2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo First Drive: The GT Car of Super SUVs
As the number of SUV derivatives continues to explode, we find ourselves envisioning new models that carve out the increasingly thinner segment. High performance SUVs have been a thing for years now, and sloped-roof SUV “coupes” are becoming a thing whether we like it or not. Now the Italians have – inadvertently, I’m afraid – invented another SUV subclass with the 2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo: the GT SUV.
Readers will be familiar with large passenger cars, or GTs, which are big coupes and comfortable sedans with equally large engines designed to transport the well-heeled owner across continents as quickly as decorum allows. As fast as they are, they are not sports cars per se (although they generally behave well). Their suspensions are more flexible, to better soak up rough roads and float on the highway. The “Trofeo,” which literally translates to trophy and is the most expensive and top performing Levante model, suggests that Maserati did not decide to create a GT SUV category but rather a high performance SUV. What they have built, however, is a GT SUV.
Maserati is not the first to do so. Think about our different high performance SUV comparisons and you can categorize competitors like Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and Bentley Bentayga Speed as GT SUV rather than straight performance SUV. Sure, they’re all super fast and have really nice interiors and mellow rides, but they just don’t behave like the first-class super SUVs from Porsche, BMW, Lamborghini, Mercedes-AMG and Alfa Romeo. That doesn’t make the Levante Trofeo or any of the other bad cars, but these just aren’t the top tier supercars they’re marketed under. It’s more of a top level GT.
The differentiator is in the suspension. Compare the Levante Trofeo to a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, and the Trofeo feels heavier and less in control of its body movements. On its own, however, the Trofeo is fun to drive quickly rather than quite. The Trofeo’s suspension has a lot of travel, but it was used to give the vehicle a comfortable ride even on the worst roads. Even with large wheels and skinny tire sidewalls, very little bothers the occupants, even in the sportiest setting of the adaptive dampers.
The tradeoff, however, is in the handling. Steering is quick and precise – if not a bit numb for a sporty SUV – but compared to the sleekest super SUVs, the Levante Trofeo has a lot of body roll. I like some body roll, as long as it’s well controlled and intentional, because it makes the driving experience more visceral. The Trofeo, however, sticks a toe on the line and as a result it feels too heavy when you throw it hard into a corner. If it’s a bumpy turn, you’ll also get a lot of vertical movement as the suspension crouches down to take the hit from both the ground and gravity before bouncing back. It never seems out of control or beyond the vehicle’s capabilities, but it looks like it wasn’t meant to be driven that hard.
The brakes send the same message. Big steelies – no, you can’t get carbon ceramic, not even an option – have the power to pull this thing, but the pedal is longer and smoother than you’d expect from a super SUV. . Again, more like a GT. They can hang on you even when you are driving the Trofeo harder than you want, but the pedal lengthens as the brakes get hotter. Push even harder and the brake pads start to smoke.
With 590 hp at your disposal, hot brakes are an easy condition to provoke. The Ferrari-built twin-turbo V-8 clearly benefits from Ferrari tuning, as it exhibits the same boost control behavior as Ferrari sports cars. By carefully measuring the turbo boost, the computer straightens the power delivered, so that you get a long, seemingly endless stroke of power instead of lag and a big surge all at once. The Trofeo is always ready to back up and split on the horizon, no matter what the situation is when you set foot. Very GT.
When you do, can we recommend that you lower the windows as well? Maserati has a knack for exhaust notes, even with turbochargers filling the jobs. Even so, the Trofeo sounds better from the outside of the car than from the inside, where a lot of turbo noise goes up all over the exhaust note. That said, it all still sounds wonderful for a turbocharged V-8, but more combustion and less compression would look even prettier. Mercedes-AMG remains the master when it comes to turbocharged exhaust notes.
We have no such nits to choose from with the transmission. The ZF-designed eight-speed automatic transmission shifts as quickly and easily as any competitor’s transmission, and Maserati has programmed it correctly. It’s so good that you never need to touch the nice, large paddle shifters, although they’re nice for your fingers to rest. The computer always selects the right gear, doubly so if you put it in its Sport or Corsa modes. The latter requires pressing the Sport button, then pressing and holding it a second time to confirm really want it. In some vehicles, the “sport” modes will always back up and lazily shift to the highest gear every time you release the accelerator, but not the accelerator. If you want Corsa (“race” in Italian) you get Corsa.
If only that button was a little nicer to press – or any of them, really. The interior of the Levante Trofeo isn’t particularly special for an expensive luxury SUV. Not all carbon fiber trim in the world can hide all of the raised items from the Dodge Parts Bin, from buttons, switches and dials to displays and software. We can give permission to the software because parent company FCA’s Uconnect system is generally excellent, but the rest fall short, and everything has been ditched in a very conservative design that ages quickly alongside the latest models of Porsche and Mercedes. Its good; it’s just not special, and you can certainly buy special products in this class of vehicles.
If Maserati sees fit to spice up the interior design on the next visit, we also suggest they update the front seats while they’re at it. They’re comfortable as befits a GT, but they look like big lounge chairs, and you kind of wonder if they didn’t get them from Dodge, either. The backrest is wide and there is no way to adjust the side rails, so the only way to prevent yourself from sliding over it is to tie up with your left leg before you take a turn.
We wouldn’t have pushed so hard without the Levante Trofeo award. At $ 151,485 initially, that’s $ 22,000 more than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, which is by no means confusing as to its sportiness. And that’s the pricing for the 2020 model year. Go back a year and Maserati only wanted a $ 170,000 Andrew Jackson for a 2019 model. No brand in the Maserati league charges nearly $ 150,000 to boot. on a two-row midsize super SUV. Neither Porsche, nor Mercedes, nor Land Rover – nobody. The only way to spend more money on a super SUV is with Bentley or Lamborghini, and the Trofeo is neither sporty enough to follow an Urus nor luxurious enough to follow a Bentayga. The fact that Maserati dropped the price by $ 19,000 in one year suggests it was having a hard time selling them for a higher price, and it’s no surprise that it is.
If we hurt those we love, we hope it is because we reasonably expect more from them and are disappointed with their under-delivery. The Levante Trofeo is not a bad car; it’s just not a great SUV. It’s quite a great GT SUV, whether it was or not. But it’s also too high a price, and it’s harder to forgive. The Levante has been around for a few years now, which means a mid-cycle refresh is in the works. Hopefully the next product by Maserati better reflects both what the company is capable of and its price.
|Maserati Levante Trofeo 2020|
|STARTING PRICE||$ 151,485|
|DISPOSITION||Front-engine 4-door SUV, all-wheel drive, 5 passengers|
|ENGINE||3.8L twin-turbo V8 / 590 hp / 538 lb-ft DOHC 32-valve|
|TRANSMISSION||8 speed automatic|
|WEIGHT ON BOARD||4,800 lbs (under construction)|
|L x W x H||197.0 x 78.0 x 65.4-68.4 inch|
|0 to 60 mph||3.3 s (MT east)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||14/18/15 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY / ROAD||241/187 kW-h / 100 mi|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.25 lbs / mile|
Maserati Levante Trofeo first test after 2020: GT super SUV car appeared first on MotorTrend.