Wow, 2020 has really not been everyones year. I’m sure like myself, you’ve probably been reminiscing this year over the times you’ve been able to travel. Well, this is exactly that as I look back at this time last year when Maserati Middle East very kindly lent me their Levante Trofeo for a few days whilst I was in the UAE.
In a world where every luxury car maker seems to have a flagship SUV to cater for the ever expanding market, it is no surprise that Maserati jumped on board the bandwagon back in 2016 with the Levante. The name Levante – Italian for ‘East Wind’, is said to be inspired by a ‘warm Mediterranean breeze that can suddenly turn into a gale force wind in an instant’. Sounds… fancy. The Levante originally launched with only V6 petrol and diesel options which are the most common variants you’ll see today. This all changed in 2018 with the announcement of the V8 offerings in the form of the GTS and the range topping Trofeo. For me, the Trofeo was the only one in the line up I was interested in mostly because (at least at the time) we never got the V8 offerings in the UK and this particular V8 is the same block that can be found in the likes of the Ferrari 488 GTB and the Portofino.
Now first I’ll say this, I’m not a car reviewer nor a journalist. Merely another millennial who spends their life drooling over expensive things that they see on social media. So my perspective will definitely be different to those who are maybe older or more experienced in this field. My only other real driving experience with a luxury SUV for an extended period of time in this class is the current Range Rover Sport SVR – which so happens to be a direct competitor to the Trofeo.
The interior of the Trofeo felt special, the full grain or ‘Pieno Fiore’ natural Italian leather was definitely of a high quality and the whole cabin was also slathered with carbon fibre. The standard equipment list on the car is like a menu at a fancy restaurant, you don’t know what half of it is but it’s expensive so you better have all of it. I spent an extended period of time in the driver’s seat covering probably well over a thousand kilometres over the few days I had the Trofeo and the seats were very comfortable for long journeys in the Arab heat — the ventilated 12-way adjustable seats were a life saver. My favourite part of the interior are the massive carbon fibre shift paddles that look and feel like they’re straight out of a Ferrari. Honestly, the amount of premium cars I see where the manufacture insists on putting plasticky paddles on the back of a nice steering wheel infuriates me but don’t worry, even if you don’t spec the carbon ones, you do get a nice pair of metals paddles as standard. This car was also specced with soft close doors, kick sensor for the tailgate, panoramic roof and 360 camera, all the usual options you would expect in a Super SUV. It even has a carbon engine cover which looks pretty impressive. Unfortunately this Trofeo wasn’t equipped with the optional 17 speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system but the standard 8 speaker system is still up to standard. Nothing exceptional, but still good enough of a car of this caliber. The only gripe I had with the interior was the infotainment system. I felt like it was very Americanised, overly complicated and very fussy to use on the move. Thankfully, the car is also equipped with Apple CarPlay as standard which is a saving grace as it makes accessing apps and music whole lot easier. Infotainment aside, the Levante Trofeo is a nice place to be, the smell of Italian leather, the premium carbon touch points and the massive panoramic roof which brightens the cabin. You can really feel that this is a premium product that stays true to Maserati’s ethos of luxury with an added touch of extra performance.
This particular Levante Trofeo was finished in Grigio Maratea with Rosso interior, a rather subtle spec if you ask me — especially for the UAE! The car itself looks much more aggressive than the standard Levante however my major issue with the exterior is you cannot tell the difference between a Trofeo, GTS and an S unless looking closely. Considering there’s large price difference between them all, I would have expected that the flagship SUV to be a little more extravagant when it comes to the aesthetics. I think the Levante is a good looking car, not too controversial but uses Maserati’s design language so it fits nicely in their current lineup. Aside from the game of ‘Who’s Who?’ I do think the Trofeo has improved the looks of the car which adds a more aggressive front fascia and stance to the car.
Over the few days I had the car, I travelled to Abu Dhabi, cruised around Dubai, explored the legendary roads of Jebel Jais and even tried a spot of off-roading on some sand. To start, it’s fast. It launches well and will see 62 mph in 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 185.8mph. I never pushed this car to it’s limits on track (even though it has a race mode – I just don’t think that’s the best use of a performance SUV, nor its brakes) so I can’t tell you if it has brake fade under really heavy braking or understeers if you turn in at 100mph but I can say that it surprised me on a spirited drive in Jebel Jais. The car is fitted with adaptive air suspension as standard and it really performs in the corners. Other SUV’s you would expect to feel very heavy and wallow-y with a lot of body roll but you won’t experience that with the Trofeo. It does very well to hide its 2,170 kg kerb weight. Don’t get me wrong, the handling is not going to be comparable to that of a mid-engined supercar but it is still very impressive for a SUV. The 8 speed ZF gearbox is ideal for cruising on the highway but can sometimes get confused or be hesitant when engaging in a bit more of a spirited drive, it doesn’t seem to like holding gears and wants to shift up prematurely. The engine is great and really does sing when you’re letting it rev out but lacks the dramatic cracks and bangs that can be found in the Trofeo’s competitors, this can seen as a positive or a negative depending on what side of the metaphorical fake sound fence you sit on. Driving it around town is very easy, it’s not a small car but it has really good visibility with enough sensors and cameras to get you in and out of any car park. In terms of off-road ability I can’t tell you with confidence that it’ll go down a green lane unscathed but it seems to ride over sand fine on the 21” rims with summer tyres (although there were a few times where the car struggled to gain traction, this could be due to my heavy right foot though). Fundamentally, the Levante Trofeo is still an SUV so is it the best car to drive in the world? No… But is it impressive for a SUV? Yes.
The Levante Trofeo is a good car, the cabin is a nice place to be for long journeys and the engine is straight out of a Ferrari but at 656,000 AED (Circa £133,000) it just doesn’t feel as special to drive around town as it’s competitors. Unfortunately, in the world of social media that we all now live in, part of the ownership when it comes to own a performance SUV is how much attention it gets when you’re seen in it. I understand that this is a very narcissistic and superficial issue to have but lets be honest, you’re not spending over £100k on a SUV because you like off-roading. Does it actually matter that your car isn’t being seen driven by a Kardashian? Probably not to most people. If anything, this is the choice for those who don’t want to blend into the crowd. Who actually cares about how their SUV drives and doesn’t care about being seen outside the club. I think that the Levante is a solid SUV that fits in with the current Maserati lineup but does it fit in the new world of social media? I think only time will tell as at the moment this is the only SUV that has a Ferrari engine in it, which is a talking point for sure. Maybe when Ferrari announces the highly anticipated Purosangue, the demand for SUV’s with Ferrari engines will go up and the Levante Trofeo will finally get the love it deserves. So would I buy a Trofeo? For me, no… I think the GTS is enough for what you want without spending the extra cash and it’s still very comparable to the British and German offerings in this sector.
If you want to see my video review of the Levante Trofeo, you can watch it below: