2020 Maserati Levante Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Sep 16, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Maserati deals!

Maserati is getting ready to reinvent itself, as shown by its recent introduction of the MC20 mid-engine sports car. Additionally, a redesigned 2021 Maserati GranTurismo is coming soon, as well as a new Maserati Grecale compact SUV. All told, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is planning several new models between now and 2024, including electrified vehicles.

In the meantime, loud, gas-fueled, traditional Italian fare is on the menu, including the 2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo. Equipped with a twin-turbocharged, Ferrari-sourced 3.8-liter V-8 engine and the highest quality materials available for the 5-passenger midsize SUV, the Levante Trofeo is a compelling study of contrasts.

2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo Red Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

It’s parked at the top of a Levante lineup that spans in price from just over $75,000 to nearly $170,000. For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Levante Trofeo equipped with 3D Carbon Fiber interior trim and 22-inch wheels. The price came to $174,595, including the $1,495 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Maserati deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Levante, it is helpful to understand who buys this upper midsize premium SUV, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 63% of owners in this segment are male (vs. 60% across the entire automotive market), and the median age of an owner is 56 years (matching the market).

Owners say their favorite things about upper midsize premium SUVs are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving feel, feeling of safety, interior design, and driving comfort in a tie with powertrain. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the overall automotive market:

  • Vehicle protection
  • Power of engine/motor
  • Exterior styling
  • Smoothness of engine/motor
  • Driver’s seat comfort

Owners indicate their least favorite things about this type of vehicle are (in descending order) the setting up and starting, getting in and out, infotainment system, and fuel economy. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the overall automotive market:

  • Fuel economy/driving range
  • Getting in and out of the third-row seat
  • Operating the vehicle remotely
  • Using voice assistance
  • Using navigation

The Maserati Levante was not a part of the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Maserati deals!

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his perceptions about how the 2020 Maserati Levante measures up in each of the ten categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

More than some luxury SUVs, the Maserati Levante wears its corporate styling themes like the proverbial custom-tailored Italian suit. From the oversized trident emblem in the center of the concave grille and the trio of fender vents on each side of the SUV to its oversized Maserati script logo under the rear window, the automaker’s current styling themes fit the Levante well.

2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo Red Rear View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

In Trofeo specification, the Levante includes full LED adaptive headlights with automatic high-beam operation, a hood punctured by functional air extractors, reworked lower front and rear bumpers, carbon-fiber exterior trim, and four dark-finish exhaust outlets separated by a unique diffuser panel. The changes are sufficiently sporty.

Interior

Overall, the Levante’s control layout is sensible, right down to the center console knob and buttons that offer just one of the several ways to operate the infotainment system. The analog speedometer reads to 230 mph, making the numbers and increments between them hard to read, and Maserati locates the engine start button in an odd place. Otherwise, the Levante is easy to use.

2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

However, the common FCA parts bin appears to be the source of too many interior components. For example, the control pod for the power windows and power mirrors is virtually identical to what you’ll find in Dodge, Jeep, and Ram vehicles. And the Maserati Touch Control infotainment system is the same thing as the Uconnect 8.4 technology used in other FCA products. Keep in mind, though, that the Levante’s base price starts where a Jeep Grand Cherokee leaves off. With fully bespoke bits and pieces, this Maserati would cost far more money.

In pricey Trofeo specification, the Levante has exclusive interior fittings and detailing. Maserati wraps the sport seats in Pieno Fiore full-grain naturally-tanned leather with exposed stitching and an embroidered Trofeo logo on the head restraints. This version of the SUV also includes a simulated suede headliner, matte carbon-fiber trim, and full leather-wrapped dashboard and door panels in addition to other minor details. The fixed aluminum paddle shifters are things of beauty.

Still, based on the interior, the Levante Trofeo doesn’t strike me as worth the money, in part because plenty of creaking emanates from this cabin.

Getting In and Out

The ease with which you get into and out of the Maserati Levante is typical for the class, though the Trofeo’s sport-bolstered seats add a little extra difficulty. You can make it easier by lowering the Trofeo’s standard air suspension.

For improved support and a better view out, I prefer to sit high in a vehicle. With the driver’s seat in my preferred position, it was challenging to find the seatbelt buckle and to latch the seatbelt, due in part to the seat bolsters.

