I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time behind the wheels of some of the greatest SUV’s ever made but I’ll also be quick to tell you that the Maserati Levante Trofeo is the best all-around SUV made. With its stylish bodywork, its luxurious interior, its adjustable air ride suspension, and lastly, that incredible Ferrari-supplied biturbo V8, the Levante Trofeo was the SUV to own, in my opinion. Pushing the start button and hearing that V8 explode to life with a vicious growl just made you reflexively grin.

Last year, Maserati introduced the Grecale. The Grecale is the second SUV in Maserati’s line-up and is supposed to be “The Everyday Exceptional.” Which, by definition, could also be the Levante, which proved to be “everyday exceptional” too. The dimensions are similar also. The Grecale is a few inches shorter, but the width and height are nearly identical. The wheelbase is about 4” shorter than the Levante. The Grecale has a similar but different design style than the Levante and (as it should) feels fresher, more open, and more inviting than the Levante. The Grecale is supposed to get an all-electric version soon, and I suspect that’s another major difference for the newer platform.

It’s currently offered in three different trim levels: the GT, the Modena, and the uber-desireable Trofeo. Frankly, after Maserati announced that the the Ferrari-sourced biturbo V8 wouldn’t be available in future Trofeo versions, we weren’t sure what was going to happen to the Trofeo trim line but we hoped it would continue with a version of Maserati’s incredible new Nettuno turbo V6 engine in place of the Ferrari unit. And that’s exactly what Maserati did. While the GT and the Modena are powered by a torquey hybrid turbo-four, the Grecale Trofeo comes with a detuned 525 hp version of the turbo-V6. It sounds incredible and drives even better.

Maserati was kind enough to loan us a gorgeous blue Grecale Trofeo for a few days and we jumped at the chance to experience it for ourselves.

The outside, as stated before, feels fresher than the Levante. From certain angles you can almost detect a little bit of Porsche Macan inspiration and, if true, that’s not a bad thing. The whole package looks tighter, leaner, and more athletic. The Grecale is one of the sharpest looking SUV’s on the market right now.

The interior also feels fresher, a bit sexier than the Levante’s more staid interior. Things feel better laid out than in the Levante and the large, “bent” infotainment screen does a fantastic job of centralizing the various controls in one large intuitive screen. The leather is sumptuous and the stitching is flawless, both on the seats and the dash. The seats are bolstered and comfortable, both heated and ventilated, and electrically adjustable in 14 different directions. The front seats don’t feel cramped as in some SUV’s. You don’t just HAVE plenty of room, you FEEL like you have plenty of room as well. The backseats are also comfortable to sit in and they’re heated for your passengers comfort. Legroom is a little short in the backseats but not terrible. Behind the back seats is plenty of cargo room and if you need more, the back seats fold flat to provide even more room.

The engine in the Trofeo is incredibly sweet. We first experienced the Nettuno engine in the insane MC20 and it won us over instantly with it’s silky smooth acceleration, it’s raw power, and it’s sublime sound. While detuned a bit for this application, it’s still provides monster thrust and extraordinary passing power while sounding so Italian it makes you crave gelato. Need to get around Grandma and her three Yorkie-Poohs on their way to the pet store? Just lean on the right pedal and the Grecale ROCKETS around her with nary a complaint and leaves her Chrysler T&C rocking in the disturbed air behind you. The engine provides huge torque from about 2000 rpm right up to redline, getting exponentially faster the higher it climbs in the rev range. It’s not quite the Levante’s 590 hp, but I think the Grecale makes better use of it’s inferior power levels. It’s more instantaneous, more explosive, more sudden in it’s fury. And yet, impressively sedate when you want it to be. In fact, unlike the MC20’s Nettuno, the Grecale’s version has a cylinder-deactivation system that will shut down one bank of the V6’s cylinders to give improved fuel mileage and decreased carbon emissions.

The engine is attached to an 8-speed automatic transmission with sublimely responsive (and beautiful) paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. You can click up and down through the gears all day long without it getting tired or messing up.

The brakes are large (enormous) Brembo units that stop the Grecale as well as you’d expect from Brembo. They’re completely intuitive in their use and thats the highest compliment you can give a braking system. Fully linear, they give excellent feedback and control.

They’re tucked behind 21” Maserati Pegaso wheels, wrapped in sticky three-season rubber. Tied in with Maserati’s AWD system, they help provide a confident and comfortable ride.

The suspension is an air-adjustable system that, frankly, is just amazing. With a little dial on the steering wheel, the ride can be adjusted from “Comfort” to “Corsa”. And yes, Corsa is completely track-worthy. Once Corsa is selected, the Grecale will lower itself down about 2” below normal ride height to lower the center of gravity and reduce the free space between the chassis and the road. But the Grecale isn’t just about pavement performance. Turn the selector wheel to “Off-Road” and the Grecale will lift up about 2” above it’s standard ride height for additional ground clearance. Impressive.

We came away very impressed with the Grecale Trofeo. I’d argue it’s 90% of the Levante for 60% of it’s price. Our Grecale Trofeo stickered as tested at $119,000. The last Levante Trofeo we tested came in closer to $190,000. By comparison the Grecale Trofeo is a steal. Available now at your Maserati dealer, it demands a look.

Performance: 8

Handling: 8

Design: 8

Interior: 7

Infotainment: 8

Sound: 9

Fun: 9

Overall: 8

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