A breath of fresh air among SUVS

Le­vante looks ev­ery bit a Maserati with nice sur­prises

StarMetro Toronto - - Wheels - sami haj-as­saad au­toguide.com

What is lux­ury with­out ex­pres­sion? Many au­tomak­ers boast a wide va­ri­ety of lux­ury cars, but few of them, es­pe­cially util­ity ve­hi­cles, hit the right note in terms of per­son­al­ity and true de­sir­abil­ity.

It’s good then, that pas­sion­ate au­tomak­ers like Maserati are slowly com­ing out with sexy al­ter­na­tives to the sta­tus quo. The 2018 Maserati Le­vante not only looks ex­pres­sive but drives that way, too. And be­yond the stylish and tech­ni­cal bits, there’s also a lot of po­ten­tial for driv­ing joy.

Let’s start with the strik­ing ex­te­rior de­sign. It’s un­mis­tak­ably a Maserati, which means it’s gor­geous and it can in­deed sport port­hole vents on its side fend­ers and get away with it. The side pro­file is its defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic, how­ever, as the Le­vante sports a slick sil­hou­ette that is much less util­i­tar­ian look­ing than any­thing from Range Rover and less frumpy than the Porsche Cayenne.

The ex­te­rior is eye-catch­ing enough to war­rant the price tag and the in­te­rior leaves a great first im­pres­sion, too. Our Granlusso tester was out­fit­ted with the op­tional su­per-swanky Ermenegildo Zegna Silk up­hol­stery to go along with bright brown leather. The folks in the front two seats will cer­tainly feel pam­pered, and a pair of adults in the back will also be OK with fea­tures such as heated seats and power win­dow shades, as well as an op­tion for four-zone cli­mate con­trol.

Be­hind the wheel, the Le­vante is a blast as soon as you trig­ger the push-but­ton ig­ni­tion and the en­gine boils over, bub­bling and bur­bling with an in­tox­i­cat­ing growl. That growl is fur­ther en­hanced when the car is switched into one of the two sports modes, and it goes from a bark to a roar be­tween

3,000 r.p.m. to the 6,500 r.p.m. red­line.

The power de­liv­ery is also sat­is­fy­ing. In S guise, the en­gine makes 424 horse­power and

428 lb-ft of torque. De­pend­ing on the mode, peak fig­ures can ar­rive early at 1,750 r.p.m. in sport mode, or comes right af­ter

4,500 r.p.m. in the nor­mal mode. On windy roads, it’s hard to ig­nore the size and weight of the car, so don’t ex­pect this SUV to be a sports car, even if it has a Maserati badge.

The Le­vante is a gor­geous ve­hi­cle that’s full of sur­prises. With so many bland util­ity ve­hi­cles with no per­son­al­ity, the Le­vante is a breath of fresh air.

pho­tos sami haj-as­saad/au­toguide.com

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