Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 19, 2022
It baffles us that Maserati continues to alter the names of their model trims. Just when we were getting used to the hierarchy of S, GTS, and Trofeo, they go ahead and morph it into GranLusso and GranSport. But that’s now out the window. For 2022, Maserati has instead gone with GT, Modena, Modena S, and Trofeo. Why? No clue. It took us ages to learn Porsche trim names but they stayed consistent, and look how well they have stuck in our minds, to the point where we now use them to infer and see where rivaling cars sit in comparison. Anyways, bear with us.
The GT is now the base model for the Levante, starting at $108,900 with a 345-hp V6, while the $119,400 Modena adds more options and bumps that same engine’s output to 424 hp. The $143,900 Modena S we have on test uses a Ferrari-derived 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that pushes out 550 hp (used to be called the GTS), while the $182,200 Trofeo brings it up to 580 hp.
To cause even more confusion, Maserati has relocated the trim badges to above the triple side fender vents, and are no longer displayed on the trunk lid. At least they complement Maserati’s new blue and white logo. Out on the open road, there’s no mistaking the Levante for the current crop of rivaling luxury SUVs. Like Porsche, Maserati decided to double-down on offering as many paint colours and customizable options as possible, for a pretty penny of course. Our Levante Modena S was draped in Giallo Modenese, part of their Fuoriserie palette, and it’s a bold, almost matte-like yellow paint that nearly looks as expensive as the $21,250 that Maserati charges for it. Still, it undoubtedly adds to the Levante’s already sinister road presence and curb appeal.
From afar, the Levante’s cabin appears grand and upscale, and it is in some areas, like the optional Ermenegildo Zegna Pelletessuta ($8,000) leather textile embedded into the seats. It's like sitting on a precious Italian handbag. The large metal paddle shifters are satisfying to curl your fingers around, and crisp analog gauges remind us of a time gone by, as does the nostalgic clock sitting on the dashboard. But the rest of the switchgear is a letdown at this price point, and will irk those comparing the fit and finish to that of a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5. In this light, the Maserati is clearly inferior, but we would spring for a lighter-coloured interior like red or brown to better elevate its shapes and accents. The doors are oddly heavy, something we’ve noticed with all modern Maseratis, but that could be because they are frameless - not something you usually see in large SUVs - and they are soft-close.
But you don’t buy a Maserati for the interior. You buy it for the mystique of the brand and for the engine. The Modena S utilizes a unique 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 and marketers love to call it a Ferrari engine. It’s true, kind of. The engine starts life with Ferrari architecture and is actually finished off and assembled by Ferrari themselves in Maranello. The V8 even shares the same internal engine code as Ferrari, F154, but that’s where the similarities end. The Maserati engine uses a cross-plane crankshaft with wet sump lubrication, instead of the flat-plane and dry sump in the Ferrari, hence the difference in RPM limits, power delivery, and exhaust note.
Still, the Modena S pumps out a healthy 550 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It will sprint from 0-100 km/h in a speedy 4.2 seconds, faster than a Range Rover Sport SVR (4.5 s) and Audi SQ8 (4.5 s). There are heaps of low and mid-range muscle, so you can make outrageous progress without ever breaching 5,000 RPM. Uncharacteristic of a force-induced V8, this one is incredibly happy to rev and itches to explore the latter half of the tachometer. And you will want to because there’s real emotion to its dopamine drip of a soundtrack.
The Levante fires with all the richness and deep-timbered tonality as you would expect from a V8 engine, but with a layer of rich and exotic tones that you will never hear in a rivaling AMG or BMW M. We adore how loud and proud it is even at low speeds - in Sport Mode the valves are always open so you don’t need to hit a certain RPM to unlock the full symphonic register. We have no idea how Maserati has made a V8 choked up by two turbochargers resonate so freely, but Maserati clearly invested more money into the exhaust than the suspension. The ride is punishing, to say the least.
The suspension wiggles around and settles nervously when negotiating anything other than a smooth road. When it hits a bump or uneven surface, it crashes and floats in the air for a brief second before settling down, but during that pause, the Levante feels nervous and uncertain, most notably when traveling at higher speeds. It doesn’t neutralize small suspension movements very well either and does not deliver the calm and collected ride we expected, or what we noticed with previous Levantes we have driven. It could be the large, low-profile 22-inch wheels wrapped in Continental SportContiContact 6 tires, which also seem to contribute to a great deal of tire noise permeating into the cabin but in many ways, it rides almost like a live-axle pick-up truck more than a luxury SUV.
Overall, the Levante Modena S doesn’t exhibit the same kind of solidity and stability as a Range Rover Sport or Mercedes-AMG GLE 53. It’s clearly tuned for sporting duties but we would have enjoyed a softer damper setting to create a more confident SUV that we could lean on, not fear. The Levante behaves sure-footed one moment, then squirrely in another. It’s still childishly amusing when you find the right piece of (smooth) road, where you can hunker down, manipulate the light but accurate steering, and barrel out of corners at ridiculous speeds by taking charge of the V8 via the paddle shifters.
If the current crop of luxury SUVs fails to get dopamine rushing to your brain, the Levante might pique your fancy. It turns a daily commute into a daily escape with its Zegna-flared interior, bold exterior styling and pricey personalization options, and sonorous V8 exhaust note. The price can be hard to swallow, especially with rivals offering equal or superior value and performance. But when all is said and done, car purchases are emotional decisions that can’t be quantifiable with numbers or words. So I guess it really doesn’t matter what Maserati calls it in the end.
Model: 2022 Maserati Levante Modena S
Paint Type: Giallo Modenese
Base Price: $142,500
Price as Tested: $186,865
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,020 / 1,981 / 1,698
Curb weight (kg): 2,170
Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8
Horsepower: 550 hp @ 6,250 rpm
Torque: 538 lb-ft @ 2,500 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.7
Tires: Continental SportContact 6; 295/30ZR22