On a cold and windy day as 2016 came to a close HedgeBrunch was invited by Maserati to put the new Levante through its paces. In the misty and muddy English countryside – an apt setting to test out Maserati’s first ever SUV – we took to both tarmac and turf to see what all the fuss is about.
We’re told the name Levante was inspired by the warm, Mediterranean wind that can change from mild to gale force in an instant, mirroring the character of the first Maserati on-road off-roader. Grace then power. And grace AND power is surely what this car is about more than anything. It’s a lovely combination of classic Maserati looks and all-terrain guts.
The Levante is based on the evolution of the saloon platform but with a chassis that has been specifically developed to offer unique on-road drivability and competitive off-road capability, with day-to-day comfort and practicality. This new offering was conceived around three main pillars: design, exclusivity and performance – aiming it directly at the largest segment in the automotive luxury space, as yet unserved by Maserati.
The Levante’s design is certainly eye-catching. Distinctive and attractive, it embraces the aesthetic elements of the Tridents Italian style and is unmistakeably on brand. If you’re already a Maserati fan, we can’t see how you’d miss the appeal. It combines the spaciousness and comfort that you’d look for in a luxury SUV with coupé lines that purportedly achieve the best aerodynamic efficiency in its class.
The thoroughbred on-road handling typical of all Maserati cars and the solid off-road capabilities, as demanded in the SUV segment, describe the car’s overall ethos well. The Levante is here to excite any sports car driver counting on performance-oriented features, such as the extensive use of lightweight materials, ideal 50-50% weight distribution and its lowest in class centre of gravity. The Levante is designed to deliver comfort on rough roads and handling in the dirt, snow and ice. It does so with aplomb. We took it deep into a frosty, wet and muddy mire in the heart of the Cotswoldian woodlands and it barely broke a sweat, cruising through any trouble without a care in the world.
If you’re an avid traveller and adventure at the weekend but, more-often-than-not your drive is the school run, the office or the supermarket, this will suit you down to the ground. On road, it’s smooth and comfortable, if a little inoffensive, but when pushed you can squeeze some fun out it. It’s not immediate – as you’d find the Gran Cabrio or Gran Turismo, which is understandable, but it doesn’t aim to be. This all-purpose and all-purpose with panache.
Engine-wise, the Levante is equipped with the latest evolution of the Maserati 3-litre V6 engines. The petrol Maserati V6 engine with latest GDI and twin-turbo is available in two versions: the top of the range 430 bhp and the exciting 350 bhp. The most powerful Levante makes it to 100 km/h in 5.2” and has a top speed of 264 km/h, while the figures for the 350 bhp version are 6.0” and 251 km/h respectively. It comes in diesel too but the bhp drops to 275 and 0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. The fuel efficiency ramps up pretty well though, if you do opt for this, 7.2 litres will see you a good 100km out of Dodge.
Both petrol and diesel versions of the Maserati Levante use the eight-speed automatic ZF gearbox that provides seamless comfort and fast gear shifting, depending on the selected drive mode. The Levante driver can choose between four drive modes, “Normal”, I.C.E., “Sport” and “Off-road”. Each one constitutes distinct characteristics intelligently altering engine, transmission, suspension and electronics features.
The Levante introduces several innovations to the current Maserati line-up; from safety to convenience options and through to the brand new Human Machine Interface and the dedicated cargo solutions. The range of equipment options is wider and more complete than ever so, if that’s your thing, your well set. Its got the bells and whistled you want: adaptive cruise control, stop & go function, forward collision and lane departure warnings, surround view cameras, not to mention a generous 8.4″ touch screen display which syncs simply with your in-pocket tech. Granted, you’d expect these from a luxury SUV offering, but they’ve done a strong job and will be competing with gusto in an already bustling market.
One thing we didn’t expect though, is the price. It comes in at a not-too-eye-watering £54,000 start, which we were surprised at after enjoying it immensely for 24 hours of up hill and down dale. That’s pretty standard for the bracket its aiming but felt good value regardless.
The luxury SUV party has been going for quite some time and most of the big names are there already. The earliest arrivals even looking a little tired now. Maserati are fashionably late but they’ve dressed very well and will turn some heads for sure.
For more info on the Maserati Levante head to their site here