed around, on-road, and probably not on a track – quite the opposite of what Maserati would have us believe. One of the many reasons is that it does not hide its ride height, weight, and relative narrowness despite the sophisticated chassis components. As well, response to steering inputs is sharp but feedback is non-existent. And whether the dampers are in Normal or Sport, there’s more body roll than expected which, when combined, drain driver confidence in the SUV’s skills to a minimum. Hey, this is a Trofeo, right? In theory, I should be able to track this big bad beast without hesitation.
The ups and downs of design and styling
The driving experience is a mixed bag of emotions, as are styling and interior contents. From a design perspective, the Levante is attractive from some angles but is too narrow for its length – it lacks the muscularity that is often exaggerated in other SUVs of the like.
Stepping aboard is to be in awe of the materials, the fit and finish, and how all the surfaces blend into each other. Alcantara, posh Pieno Fiore leather, carbon fibre, it’s all extremely special and premium. Now, I can only imagine what went through the minds of the interior designers when the bean-counters told them that most of the switchgear was to be sourced from the Dodge minivan…
The reminders of Maserati’s overlords are omnipresent in the cabin, from the window switches, the start-stop button, and Uconnect 4 infotainment system. Thankfully, the latter is as good as it’s always been, not to mention extremely familiar if you’ve owned or driven an FCA product in the last five or six years.
In this scenario, the highs cast a shadow on the lows, with the seats being exhibit “A” of class and luxury. That is, as long as you ignore the seat switches…
Still not sure how I feel about it…
The V8’s thrust is relentless, and I’m beginning withdrawal symptoms from a lack of Ferrari-assembled V8 noises. Above and beyond this feeling, however, I keep circling back to the price which, at $170,000 as tested in Canada, is far too much, in excess of $30,000 too much.
Unfortunately, in North America, Maserati is in no position to command a premium for its namesake over BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche. And the new MC20 will not change this in the near future. Although Maserati is on the cusp of reigniting its former glory, asking huge sums of money is the perfect way to alienate potential buyers. Between us, a $170,000 budget would star a $145,000 Porsche Cayenne Turbo with plenty of room for choice options including 4-wheel steering, the Sport Chrono and SportDesign packages, and Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control, to name a few.
I don’t dislike the 2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo, there are simply no outstanding reasons to select it over the competition.