Maserati's Levante Trofeo gets Ferrari firepower and a fortified chassis
Trophy of an SUV The Maserati Levante Trofeo (above) comes with a Ferrari-built V8 engine and a mesh-like grille surrounding its exhausts. PHOTO: MASERATI

As something which melds a sports car's aesthetic with the proportions of a sport utility vehicle (SUV), the Maserati Levante's form combines grace, muscularity and ferocity.

This year, the Levante gets yet another injection of allure with the addition of a V8 engine.

The top-dog Trofeo variant screams up the road with 580hp and some new decorations to distinguish it from lesser Levantes. These include a blacked-out grille, carbon-fibre elements, 22-inch wheels and its own unique Trofeo badging.

Keeping all that power, as well as the car's considerable mass of almost 2.2 tonnes, in check are some worthy chassis upgrades.

A "Q4" all-wheel-drive system has an enhanced brain, which juggles parameters such as yaw, steering angle, pitch, speed and powertrain factors to proactively rather than reactively keep the car on target.

The selectable drive modes get a "Corsa" (Italian for race) level, which hunkers down the car a further 35mm and sharpens everything you feel at the helm.

On the aggressively knotted, hypnotically challenging roads around Modena, they work brilliantly. The upgrades morph a lumbering beast of a truck into an incisive tool of mountain carving. There is grip, stability and even agility to spare.

Despite ham-fisted sawing at the wheel, the Trofeo makes me a far better driver than I am.

Body control beggars belief for something so heavy and the car remains resolute through even the most aggressive directional changes. If it were not so big, I might even call it scalpel-like.

The quantity of ability gives little away to the quality of the experience. Galactic weight is disguised effectively by steering tuned for lightness. But genuine road feel is inevitably sacrificed.

Yet, linearity, build-up of resistance and accuracy are spot on. Down at the seat of my pants, I feel the four corners of the car claw into the tarmac and the body rotate at a point near the hips.

For all the technology helping me up the mountain roads in one piece, the car still feels natural and involving.

I find myself thrusting the car into tight hairpins with abandon and it is not long before my passenger gets carsick.

I now ask you to put everything said so far to the back of your mind. Because there is one thing about this car that renders all else unimportant. That is the incredible, Ferrari-built V8, an engine that is basically the same lump you find in the Ferrari 488 and Portofino.

What a motor it is. It is unrelenting, serrated, ferocious, melodious, cultured and utterly captivating.

It washes over you and makes every strand of hair stand on end. This engine alone makes the beefy SUV worth buying.

In the Levante Trofeo, Maserati has gone to great lengths to convince drivers that its vaunted spirit, forged through generations of sultry sports cars, has been effectively transplanted into an SUV.

It has succeeded.