When we last checked in with Maserati, the Italian luxury carmaker had unleashed the Levante on the North American car-buying public. Starting at around $75,000, the Levante is a striking, six-cylinder SUV that ticked all the boxes when it comes to riding in comfort and style. With corporate sibling Alfa Romeo and VW-owned Lamborghini building some ridiculously fast SUVs, the otherwise-impressive stats—424hp (316kW), a top speed of 164mph (264km/h), and a 0-60mph time of 5.0 seconds—on the V6 Levante S looked less so.
Enter the Levante GTS and Levante Trofeo. Both models swap out the six-cylinder engine for a V8. The Trofeo starts at $169,980. And with 590hp (440kW) at its disposal, it is capable of making zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 187mph (300km/h). Impressive, but that price tag definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. If you love fast and stylish Italian crossovers and are OK with spending, say $120,000 instead of $170,000 on one, keep reading. And if you’re thinking about the Porsche Cayenne, take note of the GTS and Trofeo’s price points—they’re almost identical to the Cayenne.
When I reviewed the Levante S last year, I called it a “stunner.” A year later, the Levante is still easily the most beautiful SUV or crossover on the market (which for some may be akin to calling someone the best-looking forward in a scrum). The Levante GTS has some subtle tweaks to the exterior to differentiate it from the V6 models, primarily to the rear bumper and front fascia. On the interior, the GTS has premium leather seats, Alcantara headliners, a tweaked gearshift lever, and an upgraded MTS+ infotainment system.
The biggest difference, however, is the engine. Under the hood of the Levante GTS lies a Ferrari-made 3.8L, twin-turbo V8 engine capable of 550hp (405kW) and 538lb-ft (729Nm) of torque between 2,500rpm and 5,000rpm. Maserati’s larger, more-powerful engine can propel the GTS to a top speed of 181mph (291km/h) and from zero to 60mph in 4.0 seconds. That’s able to outrun all but the very fastest SUVs: the Tesla Model X, Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Slipping a V8 under the hood and combining it with an AWD transmission is no walk in the park—Maserati needed to rework the crankcase in order to make it all fit.
When Modena met Detroit
The exterior of the Levante GTS is all Maserati. The interior? About 90 percent.
The Levante GTS has a number of upgrades to the already-luxurious Levante interior, including an Alcantra headliner, perforated leather seats, wood or carbon-fibre trim, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. Tridents are everywhere—the dashboard clock, the headrests, and steering wheel—and the interior is exactly what one would expect from an SUV carrying the Maserati badge. It’s sleek and refined-looking without feeling over the top. It’s also near silent on the highway, offering a smooth and refined trip in the debut default ride mode on the 22-inch wheels.
Sprinkled in with the Maserati trim are a few pieces of Chrysler. The 8.4-inch touchscreen is running a Maserati-skinned version of uConnect, called MTC+. It’s laid out like uConnect, and although the screen looks like it might have a higher pixel density than those in other FCA vehicles using uConnect, all of the same things are in all of the same places. If you want to avoid getting fingerprint smudges all over it, there is a dial and a pair of buttons on the center console you can use instead. The instrument cluster looks familiar, too, with a multifunction HD display between a pair of analog dials that would look at home in a Jeep Cherokee or Dodge Challenger.
Once you’re seated and fire up the engine, however, the experience is all Maserati. The twin-turbo V8 treats the driver to a sonorous delight as it moves through the gears. Hit the sport button, the car sinks down, and the engine rumblings deepen and intensify. Even with the V8, however, the Levante doesn’t offer the same sort of angry, basso profundo aggressiveness of a Urus or Stelvio Quadrifoglio. Instead, it’s more along the lines of “You want speed? I gotcha, chief,” offered up in a robust baritone.
At a Midwest Automotive Media Association rally, I had the chance to take the GTS onto the track at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois. It was silky and responsive, hitting every apex and launching itself towards every exit point like a javelin. It’s one of a small handful of SUVs on I’ve driven on a track that left me shaking my head in wonder at the un-SUV-ness of it all. There’s some small amount of pitch in the corners, but it’s steady as she goes the rest of the time.
The Maserati Levante GTS is rated at 15mpg (14mpg city/18mpg highway). I saw 14.4mpg in my time with it.
Finally, it’s time for the part of the review where I tell you whether this car is worth buying. If you’re on the fence, know that the Levante does lack a couple pieces of gear that available on other SUVs at and below its price range, most notably a heads-up display and massage chairs. (After all, who doesn’t like getting a backrub while driving to work?) In addition, while MTC+/uConnect is a fine infotainment system on its own merits, the gap between it and the likes of Audi, Jaguar-Land Rover, and BMW is only getting wider. Those smaller details may become sticking points for some buyers when we’re talking about a $120,000 crossover that really doesn’t have a lot of direct comparables at that price point. That said, if you have the money to spend, are a fan of Maserati styling, and want people to turn their heads when you speed past them, this is the SUV-slash-crossover for you, no questions asked.
Listing image by BradleyWarren Photography