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Maserati Levante GTS review: 542bhp SUV tested

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What is it?

Other than the super limited edition, sky-high priced Trofeo, which we didn’t and won’t get in the UK, this GTS is the first V8 version of Maserati’s Levante. The V6 versions do a more-than-OK job of moving the thing around but this new GTS model comes with a Ferrari-assembled piece of automotive theatre under the bonnet, a re-engineered, more powerful version of the twin-turbo 90-degree V8 fitted in the Quattroporte GTS. Just that fact alone makes it immediately better than any other Levante before it. But there’s more…

Hang on, tell me everything about that engine first.

Redesigned largely so that it could be mated to the Q4 all-wheel drive system, the engineers also took the liberty of adding two new twin-scroll intercooled turbos. And while they were there, they added new cams, valves and other bits so that the engine now puts out 19bhp/15lbft more than the Quattroporte’s 523bhp unit. That’s still not as much as the 590bhp Trofeo. But as they share almost identical engine parts, it should be simple to get a GTS into a Trofeo state of tune with a bit of chip flashing.

OK what’s new with the rest of the GTS?

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Other than a simplified and shorter throw gear lever, most of it is fine tuning of all the air-sprung chassis and handling systems to cope with the greater performance. As you would want, during normal driving 100 per cent of the engine torque powers the rear wheels only. But the system can flick up to 50 per cent of that to the front wheels in 150 milliseconds. You’ll probably never notice it working, the only indication being that you’re still on the road, and not in a ditch.

What about the interior?

As you might expect with a car designed to go toe-to-toe with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Maserati has spent some time making the GTS a more pleasant and pleasing place to be. There are things like chrome sills and velour floor mats, a 14-speaker sound system and almost every surface you can see and touch is leather-wrapped. But the architecture will be familiar to anyone who already knows the Levante. It still feels a couple of details short of the Porsche’s cabin, but nothing you couldn’t live without.

And the exterior?

Not much to report here. There’s a new lower front fascia and rear bumper design, both of which make the car look lower and more purposeful. Detail spotters will also notice a new grille with a honeycomb mesh and some red six-piston front brake calipers. But, other than some body colour door handles, and some optional 22-inch wheels, that’s about your lot.

What’s it like to drive?

As with any V8 Maserati, any quibbles you might have with the rest of the car almost evaporate once you’ve sparked the thing into life. The Levante GTS is no different. The turbos do muffle some of the engines operatic tones, but that character is still there. So that’s a good start.

Moving away the car immediately feels more planted, the steering more weighty than the V6 cars. The GTS weighs a mere 60kg – it’s a lot on a sports car but almost negligible on a two tonne SUV – more than the V6 models. But it has 126bhp more than the base S model, so it’s power to weight ratio is improved.

Not that we could fully exploit it on the short test drive. Thanks to some rainfall that would have had Noah considering another ark, plus a test track not much wider than a go kart circuit, it was tough to learn much more than which way the track went than anything about the GTS.

That said, despite the appalling conditions, the GTS felt fast, safe and predictable, which is a towering achievement considering what it had to deal with. And speaks volumes for its all-seasons, continent crushing ability. More time is definitely needed – and wanted – behind the wheel to get fully on terms with it. Top speed is quoted as 181mph. 0-60mph four seconds.

So should I buy one?

If you want something different from the Cayenne or Range Rover, sure. Of all the Maseratis in the range the Levante is probably the most modern and sorted. Being able to have all the space and flexibility of an upmarket SUV with this gem of an engine under the bonnet is a treat. Test drive them all first, of course, but make sure you take this GTS out. You won’t regret it. Starting price (in the US) is $119,980. So it should cost a good chunk less than the German and English cars when it arrives.

What do you think?

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