2019 Maserati Levante Trofeo / GTS First Drive Review

The wine glasses are rapidly draining. It’s getting late, and Maserati design chief Klaus Busse appears to be fighting a cold. Yet he can’t resist sketching something on a menu to illustrate his point. The A6GCS quickly takes shape. One of the most celebrated Maseratis ever, Busse uses this beacon to reconcile the Italian marque’s transition to crossovers. It’s how he explains and rationalizes the Levante, a stylish SUV aimed directly at the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe.

The A6GCS, a rare, Pininfarina-built sports car, lives on in today’s Maseratis, he argues. This includes the Levante, a handsome crossover aimed at suburban cruisers bored with the notion of German luxury. Can a brand with rich sporting heritage reconcile with evolving market trends? It must, even if the connection to a mythical 1950s racer is a bit tenuous. But a pair of Ferrari-powered V8 twins, the Levante GTS and Levante Trofeo, make that progression easier. Prodigious outputs of 550 and 590 horsepower help.

They are the top-shelf Levantes. You buy them when the powerful twin-turbo V6 Levante and Levante S simply won’t do. You’re talking six-figure prices, decadent interiors and more than a bit of bling. Well-heeled professionals drive the Levante, which starts at $75,980 and packs 345 hp, or pony up $11,000 for the Levante S and its 424 horses. The V8 starts at $119,980 for the GTS, and the Trofeo comes in at a lofty $169,980. These buyers haven’t just made it, they’re likely set for life. “We’re not in the boy racer clientele,” Busse says. “There’s a certain level of accomplishment that you feel in driving a Maserati.”

But this engine is no laughing matter. Paired with the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s powerful, eager and provides the Levante Trofeo with a spirit that does hark back to the A6GCS (technically, that car had six cylinders, but let’s not get in the way of a good story). The 550-hp version in the GTS is more than capable. They both make 538 pound-feet of torque. I hardly notice the difference during back-to-back drives.

They feel special in a way some of the German brands don’t, for that matter. Not better, necessarily, but there is a reason enthusiasts still lust for Italian products. And if the Levante is your Italian good of choice, go with the GTS. It’s just as much fun, you save a lot of money and you’re still part of the exclusive Ferrari V8 club. Contemplate that over a sip of Chianti.