2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo Review - Ferrari heart transplant

  • Ferrari V8 is a dream
  • Ridiculously powerful for a crossover
  • Soundtrack is stupendous
  • Styling turns heads
  • Some cabin trim just doesn't live up to the $150k price
  • Brake pedal feel a little soft
  • Doesn't like rough asphalt

You can't accuse the 2020 Maserati Levante Trofeo of lacking focus. Indeed, you could make a solid argument that in Trofeo form, this is a supercar in crossover disguise. The Ferrari roots of the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 make it one of the most affordable ways to put a Maranello engine on your driveway, and Maserati makes throughly good use of it.

590 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque are legitimately monstrous numbers, and take the small SUV from 0-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. Top speed is 189 mph.

There's no manual transmission option, unsurprisingly, but Maserati's ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic is no consolation prize. It's fast and smooth, and positively eager to downshift and keep the engine howling – and you right in the midst of peak power – particularly if you click over to Sport mode.

Maserati pairs that with standard all-wheel drive, a limited-slip differential, air suspension and its electronic damping system. You can independently adjust how firm the ride is from the drive mode, but even the normal settings err on the firm side. 22-inch wheels with skinny rubber don't exactly help there either, but pay dividends when you're pushing harder.

Few cars encourage bad behavior quite like the Levante Trofeo. It's not just that it's quick – though it is – but that it sounds the part, too. The huge tailpipes poking through the carbon fiber rear diffuser have the head-turning power of an orchestra's full brass section and, since they and the V8 sound particularly good above 3k rpm or so, there's plenty of motivation for a lead foot.

Things can be a little more unsettling come the corners, the higher center of gravity combined with a slightly softer-than-expected brake pedal sapping a little of your confidence. There's lots of grip, though you have to learn to trust that the rumbles imperfect asphalt telegraph through to the cabin aren't a sign of fading traction. Don't expect to hit the EPA's 15 mpg combined figure if you drive that way, either, but then nobody really cares about fuel economy in a Ferrari, either.

What that Ferrari can't give you is room for a regular family. Officially the Levante is a crossover, but in low-slung Trofeo form and with its swooping roofline, there's a little of the performance wagon to its curves. That's not, to my mind, a bad thing.

At the front, the gaping grille and oversized trident logo are flanked by cruelly squinting LED headlights. Bulging fenders and ample hips take you to a curvaceous rear. There are moments of Italian brashness, some of which work – like the daytime running lights which cut into the grille surround – and others which aren't so effective – the trio of front fender vents on each side smack a little of 2000s Buick – but it definitely looks the part overall.

For all the Levante Trofeo flatters some of the senses, though, it's not a clean sweep. For a $150k crossover, some of the cabin detailing is far too much like what you'd find in another FCA Group vehicle. Switchgear and infotainment graphics that are lifted from Dodge and Chrysler models a fraction of the price just don't fit with the Maserati's upmarket positioning.

It's frustrating, because Maserati clearly can deliver on a premium feel when it puts the effort in. The paddle-shifters, for example, are curved slabs of metal that feel more like Game of Thrones weapons; the leather seats and carbon fiber trim are plush and high-quality. The result is a cabin that feels scattershot at best, an annoyance that's all the more glaring when you consider FCA stablemate Alfa Romeo has cheaper cars but still manages to deliver more distinctively-unique interiors.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are onboard as standard – wired, not wireless – as is a 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system that sounds almost as good as the engine. You get all the expected active safety tech as well, including Maserati's Highway Assist which combines adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping. Space in the back is sufficient for adults, and the trunk holds 20.5 cu-ft with the rear seats up. That's definitely not huge, for the segment.

The question is whether those compromises are acceptable in a car that costs, as reviewed, $151,190 plus $1,495 destination. The Levante Trofeo certainly turns heads whether parked or running, and the allure of the Ferrari engine is undeniable. Problem is, with so much of the budget going on that glorious V8, you need to be willing to live with compromises elsewhere that other luxury crossovers don't demand.