IN a bid to increase SUV sales and make the motoring public more aware of its offerings the Italians at Maserati have given the Levante range the biggest boost possible - a twin turbo V8 engine under the bonnet.
Although a niche sports marque - often regarded unfairly as the poor man's Ferrari - Maserati launched the first Levante sports performance SUV back in 2016.
When sales stalled last year subtle changes were made inside and out to reinvigorate the model.
Crucially though now comes the power boost many motorists had been seeking in the shape of a 3.8-litre, twin turbo engine with two power outputs - 530bhp or 580bhp.
The latter is fitted to the Trofeo version which can sprint from 0 to 62mph in 4.1 seconds with a claimed top speed of 186mph and costs a pound short of £125,000.
The 530bhp version is fitted in the GTS - there's a choice of two trim levels the Gran Lusso (as driven here) or the Gran Sport - and both are capable of accelerating from 0 to 62mph in 4.2 seconds with a claimed top speed of 180mph.
Their price is a little more realistic at around £79,125 plus options.
All versions are all-wheel-drive with a rear limited-slip differential and all share the same eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox with aluminium shift paddles and a more intuitive shift pattern that improves driving.
The chassis has been retuned and there's now what is called Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) to improve the driving dynamics. The system predicts driving situations and adapts the engine speed and braking capacity automatically.
It's all clever technology and the Maserati engineers claim it improves not only driving dynamics but gives a better all round performance with extra active safety.
The GTS certainly feels more rigid while the automatic gearbox is excellent for smooth changes whether doing it manually via the paddles or leaving it to its own devices.
For such a big SUV the boost of the V8 engine is a godsend and drivers wanting to enjoy the Levante's sporting characteristics definitely won't be disappointed.
Fuel economy for the 530bhp engine is rated officially at 21.4mpg with emissions of 319g/km.
Visually the latest Levante has only some minor changes at the front and rear which makes it look a shade more muscular.
Inside, there are further small improvements and there's a full leather interior with plenty of sports oriented equipment.
For the driver there's upgraded graphics and a better climate control system plus excellent sculptured sports seats and a central, lower positioned control along the seat with an easy to use rotary knob looking after the infotainment system.
Other comforts include a Harman Kardon Audio with 14 speakers while the whole interior ambience is relaxed with plenty of room front and back.
Boot space is 580 litres increasing to 1,625 litres with the rear seats folded down.
On the road the GTS S Gran Lusso has all the pace and verve expected of such a super sports car and even though it's a big SUV it's remarkably easy to handle, even around twisty country lanes where it can prove quite agile yet remains so rigid when driving over uneven surfaces.
The more powerful engine is happy to rev with a nice rasp coming from the exhaust pipes and power arrives really quickly.
Out on the open road it comes into its own with the power making sensible overtaking easy and there's a great feeingl of confidence.
Overall, the changes made to the Levante will be welcomed by those who want true luxury in an SUV with a performance to match. It's a car which fails to disappoint in any department.