The name Maserati will inspire thoughts of 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 S’ delves deep into new territory.
Territory that comes with highly proven and well established competition from the likes of the Range Rover Sport SVR or Porsche Cayenne Turbo, even the announcement of Alfa Romeo’s new Stelvio Quadrifoglio is a fair challenger , 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 around the start of the year, Maserati Levante Diesel starts from just £56,250 and in the crazy Italian’s own words provides ‘The ultimate combination of leading on-road performance and off-road capabilities’.
We are not here to talk about this affordable, frugal model though, having covered the launch of it earlier in the year, instead, as being one of the first in Northern Ireland to get our hands on the fire-breathing ‘Levante S’ on local roads, it is time to shout loud after the removal of a reporting embargo.
At point of review, the Levante S wasn’t yet available to drive in the seating position we are used to on the Emerald Isle and as such it was an Italian registered, left-hand-drive model that we got to grips with – when in Rome as the saying goes…
Starting from £69,000 the Levante S is an SUV aimed at the purists who want all that a traditional Italian sports car offers, but in a much more family friendly manner.
Style, driving dynamics, sheer grunt and noise are all in abundance as you would expect.
At a glance, and just like all of the Maserati range; road-presence of the Levante S 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’s emblem on the ¼ panel and the common wing vents.
On top of this is the rather large grill that appears throughout the range features, with the Levante version equipped with a shutter system that 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.
If the vast array of equipment and style on the Levante S isn’t enough, there are two trim options available – each of which start from £75,240 and receive familiar names from the brand – ‘Granlusso’ and ‘Gransport’.
All Maserati vehicles promise the highest standards of sporting luxury but the Levante S GranLusso raises the luxurious profile of this commanding yet elegant SUV even higher featuring; font bumper with metallic finish skid plates, body color side skirts, soft door close, Ermenegildo Zegna Silk interiors, illuminated steel door sills and chrome boot sill.
The Levnate S Gransport celebrates the race-bred performance as it feature; blue inserts on the Trident and Saetta logo; blue trident on the alloy wheel hubs, skid plates and front grid with Piano Black finish; sport rear spoiler, 20″ wheels, sport seats, sport steering wheel with shift paddles and sport pedals in brushed stainless steel.
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 via the electric open/close tailgate on the left-hand-drive model we got to experience around the hills above Belfast, whilst the reverse camera on the boot displays on the 8.4” screen built into the dash.
This infotainment system also offers USB and Aux input for the playback of music, film or images as well as Bluetooth connectivity for calls and streaming. Sat Nav and a front facing camera also feature via the touch screen which can also be operated via the steering wheel or control knob on the centre console.
Engine wise the Levante S comes with a Ferrari-built fire-breathing 3.0L twin-turbocharged V6 petrol unit capable of 164mph with a 0-60mph speed of 5.2 seconds, quite impressive I think you would agree and makes the Levante S feel and sound like the Maserati’s we once loved.
All this power and 428lb/ft of torque is put to the ground via the only gearbox available, an 8 speed automatic ‘box offering smooth and super-fast changes as one would expect whilst the intelligent Q4 all-wheel-drive system transfers the power to the road intelligently I guess.
Self levelling air suspension keeps the Levante S very well grounded on the road mainly due 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 S is most certainly ‘up there’ with its rivals and could take on some pretty tough terrain, something that I would like to try at some point in the future to see just how off-road capable the super-stylish super-fast Italian really is.
50:50 weight distribution ensures the utmost of agility no matter where your Levante S may take you and with four selectable drive modes on offer this SUV really offers the technology to cope with whatever is under foot.
On a decent drive around the Ulster Grand Prix circuit, I was highly impressed with the driving experience of the Levante S, the noise and agility combined with the effortless pace certainly put a smile on my face on a soggy morning overlooking Belfast.
Overall the Levante S looks like a pure-bred SUV, an attractive package for those who want to stand out from the crowd and not conform, but expect to pay something upwards of £85k for a Levnate S with the right spec and an economy in the early 20’s mpg.
Words and Photos: Graham Curry
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