Italy’s new fire-breathing SUV

The new Maserati levante Trofeo brings a touch of Ferrari to the high-riding luxury crossover scene. Here is five things you need to know about this Ferrari powered family-hauler.

This is the Maserati of SUVs

Maserati says that phrase is true of all Levante models, but an enthusiast might suggest it applies only to V8-powered versions at the top of the totem pole.

At the heart of the new Maserati Levante Trofeo is a Ferrari-built V8.
At the heart of the new Maserati Levante Trofeo is a Ferrari-built V8.

The Maserati Levante Trofeo is the crossover a famous brand should have offered years ago.

Originally launched with a forgettable Jeep-sourced diesel engine, the Levante is now available with a twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 that represents one of the best-sounding, most evocative engines on sale.

They call it the F154

The F-word isn't something Maserati utters in polite company, but it is core to the Trofeo's appeal: Ferrari. Italy's most famous manufacturer builds the V8 under this Levante's bonnet, an award-winning motor found in a handful of machines including Ferrari's latest F8 Tributo and Roma sports cars.

The Levante Trofeo is seriously fast.
The Levante Trofeo is seriously fast.

There are differences in the way Maserati and Ferrari prepare the "F154" family of engines, chief among them Ferrari's preference for a high-revving "flat plane crank" layout, while Maserati chooses traditional "cross plane" internals delivering a muscle car soundtrack.

There's no shortage of character here

The Trofeo feels alive, with a motor that rips, snorts, snarls and crackles before you've reached the end of your driveway. It's a magnificent engine mated to a snappy eight-speed automatic transmission with lovely metal shift paddles tucked behind the steering column.

The combination is good for a top speed of 304km/h and a 3.9 second dash to 100km/h - figures that put it in elite company.

It isn’t just about the engine, there are plenty of luxury features, too.
It isn’t just about the engine, there are plenty of luxury features, too.

Drive goes to the rear wheels by default, delivering a tail-happy approach to cornering before the front wheels pitch in to straighten things out. Plush air suspension can lower itself by 75mm when set to "Corsa", hunkering toward the ground to lower the car's centre of gravity.

While it doesn't steer like a two-seat sports car, the Levante is engaging and entertaining on the road, helped by the immense grip of 22-inch performance tyres.

It's luxurious, too

Aimed at the sort of high-riding motors preferred by the top end of town - the likes of Porsche's Cayenne Turbo and the Range Rover Sport SVR - the Levante is beautifully finished. Rich leather trim cloaks the cabin, its paint looks sensational and the Bowers and Wilkins Hi-Fi is first rate. Granted, you can find parts pinched from cheaper elements of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family, but the same could be said of a Audi or Lamborghini.

Priced from about $356,000 drive-away, the Trofeo is also available as a special launch edition adding more than $50,000 in extras including carbon fibre trim and special paint such as the luscious Giallo Modenese of our test car.

Don't wait for a new V8

V8 engines look increasingly likely to slip into the history books as European restrictions on emissions, fuel use, and vehicle noise take hold. Maserati has invested heavily in a high-performance V6 for the future, suggesting the Trofeo might be the last of its kind.

Maserati Levante Trofeo Vitals

Price: About $356,000 drive-away

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8, 472kW/730Nm

Warranty/Service: 3-year/unlimited km, about $2700 for 3 years

Safety: Not yet rated, 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot alert

Thirst: 13.2L/100km

Cargo: 580 litres

Spare: Repair kit

Originally published as Italy's new fire-breathing SUV



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