The name Maserati will represent low slung executive saloon’s or sports coupés with fire breathing petrol engines, stunningly glorious looks and exclusive interiors for most people – however, the all new Levante delves Maserati deep into new territory.
Territory that comes with highly proven and well established competition from the likes of the Range Rover Sport or Porsche Cayenne, but competition that this Italian SUV is prepared for thanks to its beautifully sculpted exterior, elegant interior and capable power-train.
Launched in the UK over a year ago now, the Maserati Levante starts from just £56,690 – yes you have read that right – despite what many perceive, the Maserati range doesn’t ask for lottery numbers or blank cheques, and when you consider the fact that most new car owners prefer to pay monthly and hand a car back after a couple of years – the Italian brand isn’t out of reach.
In the crazy Italian’s own words, the Levante provides ‘The ultimate combination of leading on-road performance and off-road capabilities’.
Having driven the lesser affordable, but driver focused, fire-breathing Levante S model (starts from £70,185) on-road around the Ards peninsula, I was stunned by what this SUV can offer and in this performance hungry guise – the turbocharged, 3.0L V6 petrol engines produces 430HP and will propel from stationary to 62mph in just 5.2 sec.
But I am here to talk to you about the Levnate Diesel and at a glance, just like all of the Maserati range; the Levante Diesel will most certainly make you look twice. I feel it is the best looking SUV on the market and comes with a few signature traits from the stable which include quad exhausts, Maserati logo on the ¼ panel and the common wing vents.
On top of this, is the rather large open-mouthed grill that appears throughout the range, while the Levante front end comes with a shutter system fitted behind, this opens when the engine needs to be kept cool and closes to assist with the SUV’s drag coefficient and indeed does this perfectly with class leading figures.
Fully colour coded lower body panels are available at a cost whilst a panoramic roof can be added for a reasonably small price and there are more options and packs available for the Levante than you could imagine, making sure that whatever you choose will make your Levante, YOUR’S…
Whilst on the subject of packs, those available include Sport pack, Luxury pack, Luxury Zegna pack, Metallic pack, Driver Assist pack, Driver Assist Plus pack, Easy Access pack, Premium pack and finally Cold Weather pack.
I won’t even try and pretend I know what is included within each of the aforementioned, however a quick visit to Charles Hurst Maserati’s new showroom on Belfast’s Boucher Road will soon enable a better understanding after a chat to the knowledgeable sales executives.
Inside the Levante is suitably plush and welcoming, with a choice of finishing’s inside such as premium leather, Ermenegildo Zegna silk – the only manufacturer to offer such material, carbon fibre and a few fine woods alongside audio upgrades from the likes of Bowers & Wilkins and Harmon Kardon being available.
Plenty of room is on offer throughout the cabin for even the largest of passengers to travel in comfort and the driving position is a pleasurable one with all the required switchgear around the dash well within reach and a signature analogue clock protruding from the top of the dash.
Luggage space is pretty impressive also via the electric open/close tailgate, whilst the reverse camera on the boot displays on the 8.4” multimedia screen built into the dash – this updated infotainment system offers USB and Aux input for the playback of music, film or images as well as Bluetooth connectivity for calls and streaming.
Engine wise, the Levante Diesel comes with just one offering, the fantastic 3.0L V6 turbocharged diesel, that we have road tested in the Maserati Ghibli before, providing 275bhp with 420lb/ft of torque enabling a 0-60mph time of just 6.7 seconds.
Power is put to the ground via the only gearbox available, an 8-speed automatic ‘box offering smooth and fast changes as one would expect, whilst the intelligent Q4 all-wheel-drive system transfers power to the road intelligently.
Self levelling air suspension keeps the Levante well grounded on the road, thanks mainly to the skyhook suspension technology on-board, but also thanks to its five preset heights, covering a total of 85mm of adjustment and a maximum ground clearance of 250mm.
At full height, the Levante is most certainly ‘up there’ with its rivals, and could on paper, take on some pretty tough terrain to outclass the competition.
Thankfully Maserati UK wanted to demonstrate the Levante’s ability off-road, and during our lengthy road-test in the Levante S, a perfectly scheduled coffee stop at Clandeboye Estate in Bangor, led to the obvious.
The obvious being that of taking on the picturesque, yet challenging tracks of Ireland Offroad Experience, based within the vast grounds of the estate.
Being new to market and bear in mind for a moment that this is the first ever SUV from Maserati, I was nervous about just how capable the Levante would be on tracks that I am highly familiar with, having taken most SUV’s onto them over the years.
I was then reminded that in most of the world, the Maserati range is equipped with the Q4 all-wheel-drive system, due to the need for it in climates that face extreme weather and it was at this point that I was eager to get down and dirty with the Levante.
A comfortable journey along the gravel lanes around the lake led into some deep ruts and clobber before inclines, declines and side slopes came and went with absolute ease, and dare I say it – Levante Diesel coped with some areas the latest Land Rover Discovery found difficult under similar conditions.
A 50:50 weight distribution ensures the utmost of agility no matter where your Levante may take you and with four selectable drive modes on offer, this SUV really does bring the technology to cope with whatever is under foot.
Overall the Levante is a very capable and attractive package for those who want to stand out from the crowd and not conform to Joe next door, but expect to pay something close to £70k for a Levnate with the right spec and options.
Most levanter owners seem to be first time Maserati customers, the majority of whom have been SUV owners previously, with the vast amount switching from German brand, Porsche.
The Levante is 100% Maserati yet 100% SUV…
Words: Graham Curry Photos: Maserati UK