Maserati enters the SUV game with the Levante
THESE DAYS, THE NEVERENDING RISE OF SUVS HAS MOVED ONTO MOST EVERY MANUFACTURER'S AGENDA. NOW WITH THE Levante model, Maserati has joined the fray. Clearly it is an interesting mix of looks, power and handling by this major luxury sports car and sedan maker.
On the styling front, the now- classic Maserati oval grille with the Trident in the center is present and accounted for. And three mini- exhaust vents on the right and left fenders also give the viewer the Maserati look. Moving further back, one sees a sloping roof with a large spoiler, which slants steeply toward the rear window. Rather large 19- inch alloy wheels are standard equipment with 21- inch wheels optional. Adding to the performance spin are four exhaust pipes poking out from under the rear bumper. The end- result is an easily identified and attractive SUV.
On the power front, there are two choices. On the base model, the 3.0- liter turbo V- 6 produces 345 horsepower. But on the optional S model, the power jumps to 424 horsepower. Unsurprisingly, there is no manual transmission. Instead, an eight- speed automatic is provided since manually shifting eight gears with a clutch pedal would pose somewhat of a challenge. But for shifting addicts,
there are amply sized paddles behind the steering wheel or a gearshift lever to manually change the gears. All- wheeldrive is also standard equipment. An air- suspension system handles both smooth and rough roads. On our test model S, 0- 60 time is a swift five seconds, with a top speed of 164 miles per hour.
Leather with some carbon fi ber inserts is found everywhere in the interior layout. Passive entry and push- button starting is handled by merely having possession of the key. A large 8.4- inch info video screen takes care of everything from navigation to the stereo functions as well as the backup camera. Besides the ability to control the action by touch, knobs on the center console are helpful in handling the radio volume and stations. A panoramic sunroof plus a dual- zone automatic climate system takes care of your climate and sunshine needs. For plenty of data and information on mileage, trips and more, a smaller 7- inch video screen is found in the dash pod.
Besides six airbags and curtains, safety issues are taken care of a number of ways— there are front and back sensors that give graphic warnings in the video screen as well sound alerts. Th ere are also blind- spot warnings when needed.
In the second row of seats, there is a reasonable amount of legroom and headroom. An armrest with two cup holders is available for additional comfort and when dropped, there is a small pass- thru to the rear storage area. Climate vents are found in back of the center console. Th e rear liftgate is powered and may be
shut with a button on the gate itself. A cover over this storage area is provided, and the seat backs are split and may be lowered for additional storage needs.
On the road, the powerful throaty engine is heard, but not in a negative way. Acceleration is available in spades. In normal driving, the transmission shifts are barely sensed. Th ere are a few additional ride choices— sport or off - road. In the latter, the height of the vehicle goes up. In traffi c, the engine turns off at stops and restarts when removing your foot off the brake. Th e suspension— even in “normal mode”— is on the sporty side, but designed to handle cornering. Th at's not to say the ride is rough, merely well controlled.
With this addition to the Maserati lineup, this Italian manufacturer has covered the latest marketing niche with a luxury and performance competitor that can carry the family and its storage needs at the same time.