The first major swing comes from simply looking at the Levante Trofeo. It’s a very attractive SUV, with muscular fenders, a sharply creased hood and the corporate grille that looks better here than on either of Maserati’s sedans. This SUV looks especially menacing in my tester’s Rosso Magma paint (a $17,000 option!), which plays the aggression note well alongside blacked-out trim and 22-inch anthracite-finished alloy wheels. Hints of carbon fiber peek through on the lower bumper, but the car is generally devoid of the stuff — a positive personal note, because I think it’s getting pretty played out. The rear end keeps things interesting with a sloping roofline that gives this ute a hatchback-ish look, and you’ll never hear me complain about a big set of tailpipes.
Open the Levante Trofeo’s pillarless door, though, and the pendulum starts its return trip. The leather is supple, the shift paddles are prominent and the Alcantara microfiber on the headliner adds a premium touch, but that’s where the visual love affair ends. The high-gloss carbon-fiber trim looks and feels chintzy, and the satin-finish plastic around the center console controls is even cheaper. But the most unacceptable part of the Trofeo, which starts at $157,695 including destination, is the window and headlight switchgear. The windshield wiper stalk, start button and headlight toggle can be found on nearly every other Stellantis vehicle, and despite flicking a bit of chrome onto them, there’s no ignoring that the window switches were designed in the DaimlerChrysler era. Those parts feel about as cheap as you can imagine.
Thankfully, the Levante Trofeo has a sufficient amount of practicality. The door-panel cubbies are on the small side, but they’re deep enough to hold a water bottle. There’s a storage tray ahead of the cup holders, as well as a sizable spot underneath the center armrest atop that massive transmission tunnel. Even with that sloping roof, the rear seats are more than comfortable enough for two adults. The only sore spot here is the trunk, which offers just 20.5 cubic feet of storage behind the second row, a far cry from the BMW X5 M (33.9 cu. ft.), Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S (33.3) and Porsche Cayenne (27.2).
Initial driving impressions of the 2022 Maserati Levante Trofeo send the pendulum back toward the good stuff at full speed. Its engine is an absolute peach. This twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 puts out 580 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque, enough to shoot this ute to 60 mph in just 3.8 seconds. The sounds coming from the tailpipes are simply excellent, whether it’s in the standard Strada or the new balls-to-the-wall Corsa mode. Even when I’m not being kind to it, the V8 is smooth and free of any unwanted harshness. The eight-speed automatic transmission swaps gears with the same degree of silkiness, to the point where I never feel the need to take matters into my own hands via those fixed-position paddles.
Taking the Levante Trofeo out to my favorite local driving roads reveals more excitement. No matter the drive mode, the Maserati is happy to be tossed into corners. There’s a fair bit of body roll, even in Sport and Corsa modes, but I prefer it; limits are communicated well before they’re reached, and in a 580-hp SUV weighing a hair under 5,000 pounds, that’s for the best. The 265/35R22 Continental CrossContact all-season tires provide the Levante with ample grip, the steering is precise and the throttle packs the right amount of sensitivity.
But for every action in this Maserati, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Overall, the Levante’s air suspension is a little confounding. In its default setting, the ride is simultaneously wishy-washy and stiff, feeling too soft over light undulations and too harsh over inconsistencies. Move to a sportier setting and the floaty bits are replaced with more on-road ruthlessness, which isn’t fun unless I’m on a freshly paved road. The brake pedal is extremely soft, a sport-SUV aberration, which makes smooth stops difficult. The front seats are built for the Rubenesque (another Stellantis-wide phenomenon), so my torso slips and slaps against the sides with each successive switchback. Fuel economy leaves a lot to be desired, too, at an EPA-estimated 13 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.
The final high-water mark for the Levante Trofeo doesn’t even come from Maserati. Living on an 8.4-inch touchscreen, the car runs a reskinned version of Stellantis’ Uconnect, known as Maserati Touch Control Plus. This system is excellent, with above-average responsiveness and a menu layout that is easy to master. Safety tech is impressive for an expensive performance vehicle, too, with standard kit including automatic emergency braking, parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view camera, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control. Active Driving Assist combines the last two features to hold the Levante in its lane on the highway, but I find its microcorrections to be a little too obvious; it’s smoother when I do it myself.
Some of the 2022 Maserati Levante Trofeo’s sins would be forgivable if it weren’t priced like a limited-run watch. While the Levante lineup starts at $83,295 (including $1,495 for destination), the Trofeo requires nearly double that amount. Throw in fripperies like $450 for carbon-fiber paddle shifters, $400 for upgraded alloy wheels, $500 for gloss-black brake calipers and the practically criminal $17,000 coat of red paint, and my tester waters the eyes at $173,550. That’s tens of thousands of dollars more than you would spend on a BMW X5 M or a Porsche Cayenne Turbo; both may make less power, but both are also vastly better cars for more reasons than I have ink.
Buying a car in this segment, at this price, is a highly emotional purchase. And in that vein, there are many reasons to consider the 2022 Maserati Levante Trofeo. The powertrain is delightful, and it’s engaging when the driving gets spirited. But a deeper look past the initial luster reveals its fair share of issues. The Levante Trofeo is a sport SUV that can elicit all kinds of emotions. Too bad they aren’t all positive.