The last time a Maserati Levante held court in the Carpages Garage, it was a during the depths of last year’s frigid winter. Maybe not the best time of year to be seated behind the wheel of a Ferrari powered, 580 horsepower performance SUV, right?
You see, winter’s icy grip did not play nice with the frameless side window glass, the power folding mirrors and the myriad of proximity sensors that freaked out at random as a result of being encased in ice. But if Jack Frost was going to great lengths to dampen our spirits, a remote, pristine ribbon of tarmac covered with a fresh layer of snow would be our emphatic middle finger to the miserable weather. With that, we turned off the traction control, engaged Sport mode and went in search of playful oversteer. Boy, did we find what we are looking for- the Trofeo-trimmed Levante proved to be extremely lively but controllable, allowing for lurid slip angles as the 3.8 litre twin turbo V8 howl reverberated throughout the silent forest surrounding us on all sides. By the time we arrived at our destination, the Levante’s subdued grey livery was caked with a heady cocktail of road salt and slush. It was, as far as flogging high performance SUVs in winter goes, an unbridled joy.
Allow us to fast forward to summer 2022. The birds are chirping, the air is redolent with the smell of fresh cut grass and the gloom that defines a Canadian winter is long forgotten, instead replaced by brilliant sunshine. When the opportunity came up to revisit the Levante’s formidable performance on smooth, dry tarmac we felt the need- nay, responsibility- to get behind the wheel for another go around in Maserati’s scorching SUV was in order. Because science.
It was fitting that when we picked up the Levante Modena S (which replaces the GTS in the trim shake up Maserati has mandates for the 2022 model year) it gleamed in the parking lot, wearing a searing coat of Giallo Modenese paint ($21,250!), the perfect livery for a glorious summer day. Accented by discreet black trim, it looked even sexier than the Trofeo model we piloted during the mercury plunging winter. Whomever spec’d our tester clearly had summer vibes on their mind, and the carbon fibre weave look of the seats sourced from fashion house Zegna was equally slick. The interior as a whole still feels special with rich materials throughout and carefully crafted stitching that serves as a reminder that you that you are ensconced in one of the finer examples of an Italian cockpit. The infotainment system has also benefited from a mild rethink, and the graphic interface is sharper and well thought out. This was never a weak point for Levante’s in the past- thank you for allowing the parts bin raiding, Stellantis- but now it's even better to use and each command is met with a crisp response.
Overall, not much has changed at the skin-deep level where the Levante model range is concerned- the rejigging of trim levels we mentioned being the most obvious addition. There are two models powered by a turbocharged V6 with varying levels of power found on the GT and Modena trims. Step up to the top dog Trofeo and 580 Italian thoroughbred horses are at your command, but our tester was a Modena S which mandates a slightly lower tune for the feral twin turbocharged V8. It may be down on power compared to the Trofeo, but honestly, those who feel 550 horsepower is not enough to haul the mail should get their adrenal glands checked- we really didn’t find things at the ol’ Trident corral any less bewitching despite the missing ponies.
The driving pleasure doesn’t stop at straight-line speed. As we noted in the last go-around in the Trofeo, the Levante’s place within the annals of high-performance SUVs remains secure and it feels friskier than many of its competitors. Throw it into a corner and the Italian responds with verve, its apex hunting game aided by sharp steering and air suspension that delivers a serious amount of grip for something with ground clearance far beyond a typical sport sedan. In Sport Mode, the body crouches down and eliminates most of the top-heavy feel in play when you throw around an SUV by the scruff of its neck. You’ll want to use Sport mode whenever you can because not only does it lower itself which helps in the aesthetics department, but the exhaust gets appreciably louder and the engine’s response becomes even snappier. Oversized and cross drilled braking hardware at all four corners do an excellent job of reining in the speed dialed by the Ferrari mill up front and we did not encounter any fade even while asking them to scrub off the head of steam the engine so easily musters. Handling ratio swapping duties is the very familiar ZF 8-speed automatic and it lives up to its brilliance as usual. In this case, it is controlled by what might be the best paddle shifters in the business. Not only are they are large enough so you can go up or down a gear while flailing at the steering wheel, but they are also made of metal and elicit noises from the engine and exhaust that you will pretty much never tire of.
In fact, there isn’t much that will cause any feelings of being fed up while piloting a Levante Modena S, but we did find some things that could use fixing. The first issue that showed up on our radar was the 22” wheels. They are exceptionally handsome and work quite well painted in black which contrasted nicely with the searing yellow livery of our tester. Somehow, these huge rollers manage to look smaller than they actually are- have a look in the gallery to see what we mean. Using Sport Mode does palpably change the SUV’s demeanor and is worth pressing exclusively for the uncorked exhaust note. But doing so also firms up the suspension to the point where driving on anything but perfectly smooth tarmac causes the Levante to ride too harshly for commuting duties. We wished there was a button to allow the exhaust to sing while keeping the suspenders in their default setting. Finally, some grumbled that the paintjob was just too over the top, but in a sea of grey/white/black/silver cars, the Maserati’s pop of colour was generally praised by all who encountered it.
The Levante portfolio may have benefited from some updates, but one thing remains the same- this is a highly entertaining high-performance SUV. There are many choices in this increasingly popular segment- some are faster, some handle better- but few can match the emotional involvement the Levante Modena S can summon with a mere prod of its gas pedal. Winding out the scintillating 3.8 litre turbo V8 conjures up romantic images of blasting down the Autostrada or hearing the spellbinding engine at redline echoing off hillsides carpeted with vineyards in the Tuscan countryside. We concluded that it matters not which season you find yourself in- be it fingertip numbing cold or bedazzling summer sun- the Levante Modena S will have you shamelessly shouting ‘Bravo!’
2022 Maserati Levante Modena S- Specifications
- Price as tested: $186,865
- Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.8-litre twin turbo V8, DOHC, 32 valves
- Horsepower: 550 @ 6,750 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 538 @ 2,500 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 2,342 kg (5,163 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 16.2L/100 km (14.5 mpg)