The Maserati of SUV’s
With the premium SUV sector a fought over segment of the car market, the Maserati Levante – with its good handling and Italian panache – may be this esteemed marque’s way to get in on the action
Review by Marion Graham
Maserati’s first SUV is a car that could be the most important in the marque’s 102-year history. Despite continuing the tradition of Maserati ‘s being named after winds – the Levante is taken from the Viento de Levante which blows through the Straits of Gibraltar in the western Mediterranean – in other respects it’s a huge break from Maserati’s past.
Enthusiasts may well baulk at the prospect of a Maserati SUV but the Levante is Maserati through and through. The car has been designed, engineered and built in Italy. The luxury SUV sector has boomed in recent years with the revised Porsche Cayenne and the release of the Bentley Bentayga – it’s no wonder that Maserati have followed suit.
Two engines will be available on launch – a 3.0-litre 430bhp V6 petrol and 3.0-litre 275bhp V6 diesel. Measuring in at 5 metres long and just over 2.1 metres wide it is a big car, but the elegant curves have a welcome lack of the blunt aggression that often characterises the luxury SUV breed. Maserati’s established styling cues sit surprisingly well on the SUV blueprint and the Levante looks good on the road.
The interior is equally impressive with its high quality feel and sharp design. The optional Luxury Pack features a high-class combination of leather and silk by Zegna that gives the Levante an indulgent ambience that’s unique in the sector. The allure of the Maserati badge combined with the unyielding premium feel of the Levante make the diesel‘s predicted list price of between £53,000 – £55,000 feel like very good value.
Initial impressions are encouraging, with a strong sense of structural rigidity and smooth, well-judged steering that’s quick-witted without feeling overly sharp. The suspension manages to connect you to the road while isolating you from the bumps and above all for a 2,205 kg SUV, the Levante hides its size admirably.
On the performance front, a generous 599Nm of torque ensures the Levante is lively off the mark, but its performance is brisk rather than truly rapid. The 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds is little better than average in the company of today’s power-packed premium SUVs. The 5.2 second 0-62mph pace you get from the most powerful petrol version is nearer the mark, though the diesel gets its own back with a CO2 figure of 189g/km versus 253g/km for the Levante S 435.
On the motorway the diesel lopes along nicely, and the eight speed torque converter gearbox responds quickly when you want to kick-down. It’s a refined and comfortable long distance car without doubt. The Levante is also impressively capable off-road with five suspension settings including two dedicated off-road modes. The highest of these two settings lifts the ride height by 40 mm to give useful ground clearance. Back on the tarmac and it’s good to see the Maserati genes in evidence on twisty roads where there’s plenty of poise and a fine balance that reflects the car’s 50:50 weight distribution. A mechanical limited-slip differential and Torque Vectoring help, as does a 4×4 system that sends 100 per cent of drive to the rear, but can send up to 50 per cent to the front as required.
However much you might dislike the notion of this blue-blooded Italian marque embracing the SUV you simply can’t ignore the business case. One-million cars globally are sold annually in the premium luxury segment, with some 500,000 of those being SUVs. If Maserati is to achieve its aspiration of building 75,000 cars a year, it needs a slice of that action and the Levante might just have the qualities to deliver it.