Maserati hits the right note
A twin-turbo petrol V6 brings the Levante back to classic Maserati character, writes
feels a lot more power and aggression is entirely appropriate.
In fact, you can calm the S quite effectively by just driving it in normal mode. It’s aurally restrained, the adaptive suspension is comfortable and you can simply cruise.
The suspension system also gives the driver a fair few options on how and where to drive, with six different height levels. The driver can alter the ride height via a rocker switch or by choosing different driving modes on the central console. The height variation from the lowest position to the highest is 75 millimetres – up to 85mm with the Park level included.
The Levante could almost pass for a top-level luxury car, were it not for some slightly prosaic elements in the cabin.
There’s no denying the quality of the very expensive and very touchy feely materials, but the architecture is pretty ordinary. Some of that is down to Maserati’s reliance on the Fiat Chrysler parts bin, but there’s also just a general lack of imagination in the design and layout.
Would we want to go back to the old days of Maserati, when switchgear was arranged by scattergun and bits felt like they might fall off at any time? Of course not. But the passion of the way the car drives doesn’t quite 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6, 321kW/580Nm, 8-speed automatic, AWD, Combined economy 10.9 litres per 100km, 0-100kmh 5.2 seconds.
5003mm long, 1679mm high, 3004mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 580 litres, 20-inch alloy wheels with 265/40 front and 295/35 rear tyres.
We like: Awesome powertrain character, tenacious handling, SUVpractical.
Looks thoroughly unremarkable from some angles, cabin lacks flair. translate to the interior environment, that’s all.
Part of the Maserati ethos is also being OTT about personalisation.
So aside from the three trim levels, you can choose between seven different alloy wheels, five of which are new for 2018. There are five different interior trim choices, two different steering wheels and four different colours for the brake calipers.
And that’s before you start to really dig into the finer detail of the options list.
Do you have anything sensible to add?
Well, Levante has taken a big step towards the modern age with the addition of electric power steering, which, in turn, enables an enhanced range of active safety features.
So the high-riding Maser now ticks a lot of boxes. New active functions include Highway Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, as well as Traffic Sign Recognition.
Also standard are Adaptive Cruise Control with stop and go, Forward Collision Warning Plus (FCW Plus), Advanced Brake Assist system (ABA), Lane Departure Warning and Surround View Camera.
Good school-run car, then?
Almost certainly, if your children’s schoolmates aren’t frightened by howling V6 engines and massive grilles with pointy tridents on them.
Actually, the Levante is a pretty practical SUV. It rides on a very long wheelbase and rear seat space is generous.
That’s perhaps because Maserati has a fair bit of experience in four-door machines, so it knows the value of properly comfortable cabins.
The boot’s not bad either: 580 litres. Just remember to secure loose items.
Maserati Levante S Gransport Base price: $174,990. Powertrain and performance:
We don’t like:
Any other cars I should consider?
The Maserati’s combination of high-power petrol-SUV performance and luxury is not easy to match, especially at the $175k price of our Levante S GranSport model (there are also entry-level and posh-centric Lusso versions).
The Range Rover Sport SVR is probably the model that’s the closest in character, but it’s a lot more powerful (supercharged V8) and a lot more expensive. Porsche’s Cayenne S is a contender – although you could argue it’s a lot more low-key than the Levante. If the Levante S is a bit rich for your blood, we’re about to see a lower-powered (well, 260kW) version for $139,880. More on that soon.
There is also a wild card, of course. The smaller, cheaper Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is in no way a competitor for the Levante S... but then maybe it is: it’s very Italian, very fast and also has an engine with a claim to Ferrari fame.
Exquisite materials, but the overall look and layout is not quite luxury-car special. On a country road, nobody can hear your Maserati V6 scream.