A new Maserati model generally introduces the world to a variety of wind it may never have heard of, but a name badge referencing a blow that brings rain from the East via the Strait of Gibralter is as traditional as the new Maserati SUV gets.
Otherwise the Maserati Levante is about as far removed from the Italian brand’s heritage as it’s possible to imagine, and the concept doesn’t speak much to our enthusiasm for the brand either.
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But here it is, the Trident’s first SUV, and guess what? Yep, wait for the cliché… it’s probably the most important new model in Maserati’s 100-odd years of existence.
We’ve been here before with Porsche of course, and nowadays barely bats an eyelid at the mention of the Maserati’s most obvious rival, the Porsche Cayenne.
Even the most ardent enthusiast can’t ignore the maths. Maserati is pitching the Levante for sale in a sector that’s just going to keep on growing. Half-a-million SUVs find new owners every year in the premium luxury sector, and they find particular favour in China and the US. Maserati reckons it needs to shift 75,000 cars a year to be a viable player, and is looking for its slice of the pie.
Maserati Levante: in detail
Performance and 0-60mph time > With the diesel option the Levante is unfortunately no speed demon, taking a leisurely 6.9 seconds to reach 62mph. The petrol V6 is more our cup of tea, dashing off the 0-62mph sprint in 5.2 seconds
Engine and gearbox > Shared with the Quattroporté and Ghibli saloons, the 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine is adequate for the 2.2 tonne SUV while the petrol V6 has a bit more poke. An 8-speed ZF torque converter is the only gearbox option available.
Ride and Handling > Hydraulic power steering, rear biased all-wheel drive and an unexpected level of poise help the Maserati challenge the best-in-class for handling. Ride is also well judged thanks to standard air suspension.
MPG and running costs > The diesel powered Levante is rated at 39.2mpg - competitive for the sector, but not class-leading. The thirsty 25.9mpg petrol doesn’t impress either.
Interior and tech > As a pleasant contrast against the usual business-like interiors in some rivals, the Levante feels every bit as Italian as we hoped. Sumptuous leather, rich veneers and surprisingly sorted in-cabin tech feel bang up to date; it makes an F-Pace feel like a public convenience.
Design > Essential to mainataining the sheen of a Maserati SUV, if it didn't look good, there would be no point. Luckily the Levante is definitely one of better looking premium SUV's on sale. Second perhaps only to the Jaguar F-Pace, the sports car design elements transfer well on to the big wagon.
Prices, specs and rivals
This is Maserati’s first attempt at an SUV, and we think it’s quite a handsome one too. Despite its rather large dimensions (5m in length and over 2.1m in width), it disguises its bulk well, its design being somewhat refined when compared to its competition, with simplistic lines in comparison to the BMW X6 for example. The Levante’s recognisably a Maserati from the front and most certainly holds its own when sat alongside other SUVs.
Levante price tags run from £56,250 for the entry level diesel and up to £76,995 for the Levante GranLusso and GranSport models with a 424bhp petrol V6. The brand unveiled Levante GTS and Trofeo variants last year (with 550 and 581bhp respectively), both featuring a 3.8-litre Ferrari-derived twin-turbo V8. Neither of the models have yet been announced for the UK market however, and are currently only for the US and China. Each of the models we’ve had our hands on have come with all of the bells and whistles anyone could need, but we’re not entirely convinced that the prospect of a Maserati SUV is attractive enough to help it match Porsche’s success. While the Maserati looks the part, it suffers from an interior that doesn’t feel as special or expensive as you’d like, while the ride and handling are average at best.
The Porsche Macan is still chief in dynamics for the segment, with prices about £10k less, although it is a size smaller than the Maserati and in true Porsche fashion presents with less equipment as standard. Jaguar’s F-Pace 3.0d measures up more closely and is an alternative we’d recommend, undercutting the Crown-badged SUV by £5k.
Compared to more established rivals, the Maserati is more competitive, with pricing akin to an entry-level Porsche Cayenne diesel, while being quite a lot cheaper than the BMW X6 xDrive30d and Mercedes-Benz GLE350d coupe. That said, the more conventionally shaped relatives of the German pair are both priced below the Maserati levante.
The newest rival for the Levante to dice with is Range Rover’s Velar – the company's most road-focused model going is available from about £45k in base spec, while the top trim level weighs in at £62,560, not too much more than the entry-level Levante. The Velar also boasts a beautifully appointed interior, but its laid back character prefers cruising rather than carving canyon roads compared to the sportier Levante.
|Engine||2987cc, V6, Variable Geometry Turbo|
|Max power||275bhp @ 4000rpm|
|Max torque||442lb ft @ 2000-2600rpm|