When Maserati debuted its Levante crossover SUV two years ago, we wondered how it could be a real Maserati with just a twin-turbo V6 powerplant. We especially didn’t care for the existence of a base model with ho-hum equipment and appointments.
Maserati’s engineers were evidently thinking the same thing, even if their bosses weren’t. So they concocted a V8-powered prototype to demonstrate what was possible. Fortunately, this led the higher-ups to see the error of their ways, and the result is the 2018 Maserati Levante GTS, with a 550-horsepower twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 engine that is provided by corporate cousin and neighbor, Ferrari.
They demonstrated this newfound verve at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed in southern England, where the Levante GTS gave demonstration runs up the famous estate’s driveway to show its speed to fans before we got to take a turn driving on nearby roads.
This added oomph, a bump of 126 horsepower over the V6 engine, pushes the $119,980 Levante GTS to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds and to a top speed of 181 mph. Compared to the 530-horsepower version of the engine employed in the Quattroporte sedan, the Levante GTS’s engine enjoys upgraded twin-scroll turbochargers and revised camshafts and valves, all of which help whisk more air through the engine.
The V8 is bolted to the same ZF 8-speed automatic transmission as before, but the Levante GTS employs a new shifter with a shortened range of motion and the ability to easily flick it to the left to engage manual shift mode.
For proper rear-drive sporty car feel, the GTS sends all of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving. But encounter slippery surfaces, and the split goes 50/50 front/rear in 150 milliseconds for sure-footed security. The car’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system also helps nudge the Levante around corners by applying slight braking force to the inside rear wheel in turns.
The Air Spring suspension system varies the Levante’s height by three inches, lowering the car when driving in dynamic mode or on the highway, and raising it for ground clearance.
Wheels and tires are standard 20-inchers, with 21-inch and 22-inch wheels as options. This increasingly typical sport SUV arrangement lets drivers choose between a very good sport tire with a decent ride and a little tolerance for brushing curbs when parking thanks to the taller tire sidewall, and a race-ready tire with a punishing ride and curbside vulnerability. The 22-inch wheels and their ultra-low profile tires are a designer’s dream, but for everyday use, the 20s really are the smart choice.
The cabin is swaddled in Full Premium Leather in black, red, tan or beige with contrast stitching and an Alcantara headliner.
To underscore sporty character of the Levante GTS, the interior features piano black trim, aluminum paddle shifters, sport foot pedals, Maserati clock dial, illuminated door sills, chromed trunk sill and velour floor mats. The Levante GTS's standard sound system is the uplevel 900-watt, 14-speaker Harman Kardon Premium Sound System.
In combination with the sonorous Ferrari V8, these upgrades make the GTS the Levante we wanted from the beginning.