Maserati hopes V8 power and better tech will bring in younger, more affluent buyers.
The Levante Trofeo is one of the more exciting SUVs on sale right now, and for Maserati , it's been successful. So successful, in fact, that Maserati decided to take the Trofeo's secret sauce and apply it to the Ghibli and Quattroporte models, as well.
All three Trofeo models share a Ferrari-designed, cross-plane, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8. This outstanding engine produces 580 horsepower, 538 pound-feet of torque and an exquisite yowl at full chat. The Levante Trofeo SUV uses all-wheel drive, but the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans only send the V8's power to their rear wheels.
My experience with the 2021 Trofeo range starts at Willow Springs International Raceway -- "the fastest road in the west," as it's known. The Levante feels more at home out on the Big Willow circuit, a super-fast road course with nine turns and a whole lot of elevation changes. Over the course of a half-dozen laps, the Levante impresses with its overall composure, with excellent body control and direct, accurate steering. This might be a nearly 4,800-pound SUV, but it's shockingly easy to place in corners.
The Ghibli Trofeo marks the first time Maserati's smaller sedan can be had with V8 power, and wow, what a package it is. The lighter, lower, rear-wheel-drive chassis is much more nimble, requiring less steering input than in the Levante to negotiate the track's tighter turns. Despite the Trofeo's power and two-wheel-drive layout, the Ghibli is reasonably planted, even under hard braking. Speaking of which, the large steel brakes on both the Ghibli and Levante vehicles are strong throughout my track sessions without any modicum of fade, though, admittedly, Big Willow doesn't really have a lot of hard braking zones.
I wasn't able to sample the Quattroporte Trofeo on the track, as Maserati only had one on hand at the event. But on a slalom course, the Quattroporte is competent yet looser than I'd expect, even with traction control fully on. No surprise, the Ghibli Trofeo is the most nimble through the slalom, and while the Levante shows its weight and height disadvantage here, its agility is nevertheless impressive considering its size.
All Trofeo models have launch control. It's not quite as simple to operate as Porsche's stomp-and-go system, but it's easily activated by entering Sport Corsa mode, pulling the left carbon-fiber shift paddle twice, mashing the brake with your left foot and flooring the gas pedal. Maserati's launch control works well and, unlike some systems, allows for some wheel slip, which not only adds to the overall drama but cuts down slightly on the violence of repeat launches.
Of course, the Trofeo expansion is only one part of Maserati's 2021 model-year push. The biggest and arguably most significant changes are best appreciated on public roads in daily driving.
For starters, there's the new Uconnect 5-based infotainment system, called Maserati Intelligent Assist. The good news is that not only is the new Android-powered system significantly faster and more responsive than the outgoing tech, its screens are larger and much sharper across the range. The Levante gets an 8.4-inch screen while both the Ghibli and Quattroporte use 10.1-inch screens with curved glass. Wireless Apple CarPlay works flawlessly and is easy to set up. Android Auto is included, as well, as are Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integrations.
The new screens go a long way towards making Maserati's cabins much more premium, befitting their price tag, even though there's still an overreliance on generic Stellantis parts-bin switchgear. Also on hand for 2021 is Maserati's Active Driving Assist which works on any well-maintained road at speeds of up to 90 mph. This is a hands-on driving assistant that provides automatic lane-centering in conjunction with adaptive cruise control, and in my limited on-road experience on the roads around Willow Springs, works just fine.
Maserati is hoping this updated tech roster will help bring in younger buyers and lure people away from rivals like Audi or BMW . But if anything's going to get people into Maserati showrooms, it'll definitely be those Trofeo models. Rip-snorting V8 power is a hell of a drug.