DRIVE: MASERATI LEVANTE
THE Maserati Levante is named after the Mediterranean wind that can howl for days and nights at speeds of up to 50 knots. Today it is more than matched, for here on the Cowal peninsula the wind is shrieking like a banshee through the trees, whipping the rain into a cold, cheek-slapping dervish.
This is an area of incredible beauty but for now its beaches, forests, hills and glens are all but lost in this unseasonal stramash.
When I left Glasgow the sun had been smiling and the road ahead dry – and so I was able to select Sport mode, which lowers the Levante’s air-suspended body by 20mm and adds weight to the hydraulically assisted wheel.
Along the shores of Loch Lomond my Italian companion steered as accurately as a fly-by-wire jet, with its adaptive fourwheel torque distribution keeping kit and caboodle in a straight line.
Downshifts using the wheel-mounted paddle were swift and gratifyingly responsive for overtakes. Sadly, such sport was quickly curtailed. On climbing the Rest And Be Thankful pass just half an hour later, the hillside shadows suddenly deepened, giant raindrops splattered the windscreen and a black raven flapped into silhouette against the stark slopes of Beinn an Lochain.
Despite such dark portents, the interior of Maserati’s SUV was proving to be a perfectly pleasant environment.
Even for a car similar in size to the Porsche Cayenne, it felt extra-spacious, with enveloping leather seats fore and what looked like plenty of room for three adults aft – this despite the raked roofline, decorated with a rakishly angled spoiler.
As the caravan of tourists headed onward in search of the renowned seafood at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar & Restaurant, I turned sharp left to begin my daytripper’s exploration of the Cowal peninsula.
And now here I am, driving south on the A815, with the summer exploding into a storm around me yet the cocoon of the Levante cabin super-quiet and supersoothing.
With the dense shadows of Argyll Forest Park on my left and the craggy shoreline of a gunmetal grey Loch Fyne on my right, the two-laned road is surprisingly smooth.
Such stately progress is no doubt helped by the advanced active air suspension, which offers different ride heights and levels of capability and comfort.
Combined with Maserati’s Skyhook suspension system, with shock absorbers featuring continuous damping variation, the Levante can prioritise cruise comfort or sports pursuits.
As I turn right onto the A886 and again on to the single-track B8000, handling and pinpoint steering are my priorities for surely this is a coastal road that was intended only for horses not chariots – and at 5003mm long and 2158mm wide with its mirrors unfolded the Levante is more Clydesdale than Shetland Pony.
There are passing points but frustratingly never where I need them and three times I have to reverse fifty or so yards back up the snaking path to allow oncomers to pass – thankfully the rear view camera and guidance system helps. In fact, there is an array of innovative safety features on