Maserati Levante Trofeo : encounter a furious beast!
When I enter the parking lot of Maserati France I immediately notice a red car with a high and curved wing. It’s the Maserati Levante Trofeo Rosso Magma that I’m going to drive. Rosso Magma is the real name of this Levante’s body color. All right!
I turn around the car, my eyes cross the headlights of the machine and no doubt, it’s the big angry beast I was waiting for. It’s red, red with rage, has a wide mouth, ready to scream loudly, a frowning look to intimidate me and air outtakes on the hood to help it stay cool…
Maserati Levante Trofeo: can we really tame the most powerful Maserati ever produced?
After a few dozen kilometers to know the beast, I decide to bother it (a bit like that long-horned beef I ran into on the road). I switch to sport mode, the body is lowered slightly (up to 3.5 cm anyway), and the suspensions get harder. I put the gearbox in manual paddle shift mode and start increasing the pace. The engine is smooth, very flexible, like an old good V8. I go up in RPM and the sound of the exhaust gradually disturbs the inner calm. Sound of the steering wheel paddles sets the tempo: the concert can finally begin. Like a bandleader, I steer the 8 cylinders towards higher and higher notes that only Maseratis can offer.
Now, I already feel a fantastic feeling. The engine/gearbox couple has been extremely well chosen so that both work in perfect harmony.
When the first corner comes around, I’m sweating. All my SUV prejudices suddenly come back to my mind. Ever since I left the city centre I had forgotten that I was in a car that weighs over 2000 kg! So I say a quick prayer: « it gonna be ok, it gonna be ok…”. ». Then I remember that I had already tested the Maserati Levante S. Okay, everything will be fine. At least I hope so. I brake hard, I downshift, in a slightly muffled rumble, the 3.8L twin-turbo V8 engine gains 2000 rpm instantly. I try to take the best trajectory to avoiding being shaken up and to have the best grip available. The car places itself, mass transfer is done in a kind of dynamic flexibility (yes, even if these terms are opposite), it’s pretty amazing, and the car goes off like a rocket, roaring and slightly drifting from the rear end.
Whaaaat? Drifting? A drifting SUV? But isn’t the Maserati Levante Trofeo 4WD? Indeed, you are well informed, however its permanent all-wheel drive can give up to 100% of the torque to the rear drivetrain! I know, it’s completely insane. On the other hand, the self-locking differential and all-wheel drive makes the car very easy, healthy and safe to use.
The engine is placed far towards the passenger compartment. Relatively small, you don’t really feel the engine weight on the front wheels. Well, you can feel it, as you would on any V8-equipped car, but it seems to be fairly well-balanced. Only the high centre of gravity can sometimes be a little disturbing.
Have you ever tried to rodeo on the back of an elephant?
You should definitely try. For this, there is a corsa mode, because there is a more extreme mode than the sport one (just in case). At that point, the Levante Trofeo becomes… wild. Indeed, with this mode, the majority of the assistances are disconnected. Done. So you have to fight with the steering to keep the pachyderm’s butt on the road. Pedal to the metal, I can assure you that you can feel its 730 Nm, its 580 HP and its propulsion preference. A situation that’s both very funny, when you think about the car’s size, and completely crazy, still when you think about the car’s size !
In these conditions you become aware of the fantastic engine hidden under the bonnet. Thanks to the two turbochargers, the 0 to 100 km/h is down in just 4.1 seconds! And on top of that, you can feel a powerful torque almost every time! Before 3000 rpm, the car heats up. After 3500 rpm the turbos enter the game and I still don’t understand what happened. The engine started to scream. The pointer stuck to the bottom of the tachymeter. And BOOM! 7500 rpm in the blink of an eye! It’s so fast it’s hard to realize we’re already in the red zone. To be honest, turbo setting is surprisingly very 80s. Those nostalgic for the on/off effect will be very happy.
Anyway, this engine is a formidable weapon (everyone will agree), however (please don’t throw stones at me),I felt like the rpm hand was still going up but the power was fading past 6000 rpm. It was a pretty weird feeling, like he’d already given it his all. In fact, I think it’s too small, in terms of engine capacity, for such a heavy car. As a result, engineers had to maximize the use of turbochargers to make it expressive and powerful. The result is a highly efficient unit, that’s a lot of fun, but more linear, less sophisticated and less thrilling than the naturally-aspirated V8, and twin-turbo V6s we used to know. In the end, I think I feel it less lovable than the other Maserati’s engines I’ve already had the chance to try.
