On the eve of the global preview of Maserati’s 2019 model lineup, Andrea Bertolini—a racer for Ferrari and Maserati—mingled with dozens of journalists and spoke about his involvement contributing to the design and engineering of some of the brand’s newest models. When asked which vehicle he would prefer to drive every day, the winner of the 2010 GT1 World Championship (behind the wheel of a Maserati MC12) needed little time to contemplate the question. The 44-year-old’s answer: the new Levante GTS.
Maserati’s latest Levante variant is a sleek sport utility vehicle powered by an upgraded 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V-8—a reengineered version of the engine found in the brand’s flagship Quattroporte GTS—which churns out 550 hp and 538 ft lbs of torque.
The following afternoon, as Bertolini prepared to pilot the Italian automaker’s new showstopping SUV around the 1.5-mile Champion Motor Speedway in Pontiac, Mich., I slid into the passenger seat and readied myself for a wild ride. After a brief 30-second warm-up, Bertolini got serious and systematically disengaged all of the Levante’s stability control programs. “The real car,” he said, “you have to test without any support.”
Despite Bertolini’s willingness to exalt the vehicle’s capabilities the night before, for the next 50 seconds he let the car do all of the talking. Tires squealed as the heralded Italian driver maneuvered the GTS around the track, drifting through the corners. Then, as Bertolini guided the Levante out of a hairpin turn, he hammered the throttle, the V-8 roared, and we surged down the straightaway.
“It’s like a bicycle to drive,” Bertolini quipped as he steered the car through an invisible slalom course down the straight.
After two minutes and 15 seconds, Bertolini eased off the accelerator and let the new GTS coast through a serpentine series of turns. “What do you think?” he asks. The verdict is beyond dispute. Visually, the GTS is stylish, though unmistakably an SUV. From the driver’s seat, however, the vehicle could just as easily be a Trident-emblazoned coupe or high-performance GT. That sports car persona is made possible thanks to a Ferrari-manufactured engine; a power-to-weight ratio that delivers one horsepower for every 8.6 pounds; and a Q4 intelligent, all-wheel-drive system. The latter can distribute 100 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels yet redistribute that torque equally between the front and rear in only 150 milliseconds when the conditions require it.
“This is the car you want to drive every day,” Bertolini says. “This is like a high-performance car, like the best GT, and at the same time you have the comfort, the quality of life on board. You’re driving something that is like a dream GT car, but you have space for the kids.”
At the New York International Auto Show in March, Maserati unveiled the Levante Trofeo—a potent, powerful, and luxuriously appointed iterant in the brand’s SUV lineup. The GTS, although 40 hp weaker, keeps up with the Trofeo in terms of performance. Its four-second sprint time from zero to 60 mph is only three-tenths of a second slower than the Trofeo, while its top speed of 181 mph is only 6 mph off the Trofeo’s mark. With a starting price of $119,980, however, the GTS is likely to appeal to a much broader audience, as the Trofeo costs at least $50,000 more.
According to Tim Kuniskis, the new head of Alfa Romeo and Maserati, the Trofeo has already sold out for the year, which reinforces the Maserati team’s belief that a strong market exists for the GTS. The vehicle is positioned below the Trofeo in cost, but above the GranLusso and GranSport models, which start at $91,980.
“There is a big gap there that we can fill,” Kuniskis said near the end of the global launch event. “If we can sell out the year at $170,000, what can we do at $125,000? I can open up the net for more people.”