The Maserati name has particular significance for me. I was raised on a diet of Alfa’s, Lancia’s, Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s. Italian cars are in my blood. Maserati though was a brand I came to adore later in life. In my early twenties, after a raft of entertaining but dodgy Fiats, I proclaimed that I would have a Maserati one day. I’d always been a distant fan of the trident branded car marque but after seeing a Maserati 3200 in the flesh and knowing it wasn’t too expensive (to buy), I decided to have one.
Of course, this never came to fruition but it did mean many nights were spent scouring the interwebs for information about Maserati’s and the one thing that stuck with me – the fact that a Maserati may just be the classiest car maker around. Drive one and you have class, sophistication, taste but most of all you don’t care what others think of you. Not because the car is in your face. Quite the opposite in fact. Driving a Maserati is like donning a Saville Row Bespoke suit – you can see the style and quality a mile off without coming across as vulgar or offensive. You are not a stereotype if you drive a Maserati.
Unfortunately back then, quality was largely perceived. The cars were great to look at but maintenance and reliability was far from ideal. Luckily this hasn’t been an issue for many years and every new car the Italian marque reveals seems to be a step up from the last. That brings us nicely to the all new Levante. Not only the latest Maserati, but their first SUV. An important car would be understating it. The SUV segment is rapidly growing and there are large groups of the buying public who want nothing else. So the Levante has to be a very good SUV whilst still being a Maserati. A tough act.
I arrived at our Cotswolds test location the night before we were due to drive the Levante. It was already dark but parked outside the hotel was a white Levante that had been artificially lit. It looked good, really good. It looks great in photographs but in the flesh it really works. It looks expensive but doesn’t have that look at me stigma that modern Range Rovers et al seem to have. It also has a wonderful line that runs from the A-Pillar to the base of the rear window, giving it a coupe-like appearance despite being a conventional SUV shape.
The Levante is pure Maserati and I mean that quite literally. Some people have wrongly assumed this is a re-bodied Jeep (one of Maserati’s sister companies) but the Levante is a bespoke Maserati platform. It has a Maserati 4WD system and has the same diesel engine from the Ghibli saloon. It truly is Italian too. The car is designed, engineered and built in Northern Italy – giving the car a unique feel. SUVs are not their normal export and this car will appeal to first time SUV buyers and long time owners alike.
What’s the Levante like to drive?
As soon as you open the door in the Levante, you are greeted by a sea of fine leather, wood and other high end materials. It does a great job of being an SUV whilst still feeling special like a Maserati should. The transmission tunnel sits high meaning the controls fall easily to hand. In the centre of the dash is a large screen that is easy to use and the UI is both unique and pleasing to look at. It feels more driver focused than most SUVs. The interior almost wraps around you without feeling small.
Once out out on the road everything is very refined. In the UK we only get one engine option. It is a 3.0 V6 diesel that puts out a reasonable 275bhp. This allows a leisurely 6.9 seconds to sixty miles per hour. This unfortunately puts the car at a disadvantage versus rivals from Porsche and Jaguar but maybe that is missing the point. It would seem that Maserati wants the Levante to be less about outright performance and more about the journey.
The Levante seems to leverage refinement and spirited drive quite well. It offers a luxury experience and ride but with handling and steering feel of a smaller, more nimble car. This combination could make the Levante perfect to live with day to day. So many so-called-sports off-roaders sacrifice that all-important ride comfort so that the driver gets this perceived feeling of sportiness. The Levante actually seems to succeed here at creating a driving experience that matches the needs of the target customer.
Because of this, it makes it more of a rival to the Range Rover Sport. The Range Rover does benefit from a larger range of engines but lets face it, it has become a common sight on UK roads. The Levante is also about the same size as a Range Rover, if not quite as practical. The Maserati is also much more a special place to be. In particular with the trim specced on our test car.
Progress is smooth and effortless, thanks in part to the 8-speed ZF gearbox. This ‘box is found in so many cars these days and with good reason. It is about the best proper automatic gearbox out there. You can leave in auto and it will stir the gears for you seamlessly and effortlessly. If you fancy being in control you can flick the column mounted paddles and play yourself. Either way it matches the temperament of the Levante perfectly.
Is the Maserati Levante any good off road?
I’m not sure of the percentage of owners who take their luxury 4×4 off road but I’m sure it’s quite a bit less than 20%. Most will grace the high street rather than the farm track or muddy field. Still the Levante has to be able to pull up it’s trousers and get a little muddy. We had the chance to test it’s capability during our first drive.
The Levante’s four wheel drive system is based upon that of the Ghibli. Therefore it is bespoke to the Maserati brand. They’ve beefed it up for the Levante though. Select the required modes and basically the car does most of the work.
We had a range of conditions to try it on from your overgrown back road to rutted, slippery mud. The Levante dealt with all of them with the minimum of fuss. A particular test that may actually be useful was driving it on wet grass. Provided the driver didn’t drive like a complete idiot, the Levante found grip where there appeared to be none which is perfect for those summer fetes..
Let’s not get carried away though, the Levante is not going to be the best off-roader in it’s class. That accolade surely has to go the Range Rover Sport. That being said the Levante more than copes with the rough stuff and will be perfect for the average owner come rain or shine.
Maserati Levante Review Conclusion
The Levante is an attractive, well made, luxurious and interesting SUV that is capable of getting a bit muddy too. It is the ‘outside of the box’ choice in the mid-size premium SUV market. As a daily proposition I’d take it over a diesel Range Rover Sport but part of it’s charm is that it’ll be unique on most high streets despite the fact this will most-likely go on to be Maserati’s best seller.
The only real let-down is the choice of engines or more specifically the lack of. On the continent they get a petrol option which has a bit more get-up-and-go. Lets hope that Maserati launch a V8 engined version soon, as that could make it a perfect luxury alternative to the establishment. Cars like the Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace are more engaging to drive but both are smaller. The Levante offers more practicality with more than a bit more style and sophistication.
Prices start from £54,355 and is on sale now.