The engine sounds good, really good, especially when the revs increase. My ears notice a typical Italian V8 melody, but not exactly as I expected, not as baroque as you might imagine. The sound is like being muffled by the turbos. Maybe it’s also the new sound regulation that restrict the exhaust, I don’t know. However, the sound of the 8-speed ZF gearbox and its large aluminum paddles shifters is as divine as ever. There’s a metallic click that marks the gear shift. I’ve probably said it before, but this sound reminds me (every time) the sound of the metal manual gearboxes of old Italian GTs. It’s fantastic, I love it!
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Now I think I’ve got your attention, and that’s probably also how Maserati should have caught everyone’s attention in 2016.
Maserati Levante Trofeo: why Maserati doesn’t make it sooner?
Maserati Levante Trofeo… Levante Trofeo, a name that sounds new (except if you are interested in the GT races organized by Maserati since the 3200 GT). Remember, in 2016, when Maserati finally presents a new car, the brand’s enthusiasts get two slaps.
First, the segment. Yes, the new Maserati Levante is a SUV, and SUVs don’t really appeal to die-hard car enthusiasts (so do I). However, I fully understand Maserati’s positioning and I respect the brand’s past, the GranTourer king since the 1950s. Currently, SUV is the new GranTourer. SUVs have replaced sedans in customers hearts… (not from me, it’s sales figures). So why not try to make the best SUVs in the world?
Second slap comes from the motorization. Two engines have been proposed, a 3.0L twin-turbo gasoline V6 and a 3.0L twin-turbo diesel V6. Of course, everyone focused on the diesel one, while the V6 petrol is excellent. No one had ever seen that at Maserati. While, technically, it makes sense to have a diesel engine fitted with a 4×4 or a SUV cause there are supposed to have off-road capabilities. With such big masses, what could be better than the torque of a diesel engine? Yes, I know it’s not very convincing… but it’s true!
Fortunately in 2018, everything has changed. GranTurismo disappeared and its mythical 4.7L V8 engine too… Maserati couldn’t offer as many V6s in its range (honor and probably pride matter). So they set the Modena’s engineers free! They opened the cage where they had all been locked up for a few years and were told: “go ahead, have fun”. Wow, what a shock!
As if they hadn’t eaten for days, they were greedy. Indeed, they chose the biggest engine available at the moment. Well, why choose something else? This is the amazing 3.8L twin-turbo V8 from the F154 engine family, developed by Ferrari for the 488 and already used since 2012 in the Maserati Quattroporte GTS. Then, they put it in the most recent Maserati. From this forced coupling between the biggest (5 m long, 2.15 m wide and 1.67 m high), heaviest Maserati ever made (2109 kg for the V6 version), and the most powerful engine ever made in Modena (after the MC12), two versions of the Levante were born: the GTS and the Trofeo with respectively 530 and 580 HP. It’s pure madness!
Furious and gentle, the dual personality of the Maserati Levante Trofeo
The Maserati Levante Trofeo is both a sheep in wolf’s clothing and a lion in elephant costume. From the front, you’ll notice the very wide sports grille that has characterized the brand’s style for the past 15 years. Its slender, angular headlights only serve to underline the arrogance of this design. Underneath, there are two wide air intakes just in front of the brakes and specific carbon fiber slats that are actually there to direct the air flow to the brake calipers. Even lower, a carbon moustache underlines the rocker panel. On the hood, connoisseurs will notice two air extractors (real ones, I checked) that indicate that the engine underneath will be hot (and also the driver). I must admit, the intimidating effect is a huge success. I may regret a lack of refinement in the details of this front end. I’m a bit nostalgic for the magnificent Giugiaro and Pininfarina designs of the 2000s, but it’s not a question of Trofeo version but the global style orientation.
Under the hood, we discover a very nice engine (although a bit small), covered with a equally intimidating carbon fiber cover that reveals a red cylinder head cover that says a lot.