Behind the rear seats, cargo space measures 20.5 cubic feet. This amount is not generous, and the Levante’s rakish roofline is to blame. You simply can’t stack things very high. The maximum volume with the rear seats folded down is 57.4 cubic feet, also a small number for a midsize SUV.

Setting Up and Starting

After you remember that the engine start button is located low and to the left of the steering wheel, push it, and the Levante Trofeo roars to life with a satisfying growl.

Your first time out in the Levante, you’ve got plenty to do to configure the SUV to your personal preferences. Using both the driver information center between the gauges and the Maserati Touch Control infotainment system, it took me a good 20 minutes to go through everything and to set the SUV up to my preferences. The process is not always intuitive, and I got unexpected results on a couple of occasions, but for the most part, this endeavor is simple, if long.

Note that through the driver information center, you can set up a speed warning, which is always helpful in a vehicle equipped with a twin-turbocharged Ferrari V-8.

Infotainment System

Because Maserati Touch Control is essentially the same thing as FCA’s Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system, it is easy and intuitive to use. You can operate the technology using the 8.4-inch touchscreen, or the forged aluminum rotary knob and buttons on the center console, or the steering wheel controls, or the voice recognition system to operate the technology. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and navigation are standard, and the Levante includes handy volume and tuning buttons on the backs of the steering wheel spokes.

The voice recognition technology does not recognize natural-language prompts, but the commands it requires are ones you would likely use in the first place. Plus, when you activate the voice recognition, a menu shows on the display offering guidance about requesting information. Using my usual list of test prompts, I found the system unable to change the radio station to reggae music, and when I asked for the nearest hospital, it also showed me local dentist offices.

A 17-speaker, 1,280-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system is standard in the Levante Trofeo. This upgrade should be cause for celebration, but in this Maserati, the sound quality is hit-and-miss, depending on the type of music. Ultimately, it impresses, but it’s not as clear and immersive as a B&W setup in a Volvo SUV.

Keeping You Safe

Maserati equips the Levante Trofeo with every advanced driving assist system in the FCA arsenal. That includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, lane-centering assistance, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, automatic high-beam headlights, and a traffic sign recognition system.

Highway Assist is also standard, a Level 2 semi-autonomous driving technology that pairs the adaptive cruise with lane-centering assistance to make more extended highway drives easier. It requires the driver to hold the steering wheel, and during testing, it issued a single false alert asking me to grip the wheel when I already was.

Highway Assist is a smooth and accurate system, and thanks to the Levante Trofeo’s prodigious power, it responds quickly when traffic ahead clears. In only a few instances, the lane-centering technology did something other than what I wanted, and even then, Highway Assist’s behavior did not inspire me to turn it off.

Powertrain

Maserati fits the Levante Trofeo with one of the most powerful engines ever offered in one of its vehicles. Developed by Maserati Powertrain in cooperation with Ferrari, and assembled by Ferrari in Maranello, Italy, the re-engineered twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-8 makes 590 horsepower at 6,250 rpm and 538 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,500 rpm to 5,000 rpm. 

It uses an 8-speed automatic transmission and has a standard Q4 all-wheel drive with a mechanical limited-slip rear differential providing torque vectoring. Maserati says all of the engine’s power flows to the rear wheels until traction conditions warrant transfer of up to half of the motive force to the front axle.

Driving models include ICE (Increased Control and Efficiency), Normal, Sport, and Off-Road. These settings adjust the Levante’s throttle response, transmission shifting, Q4 AWD settings, exhaust note, and suspension. 

Exclusive to the Levante Trofeo, a Corsa mode with Launch Control is responsible for maximum performance, and also adjusts the sensitivity levels of the traction and stability control systems. Maserati says the Levante Trofeo accelerates to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and can reach a top speed of 187 mph.

Nothing short of phenomenal, this drivetrain is highly addictive. The glorious power, the endless stream of thrust, the aria emanating from the exhaust system, and how it shoves you back into your seat all add up to a real thrill ride. Of course, there is a price to be paid for this level of power and performance, and it comes at the fuel pump.

Fuel Economy

The EPA says the Levante Trofeo will get 14 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway, and 15 mpg in combined driving. Remarkably, I averaged 16.6 mpg on my testing loop, and I didn’t use the ICE driving mode even once.

