The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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

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