From the side, nothing really changes. The line of the SUV is preserved, underlined by a rather discreet carbon fiber rocker panel and that’s fine. Above the curve of the typical Maserati rear wing, the traditional trident logo with the intriguing “TROFEO” reference can be seen. Rather subtle, that’s a good point! The 22” rims are huge but their two-tone color and rather minimalist design make them elegant. I turn around the car and I discover this big rear that I don’t like. Oops, sorry. Bad guys will say it looks like a Japanese car, good guys will say it’s a bit outdated, anyway it’s neither fancy nor very original. It’s very clearly from this point of view that we notice the pachydermic side of the Levante. Fortunately, the Rosso Magma color of this Levante Trofeo makes the rear lights mostly red, and therefore much better integrated than with any other colour.
Anyway, Maserati has chosen to not distort the Levante’s design too much, even by offering a version as radical as this one. Everybody recognises the Levante, only enthusiasts will recognise the Trofeo and that’s perfect.
On an open road, the Trofeo is devilish. A behaviour that truly contrasts with its physique. The SUV is greatly helped by a Skyhook-controlled pneumatic damping system that manages to make us forget, almost all the time, that we’re in a big car. Only the weight sometimes reminds us to behave.
In the city, the car behaves like a lamb. Or rather like an elephant (in the good sense). Flexible, smooth and light, it doesn’t really seem so long and high. Easy to drive, you feel good at the wheel of the Levante, even in the middle of the horrible Parisian traffic jams. Well, it’s true, he also commands respect.
The steering wheel is easy to hold thanks to a slightly thick rim and a nice design reminiscent of the 70s. The steering is rather precise and light. Inside, there’s an impression of calm, luxury and voluptuousness that Maserati lovers adore.
Let’s be honest, the finish isn’t perfect but the smell of leather and the braided carbon fiber quickly make you forget about the rest. The leather is beautiful and soft, stitched with a trident / Trofeo logo on the headrests. It’s neither too much nor too little. The carbon finish is very nice for once. I’m not a big fan of carbon in GTs, I find it useless and not very nice, but here Maserati offers a fiber that is very pleasant to touch and to look at. More, it won’t scratch or attract dust, unlike horrible regular lacquered carbon fiber.
Finally, the seats shape is clearly inherited from Maserati’s GT side. They look good, they’re comfortable but they don’t maintain enough when you start sweating on twisty roads.
Speaking of which, on the motorway the Maserati Levante Trofeo is honestly very comfortable. You just feel a slightly firm damping, which is not a defect. I also tried the I.C.E. (Increased Control Efficiency) mode and I must admit I was bowled by its efficiency. Without making the car completely anemic, this mode helped me save a few litres of fuel that I was able to use for roads that really deserved it. It matters in Europe!
Maserati Levante Trofeo: 88/100
To sum up my experience aboard this Maserati, I chose this quote from Flaubert:
Art is the search for the useless; it is in speculation what heroism is in morality.
A chimera between GT and sports car, between SUV and rocket, the Maserati Levante Trofeo achieves the feat of making us forget that we are in a car weighing more than 2 tonnes. Just for that point, bravo.
Technically, you can feel a well-designed car, made with passion. It will be able to satisfy most of the demanding passengers in terms of comfort and fanciness, but above all it will please the big kids that we are. Based on the already excellent Levante S, this Trofeo version is a true engineering masterpiece with a 3.8L twin-turbo V8 engine that gives it all its energy. No frills, few gadgets, few ostentatious elements, the Levante Trofeo focuses on performance and fun. It’s the expression of the driver’s selfish pleasure, which can be shared with the family and plenty of luggage.
Despite all its qualities, I think this Levante Trofeo deserves a bigger V8 engine in order to assert its Italian diva side. About that, rumours speak of a new bigger V8 engine from Maserati for the years to come… Can’t wait!
Ps 1: I seriously advise you (if you are about to buy a Levante Trofeo) to consider the Rosso Magma which is honestly splendid. As you can see on my photos, the color changes from a deep dark red to a metallic orange red depending on the light. More, the Trofeo is not an limited edition, so you can also choose the interior finishes. How about a nice beige leather? Personnaly, I’m in!
Ps 2: As the name Trofeo refers to a championship, why not organize super SUV races? A rallycross format could be very very cool! Please Maserati!