Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

The new Maserati Levante SUV is among the world's fastest

We discover what a Ferrari-derived, twin-turbo V8 engine is doing for Maserati's Levante Trofeo

In three years, the Maserati Levante SUV has become the company’s bestselling model, accounting for 52 per cent of sales, and now the factory has given it some real muscle under the hood with the addition of a Ferrari-derived, 582-brake-horsepower twin-turbo, V8 engine.

Don’t be fooled by its proportions, as the Trofeo and its slightly milder brother, the GTS, house the most powerful mainstream production engines installed in a Maserati. This has catapulted the Levante on to the podium of World’s Fastest SUVs, beaten only by the 6.2-litre supercharged V8 Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk and the Lamborghini Urus.

Delivering a 304-kilometre-per-hour top speed and passing through 100kmh in only 3.9 seconds, the Trofeo is the third-quickest SUV money can buy, while the GTS records a milder 4.2 seconds and 292kmh.

One launch control-induced stab of the throttle in the Trofeo answered what’s been missing in the previous Levante, as this is an entirely different car to the V6.

With the addition of Maserati’s Integrated Vehicle Control, available on the Levante for the first time as part of the Trofeo’s package, the SUV now offers Sport and Corsa (track) modes. Engaging Corsa speeds up the gear changes, lowers the air suspension by up to 75 millimetres, offers sportier Skyhook damping and alters all-wheel drive with up to 100 per cent rear-wheel drive.

Power is sent to the road via a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and 22-inch forged aluminium alloy wheels that are the largest ever fitted to a Maserati.Off-road, the GTS had enough ground clearance to make short work of large obstacles and the downhill-assist removed any panic of steep descents on loose gravel with its ABS working its magic independently on each wheel to avoid locking.

Using the car’s variable ride height, finding a sweet spot for swift country road driving didn’t take long, as it soon got into its performance zone. With no shortage of grunt under the right foot, a dynamite-quick transmission and the suspension in firm mode, the overtaking potential felt as good as the Urus and a match for most low-slung cars.

Cosmetically, the GTS differs with a more aggressive lower front fascia and rear bumper, a grille with double vertical bars and honeycomb mesh. The Trofeo stands out by adding a black piano finish to the grille, a lower front splitter and body-coloured door handles. Both include full matrix LED headlights, which provide 20 per cent more visibility than standard, and use a camera behind the rear-view mirror that allows the driver to keep high beams on without dazzling other drivers.

Compared with the V6 Levante S, the interior is largely untouched save for a 1,280-watt, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium surround sound system.

The Levante has always been a capable SUV. Now, however, it has the sonorous engine tunes from its Ferrari-built V8, plus the added punch that it should have always had to justify its Maserati badge.

Updated: November 7, 2019 04:09 PM

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