Maserati has an established identity: the Italian carmaker produces luxury performance vehicles, with a strong emphasis on the luxury. A Maserati offers the opulent style of an idealized Italian villa, along with the quirks of owning a real life Italian villa. It would not be a true Maserati without the finest pieno fiore leather. It would not be a true Maserati without at least one vital switch located in a bizarre position invisible to the driver.
Despite that clear identity and a litany of interesting, memorable cars over the decades, Maserati has seldom found firm footing. Multiple owners have tried reviving and reinventing the Trident mark with different priorities. Maserati has usually struggled to grow beyond its small base of enthusiasts. FCA wants to rebrand Maserati again — this time with a healthy dose of Ferrari technology.
The Prancing Horse will maintain its exclusivity, chasing F1 titles and building supercars for princes, footballers and layabout Hawaii-based private eyes. Maserati will be the practical arm, bringing Ferrari technology to more mundane concerns. In the future, that may mean a slate of mind-blowingly quick electric cars. Right now, it is expanding into the hottest of high-end markets: luxury SUVs.
Maserati unveiled the Levante SUV in 2016. The 2018 SUV fleet will see a major upgrade with two specially modified versions of Ferrari’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8. Maserati trotted out the 590-horsepower Levante Trofeo in March, with “Corsa” mode, launch control and premium detailing. There will also be a cheaper, but still potent 550-horsepower Levante GTS. The SUVs will accelerate from 0-60mph in 3.7 and 4.0 seconds respectively; both will have top speeds exceeding 180 mph.
Is it time to cast aside your Land Rovers and Porsche Cayennes for a Ferrari-powered but still family friendly future? That depends on what type of person you are.
The Good: The Levante looks spectacular. Maserati translated its characteristic styling to the SUV realm seamlessly. The Levante is eye-catching, elegant and has more than a whiff of Maserati’s Alfieri concept from earlier this decade. There’s the classic fine leather and wood paneling. It’s a car that demands your attention in what can be a bland and lifeless market segment. The Q4 intelligent all-wheel-drive system gives you rear-wheel drive for everyday performance and all-wheel drive when you need it.
Watch Out For: While bulky, the Levante is more of a “crossover” or “raised hatchback” road cruiser than an “SUV,” especially if opting for the Trofeo and the 22-inch wheels. It does have an adjustable air suspension that can raise the height for off-roading. It’s uncertain whether any Maserati owner has deployed that feature in the wild. The car feels wide with a low-riding driver’s seat. If “commanding ride height” is your thing, you should look elsewhere. Some of the buttons and shifters feel wonky – this is a Maserati – and look like they were cribbed from more common FCA vehicles.
Value: The Levante is using Ferrari power to match the market, not redefine it. The GTS, starting at about $120,000, is about the same price as a turbocharged Range Rover, a Mercedes G-Class or a Porsche Cayenne Turbo. It’s a little more expensive than the BMW X6 M. The Trofeo, starting at $170,000, will be significantly cheaper than the Lamborghini Urus. About the same cost as the competition delivers about the same performance. All of these cars offer V8s in the mid-500s, similar track times and similar fancy sounding leather seats. The difference is a matter of taste. The Levante isn’t a practical or economic purchase. But, a Maserati shouldn’t be that.
Verdict: The $50,000 upgrade to the Trofeo over the GTS seems quite steep for 40 extra horsepower, more aggressive details and track features you may never use. If you’re considering the GTS, why not stay within the FCA family and spend $40,000 less on the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio? It’s still Ferrari powered, albeit with a V6. It has more than 500hp. It’s faster off the line (3.6 seconds to go 0-60mph). It has the Q4 system. It has the sleek Italian styling. Worried you may miss the Maserati experience? The money saved will be almost enough to buy a few years-old, mildly used GranTurismo that is all but identical to the new one.
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