Not content with squeezing the engine from a Ferrari 488 into its Levante GTS, Maserati turns up the wick and adds more aggressive styling to create the even sportier Levante Trofeo.
In the Metal:
There's one easy way to differentiate the Maserati Levante Trofeo from other high-performance models in the range, and that's by the bonnet. It gets two tasteful yet equally purposeful breather vents on top to help keep the turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 cool. Subtle 'Saetta' Trofeo badges that feature the Maserati trident emblem adorn the C-pillars too, but overall this range-topping version still manages to maintain a degree of visual discretion in comparison to some other pumped up SUVs. Other styling touches on the Trofeo include an all-black surround for the front grille, carbon fibre inserts for the front and rear bumpers and the vertical air blades at the front. The side sills also get wider to beef up its image.
Meanwhile, the Pieno Fiore leather upholstery and Alcantara headlining are complemented by flashes of glossy carbon fibre trim to create what is mostly a suitably premium-feeling interior. Some of the switches and the functionality of the infotainment system doesn't quite carry this off as well though. The carbon fibre paddles shifters look and feel like they're straight out of a thoroughbred supercar and encourage you to use them more than you might otherwise. OEMs that still fit cheap, small plastic paddles, take note: this is how it should be done.
Aside from the uprated performance, the Levante Trofeo still manages to do the SUV thing quite well. Rear passenger space is adequate, and the boot capacity measures in at 580 litres. The rear seats can also fold forward in a 60:40 split to boost cargo capacity, meaning you'll never get home from Ikea so quickly.
Any discretion promised by the visuals evaporates when you fire up the engine. Being Italian, it's all about theatre, so it barks loudly before settling down to a low rumble. While it's headline-grabbing to say that the Levante Trofeo uses a Ferrari-sourced engine, it is worth pointing out that, while the engine does share some of the core architecture of Ferrari's own unit, and it is assembled in Maranello, it also features numerous changes that Maserati has developed to make it more unique. In this Trofeo spec the power output increases to 580hp - 50hp more than the Levante GTS gets - making it the most potent V8 engine Maserati has produced for a road car, and the second-most powerful in its history. Only the limited-run Maserati MC12 hypercar had more.
One way to exploit that power is to sample the car's launch control feature. In comparison to some other similar systems, it is a bit of a faff to engage, requiring you first to select Corsa mode, then a double pull on the left paddle shifter and a very firm left foot on the brake to build up pressure in the system. The progress of this is displayed in front of you on the instrument panel. Only when you have sufficient brake pressure loaded can you then apply the throttle. The revs build and sit around 3,500rpm. Then all you need to do is take your foot off the accelerator pedal and hold on tight.
Even on a long and wide runway, somewhere that can typically alter your sense of real speed, the Trofeo feels impressively fast for an SUV. With a clean getaway, it'll surge past the 100km/h barrier in 4.1 seconds. We ran out of runway before getting close to the claimed 299km/h top speed (in markets outside Europe the top speed is quoted as 304km/h), but rest assured: this thing is fast.
That Corsa mode is one of the additional elements that differentiates the Trofeo from the Levante GTS. When activated, it lowers the air suspension to aid handling and stability at higher speeds while the damping settings adjust, too. There is less intervention from the stability and traction control systems too, and gear change times decrease from 230 milliseconds to 150 milliseconds. When you're pushing hard in suitable conditions, these things all might count, but in reality, for mere mortals, the enhancements are likely too small to be significant.
For the level of performance that's on offer, the Trofeo's all-wheel-drive transmission does a solid job in allowing drivers to use all the power without the car stepping out of line. Even in the Corsa mode (where the driver aids are turned down) and on damp Italian roads, it took quite a degree of commitment to unsettle the Levante. The steering has a decent amount of feel to it, and it's more heavily weighted in said Corsa mode. Under heavy braking, the Brembos do haul up the Levante Trofeo well, though we would enjoy it more if they felt just a little sharper and had more pedal feel. Considering the increased cost of the Trofeo version, along with the added power, some might expect to see some carbon ceramic brakes employed here, or even offered as an option, but no.
What you get for your Money:
Being the range-topper, Maserati throws almost everything at the Trofeo. As we mentioned above, there are numerous exterior and interior styling changes to separate it. The standard wheel is a 21-inch rim with the option to add larger 22-inch wheels. Other features include a surround view camera system, ventilated front seats (in addition to them being heated) and a kick sensor for the electrically operated boot. All four doors also have a soft close function. However, the single most significant feature that the Levante Trofeo comes with is bragging rights. In the range this one is the king.
The Maserati Levante Trofeo isn't cheap. There's no point beating about the bush on that. There are some neat styling touches and the interior is better in the Trofeo, but if you're going to compare cabin quality and finish, the Maserati doesn't come out ahead of what you'll find in an Audi, Porsche or Mercedes-AMG. But it's also likely to be a less common sight than some of its rivals, and that alone is probably enough of a reason for some prospective buyers. A car like this, despite its relatively practical features, still resides in the emotional purpose column.