Equipped with a 21.1-gallon fuel tank, a Levante Trofeo could provide 350 miles of driving range based on my real-world result. However, since you’re likely to leave yourself a cushion, plan to stop at the gas station every 300 miles or so, and even more frequently if you often dip into the SUV’s bottomless well of power. 

Driving Comfort

Though the Levante’s front sport seats have significant bolstering, they need adjustable bolsters to contend with the fierce grip from the massive 22-inch wheels and performance tires. On multiple occasions, I wished the seats were holding me tighter as I fought to remain planted behind the steering wheel.

Otherwise, the Levante’s cabin is comfortable front and rear, and you can set up automatic seat heating and ventilation through the Maserati Touch Control infotainment system. People spending this kind of money might wish for seat massagers, but they’re not available.

Rear-seat occupants enjoy good foot space, but legroom is merely adequate. My shins rested against the hard lower seatback material, causing occasional pain. The seat itself is quite comfortable, supplying terrific thigh support and a perfect seatback recline angle. Air conditioning vents and power rear side window shades help to ensure happy passengers, too.

Given the enormous wheels and tires, it might not come as a surprise that the Levante Trofeo suffers from evident road noise within the cabin. Still, there is more of it than expected, given the price tag.

Driving Feel

According to the automaker, the test vehicle’s optional 22-inch forged aluminum wheels are the largest ever fitted to a Maserati. They’re wrapped in 265/35 front and 295/30 rear Continental SportContact 6 tires that supply outstanding grip.

Weight is distributed evenly over the SUV’s front and rear axles, and the Trofeo includes a re-tuned adaptive suspension with Air Spring control. Drivers select between six height levels providing nearly three inches of total ride-height range.

Maserati says the Trofeo is the first Levante with Integrated Vehicle Control for improved driving dynamics. This technology embeds predictive engine speed and braking adaptations for different driving situations into the traction and stability control system, to help a driver to maintain control better and specifically to limit understeer.

Braking components include 6-piston aluminum front calipers clamping 15-inch drilled discs, and rear aluminum floating calipers paired with 13-inch drilled discs. Maserati says these stoppers can haul the SUV down from 60 mph in about 110 feet.

During most of my driving on the 135-mile testing loop, the Levante’s brake pedal felt a little soft and, when driving in traffic, was sometimes challenging to modulate for smooth operation. This, however, doesn’t mean the brakes themselves are not sufficient. While running fast down several twisty mountain roads, they proved that they’re up to the task.

Steering effort and feel are on the heavy and artificial side, and response, though quick for an SUV, is not as fast as it should be for a performer like this one. The on-center feel is fine, with just a little bit of play.

Like most SUVs, the Levante’s center of gravity is high, which means the suspension works overtime to control roll, dive, squat, and pitch. Here, the adaptive air suspension succeeds as long as you’ve chosen Sport mode. In Normal mode, the Levante feels like a giant marshmallow, perhaps even making you prone to motion sickness.

With Sport mode engaged, the Levante displayed excellent roll control, and the Q4 AWD system’s torque vectoring was blatantly evident, the rear outside wheel digging in and pointing the SUV’s nose in the desired direction. Add manual shifting using the long, slender paddles, and the Levante Trofeo proved enormously fun to drive.

Dynamically, the main issue with the Levante is a perceived lack of structural rigidity. This SUV’s underlying architecture just doesn’t feel particularly robust, and on imperfect pavement, there is a lot of creaking, squeaking, and rattling within the cabin.

Final Impressions - Find the best Maserati deals!

No doubt, the Maserati Levante, and especially the Trofeo, is an emotional choice in an SUV. From the sensual styling and the pedigree of the powertrain to the phenomenal power and the wailing exhaust, this is a special vehicle that tugs at the heartstrings.

My testing route runs through ritzy Montecito, California (right by Oprah’s house, in fact). Here, Land Rover Range Rovers are a dime a dozen. But you never see Levantes. That makes this Maserati exclusive even in this tony geographic region. 

That exclusivity, coupled with the Trofeo’s high-end materials and extraordinary performance, will no doubt appeal to people willing to accept this SUV’s flaws in exchange for driving something nobody else does.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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