Lux­ury + Tri­dent = SUV

The 2017 Maserati Le­vante s opens a new chap­ter for The Ital­ian au­tomaker Tra­di­tion­ally known for ITS sports cars and sedans BAD

WKND - - On The Road -

For the ‘Shah of Per­sia’, Maserati built a car of the same name. It had V8 en­gine from the 450S —bored-out to 5.0-litre — and the chas­sis of the 3500. The in­te­rior was fin­ished in rare wood, and pre­cious met­als and gold. Turbo lag; some plas­tic parts; child in the cen­tre seat should never grow up

wrapped in all that. And there is an Ermenegildo Zegna edi­tion that adds lav­ish em­broi­dered silk trim to the seats. Ap­par­ently, it takes the fash­ion house some 300km of silk thread to com­plete one car and it has been de­vel­oped to have the same dura­bil­ity as leather. The blue blood pedi­gree of a Maserati shines, quite lit­er­ally, through the blue light­ing on the TFT screen within the in­stru­men­ta­tion panel and the blue di­als of the Maserati clock. There are a few sus­pi­cious plas­tic bits, but they didn’t rat­tle or squeal dur­ing our test drive.

In the rear, pas­sen­gers ap­pre­ci­ated the rear AC vents but pre­ferred to keep the count to two adults. If you have three on board, the cen­tre pas­sen­ger will be left short­changed for com­fort.

POW­ER­TRAIN & PER­FOR­MANCE

From the sta­bles of Maranello comes pranc­ing 424 horses and some mighty 580Nm of twist at the crank. I say “pranc­ing” be­cause the twin-turbo 3.0L V6 un­der the hood has been sourced from Fer­rari. It cer­tainly is an emo­tional piece of ma­chin­ery! The ex­haust makes an­gry sounds ev­ery time you plant your right foot, and the crack­ling notes be­tween shifts gives your au­ral senses a lit­tle ex­tra to en­joy.

Off the line, the Le­vante S will show some hes­i­ta­tion even in sports mode, but as the revs climb, one will feel be­ing thrown back into the seat, mo­men­tar­ily mak­ing a spec­ta­tor of the driver as it hurls it­self to­wards the hori­zon, com­fort­ably hit­ting the 100 km/h mark in a brisk 5.2 sec­onds. On the high­way, it is even more of a hoot — the mid-range grunt is im­mense, and over­tak­ing ma­neu­vers not just has­sle-free, but a plea­sure. And let that 310km/h speedome­ter not surprise you: this car is very ca­pa­ble of do­ing 264 km/h or more if shown an empty stretch. But the lack of a 120km/h de­nom­i­na­tion in the speedome­ter got me cock­eyed by forc­ing me to watch and keep the nee­dle a whisker below 120 while speed­ily nav­i­gat­ing traf­fic as 400-plus horses beck­oned.

If you like the quiet soli­tude en­joyed by roy­alty, you en­joy the cabin of the Le­vante, with only the ex­haust note seep­ing through and that is some­thing de­sir­able. The ad­justable air springs did their bit to keep the ride sta­ble and com­posed over most sur­faces, but the few jar­ring sur­prises came when the low-pro­file tyres hit the small, cam­ou­flaged speed humps. The Le­vante can be ex­cused only be­cause it is an SUV that can me­an­der through traf­fic with the dex­ter­ity of a sports sedan. There is some feel left to be de­sired from the hy­draulic steer­ing wheel, but the chas­sis, helped by a dou­ble-wish­bone and mul­ti­link set-up along with the trac­tive all-wheel drive sys­tem, gives you grip ev­ery­where, over sharp cor­ners, over long sweep­ing ones and even over oil spills, I sup­pose.

We didn’t have to stop for fuel very of­ten ei­ther. Although we man­aged to fig­ure a few ticks off the claimed 10.9L/100km, we think it fared well in that depart­ment. As for C02 emis­sions, 253 g/km isn’t go­ing to eat away large parts of the ozone and, truth be told, the in­dus­tri­al­ist who can af­ford this ve­hi­cle wouldn’t care less!

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