Maserati Levante Trofeo.
Maserati Levante Trofeo.

Finally it's a Maserati! SUV gets a V8 from Ferrari

In the space of three years, the Maserati Levante SUV has become the company's bestseller, accounting for more than half its sales. Now the factory has put hair on its chest with the addition of a thumping 434kW twin-turbo, Ferrari-derived V8.

The V8 versions, the GTS and Trofeo, made their debuts at this year's Geneva show and initially were destined only for the United States and the Middle East. Distribution has been extended to include Australia.

Under the sleek five-seat SUV panels, the Trofeo and slightly milder GTS pack the most powerful mainstream production engines yet installed in a Maserati.

The Maserati is powered by a Ferrari derived V8 engine.
The Maserati is powered by a Ferrari derived V8 engine.

The V8 catapults the Levante on to the world's fastest SUV podium, the Trofeo taking third place behind the Jeep Cherokee Trackhawk and Lamborghini Urus.

The Trofeo clocks 3.9 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint and tops out at 304km/h, while the GTS takes 4.2 seconds on its way to 292km/h.

In the Maserati stable, this puts the Levante only marginally behind the MC12 of 2005 - a LeMans racer disguised as a car, it was based on the Ferrari Enzo.

The Levante's 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 is made by Ferrari in Maranello and is a modified version of that used in the Quattroporte sedan stablemate and Ferrari's 488.

The Trofeo can sprint from 0-100km/h in under four seconds.
The Trofeo can sprint from 0-100km/h in under four seconds.

To accommodate the front driveshaft, the V8 gets a new sump, oil pump and wiring. There are two new parallel, twin-scroll turbochargers and revised internals, giving it a power increase of 118kW over the regular V6 Levante S.

Adding the V8 brings the Levante's kerb weight to a hefty 2170kg but it makes light and lusty work of accelerating. Select launch control in the Trofeo, stab the throttle and it immediately answers the question of what's been missing in the Levante - this is an entirely different car to the V6 to hustle.

In addition to off-road settings, there are sport and corsa (track) drive modes. The latter makes for swifter gear changes, drops the air suspension by up to 75mm, stiffens the suspension damping and alters the all-wheel drive settings with up to 100 per cent rear-wheel drive bias.

The Levante weighs more than two tonnes.
The Levante weighs more than two tonnes.

Power goes to the road via a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and 22-inch forged aluminium alloy wheels, the largest ever fitted to a Maserati. The brand has overlooked Italian Pirelli rubber in favour of German Continental tyres, backed by huge 380mm front and 330mm rear disc brakes.

These are fade-free, even after several huge stops and a few launch control runs down an airstrip.

Off-road, the GTS has enough ground clearance to deal with large obstacles and the hill-descent assist removes any panic on steep sections of loose gravel - the anti-lock works its magic independently on each wheel to avoid locking.

The Trofeo is the third fastest SUV in the world.
The Trofeo is the third fastest SUV in the world.

The variable ride height has six settings, from 175mm clearance in corsa mode to 210mm in the off-road setting. Finding the sweet spot for swift country road driving doesn't take long.

With no shortage of grunt under the right foot, responsive transmission and suspension in firm mode, overtaking in the Levante is as slick and confident as in the rival Urus and is a match for most dedicated, low-slung sportsters.

When it comes to handling, it leaves its only other rival, the floaty Jeep Trackhawk, floundering. Stopping power is superior to the Jeep's, too.

Cosmetically, the GTS gets more aggressive lower front styling and rear bumper, a grille with double vertical bars and honeycomb mesh in the lower section. The Trofeo stands out, adding black piano finish to the grille, lower front splitter, bonnet vents and body coloured door handles.

The Levante features a plush interior.
The Levante features a plush interior.

Both now get LED headlights for significantly better illumination and cut-out tech that keeps the high beam on without dazzling oncoming drivers.

The interior is much like the V6 Levante S, but for the premium audio - a 1280W, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins set-up. Minor tweaks include matt carbon-fibre weave and paddle-shifters.

The 8.4-inch touchscreen recognises drag, scroll, swipe and rotate gestures and includes digital radio, Bluetooth, satnav and smartphone mirroring.

Australian deliveries are expected to start in about six months. The Levante V8 is priced at the top end of the scale but potential buyers can expect local versions to come standard with virtually every extra-cost option in other markets - and to outgun just about any other SUV on the road.

Maserati Levante Trofeo vitals

Price: $330,000 (GTS $265,000)

Engine: 3.8-litre V8 twin-turbo, 434kW/730Nm (GTS 404kW/730Nm)

Thirst: 13.5L/100km (est)

0-100km/h: 3.9 seconds (4.2 secs)

Top speed: 304km/h (292km/h)