By Khulekani Dumisa
The world has gone absolutely crazy and we love it. Well, that in the context of “hyper” SUVs at least, and in particular the charming Maserati Levante Trofeo. Maserati has had SUVs going toe-to-toe with the likes of Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE. Nothing has quite given tthe performance models of these SUVs something to lose sleep over. Well, that’s until now. The Levante Trofeo is here to go toe-to-toe with these SUVs, including its Italian Compatriot, the Lamborghini Urus. The Trofeo might have an ace up its sleeve. No, it’s not just the Ferrari sourced engine or the orgasmic sound of the quad-pipped exhaust – although that counts for a lot – it’s actually its near perfect medley of performance and everyday living.
The Trofeo is the first Levante model equipped with Full LED adaptive headlights. The front is imposing yet handsome with a stretched grille that integrates a large trident and double vertical bars in Black Piano finish, and a lower honeycomb mesh fascia in black. The stand-out side air intakes, carbon fibre side bezels and carbon fibre splitter help to improve the airflow distribution.
The back design is restrained but not boring. The rear bumper incorporates sharper carbon fibre horizontal element and a body-colour lower extractor embracing the four oval exhaust tips with a dark finish stand out.
The Trofeo rides on 22-inch forged aluminium “Orione” wheels – the largest ever fitted on a Maserati. The front brakes have adopted 6-piston aluminium monobloc calipers working on 380 mm drilled discs. Aluminium floating calipers with 330 mm x 22 mm ventilated drilled discs are fitted at the rear. The performance brake calipers available in red, blue, black, silver or yellow, for added personalisation.
The plush interior features sports seats with a premium full-grain “Pieno Fiore” natural leather that is available in black, red or tan, all with contrast stitching and “Trofeo” logo embroidered on the headrests. Leather covers nearly every surface you can see or touch. On the seats, whilst they are uber comfortable, they lean more towards the comfort side more than the sporty side. They hug the driver more which would come handy in instances of spirited driving.
To balance things out and to save weight, a fair amount of carbon fibre is used in the cabin. Model specific paddle shifters, a redesigned gearshift lever, specific instrument cluster graphics, floor mats with metal Trofeo badges and a Maserati clock with a unique dial are adopted to highlight the special nature of the Trofeo.
The Trofeo uses the Maserati Touch Control Plus (MTC+) infotainment system with an 8.4” capacitive touchscreen. The system has satellite navigation and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It is made easy with the use of the rotary knob in the central console but the system is the weakest link of the otherwise flawless interior. The graphics don’t belong in the car of the Trofeo’s stature.
The Levante Trofeo is equipped with a 1,280-watt, 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium surround sound audio system for a concert hall sound experience. Trust us, you do not need this. The sound of the V8, even the most docile of settings, is intoxicating.
Engine and drive
The twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 is a re-engineered, upgraded version of the engine fitted in the flagship Quattroporte GTS, and on the Levante Trofeo it delivers 439 kW and 730 Nm of torque. Like any other Maserati petrol unit, this V8 has been developed by Maserati Powertrain in cooperation with Ferrari, and propels the super SUV from 0-100 km/h in just 3,9 seconds.
The Levante Trofeo is fitted with the competent eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox used on all the Levante versions. A new Corsa driving mode has been introduced to enhance the Levante’s sporty personality. Corsa mode is available in addition to the existing Normal, I.C.E., Sport and Off Road driving modes.
Maserati says the Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive has been designed to deliver a typical Maserati rear-wheel drive experience and has been updated to suit the requirements of the Levante Trofeo. In normal driving conditions, the Q4 provides 100% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels. On slippery or loose road surfaces, or in the event of loss of traction at the rear, the system can alter the front/rear torque split from 0:100% to 50:50% in a matter of 150 milliseconds.
In conjunction with the Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system, a mechanical Limited-Slip Differential (LSD), the torque-vectoring function considerably enhances the car’s sporty character: when cornering, the system distributes more torque to the outer wheels by applying a slight braking force to the inner wheels.
The obvious things and what will not surprise anyone is that the Trofeo is quick and sounds absolutely bonkers. We spent a few memorable hours with the Trofeo and took it to roads around the Cradle of Humankind. The immediate impression is that the Trofeo is eager to go. Notwithstanding its size, the Trofeo leaps off the line like something far lighter. As such, we inadvertently won every robot-to-robot grand prix chase. The Trofeo is not just for straight lines. The Italian SUV also leaps into corners very well and importantly, delivers you out of them with a lot of grace and dignity. Whilst the capability of the car was no doubt what we came to experience, the comfort levels left an ever-lasting impression. The expectation from a performance vehicle, including SUVs, is that they are firm and at times uncomfortable. You are consistently sold the notion that sportiness and performance is a fair compromise for a luxurious drive of comfort. Not in the Trofeo. The car is more comfortable than some non-performance luxury sedans. You can literally driving the car daily and not fear permanent damage to your lower back. Maserati really has to be commended for achieving such a perfect balance between sportiness and comfort.
The Maserati Levante Trofeo is priced from R3,5million.
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