So, not exactly the best environment to sample the 550-horsepower, V8-powered leviathan of a performance SUV known as the 2019 Maserati Levante GTS. Sure, it has all-wheel drive and a limited-slip rear differential, but those are traction aids, not magic. In any event, our time with the "lesser" of two V8-powered Levantes would be limited, compromised and extremely damp, but several laps around the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Mich., nevertheless provided a taste of what one might expect under better conditions.
Chiefly, you can expect noise. Beautiful, beautiful noise. Even with our heads and ears encased in helmets, the V8 sang a nasty warbling wail. Though built by Ferrari in Maranello, the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 doesn't build to the expected screaming Italian crescendo – it's deeper, more muscular and still deeply invigorating. You'd undoubtedly drive like a buffoon just to hear the thing. Second gear may be popular.
Maserati Levante GTS
Stuffing a V8 into the Levante was never originally intended. It was only supposed to have a V6. Nevertheless, a group of engineers secretly took it upon themselves to see if they could fit the Quattroporte GTS' V8 into the Levante, because why not? Turns out they could and in the process, even beef up the engine. Rather than being lambasted by their bosses for going rogue on their little skunkworks project, Maserati instead green-lit not one but two V8-powered Levantes: the 550-hp GTS and 590-hp Trofeo. See, screwing around at work does have its benefits.
The differences between GTS and Trofeo are largely horsepower, some minor cosmetic differences, and the Trofeo's extra standard equipment and heftier price tag. Respectively, that would be $121,475 and $171,475. The priciest V6-powered Levante S GranSport goes for $93,475.
Maserati Levante Trofeo
Maserati didn't stop with the engine, however. The chassis was tuned to handle all those extra prancing horses, and while suspension componentry is shared with the rest of the line, tuning is specific for the V8's. The Sport Skyhook adaptive damping system was also retuned, while the air springs feature six different height levels spanning a total of 3 inches from its lowest to highest position. The brakes consist of 15-inch drilled discs up front with six-piston calipers, and 13-inch discs at the rear.
Honestly, it would be lovely to comment on how those components behaved, but again, Pontiac was doing its biblical rain thing. Yet, even if bone dry, it's hard to imagine any Levante avoiding the sensation of being the big, heavy SUV it is. It's more BMW X5 M or Range Rover Sport than an Alfa Romeo Stelvio. In fact, the latter was also on hand in Pontiac, and if you're looking for an SUV to dance about a race track – rain or no – a Quadrifoglio is the better choice.
Yet, as I promised to write in the video above, V8's are better than V6's. This particular one slams you into your seat with 538 pound-feet of torque and sounds intoxicating doing it. The V6-powered Levante is frankly a little underwhelming — its oddly proportioned, vaguely Infiniti-like styling and general ho-hum character just doesn't provide enough understandably irrational reasons for choosing one over a Porsche Cayenne. The GTS and its V8 do provide that little something special. Actually, it's a lot something special — did we mention Ferrari-built in Maranello? If that and the trident badge don't move these things, then Maserati has a lot more to worry about than mother nature.