SUVs are hot! More and more manufacturers are embracing the trend and offer their customers a sport utility vehicle. One of the latest manufacturers to join the party is Maserati with their Levante. We recently had the opportunity to review the petrol powered Levante S on a 1,000+ mile pan-European road trip from the United Kingdom to the Levante’s birthplace in Turin.
Performance & Handling
The Maserati Levante S comes with a biturbo 3.0 liter V6 petrol engine built by Ferrari. The V6 produces up to 430hp and 580Nm of torque. Paired with an 8-Speed ZF gearbox it allows for a sprint from 0-100 km/h in 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 264 km/h.
The Maserati Levante S comes with Maserati’s Q4 all-wheel-drive system that allows up to 100% of the torque to power the rear wheels. It also comes with torque vectoring as standard to improve cornering speed and stability.
The Levante comes standard with adaptive air suspension that allows you to raise and lower the car as well as change the damper settings between comfort and sport. Overall you can choose between four different drive modes: Normal (Comfort), ICE (Efficiency), Sport and Off-Road. In Sport you can chose between having just the gearbox and engine in Sport mode or also change the dampers to a sportier tune. In Sport suspension mode, more feedback from the road surface is passed into the cabin but it is still very comfortable and does not come close to the sport modes of some of the German competitors like the GLC 43 AMG, Audi SQ5 or Porsche Macan. This means a bit more body roll through the corners.
In general, the Levante is more a grand tourer – it doesn’t try to be an oversized wannabe sportscar. The V6 isn’t as present or as loud as the famous naturally aspirated V8 found in the Gran Turismo but once you engage sport mode and put your foot down it does have nice raspy and unique V6 sound. Although I really wish they would make a Levante with a V8 – per example with the new V8 found in the Calfornia T.
The design of the Levante combines classic Maserati elements with sporty SUV dimensions. The front a large and open front grill that not only defines the Levante’s appearance but also provides cool air to the engine and reduced drag.
The overall design is very elegant and sleek with some distinct design elements like the broader rear shoulders and three air outlets above the front wheels. The rear has a roof spoiler and two double tailpipes on either side. Overall, I like the looks of the Levante and prefer it over much more edgy SUVs like the new Q5. The only thing that always puzzles me with Italian cars is why they are designed as if a car doesn’t need a front license plate – the big back block used to mount the plate on doesn’t do the car’s elegance any justice.
Inside you will find a pretty well-equipped full leather interior. Standard equipment includes 6-way adjustable seats, keyless entry & keyless go, multi-functional steering wheel, two zone climate control, Maserati Touch Control infotainment system and half a dozen USB, SD and 12V power sockets throughout the vehicle.
The seating position is good and you can control most of the infotainment system with the buttons on the steering wheel although it took a while to figure out there is another set of buttons hidden on the back of the wheel right underneath the fixed mounted shift paddles.
Infotainment & Assistance Systems
Optionally Maserati offers an adaptive cruise control system with stop and go functionality. Other optional safety features include a lane departure warning and a blind spot warning. The adaptive cruise control does its job but is not as advanced as that offered on some of its German rivals. A lane assist system is not available.
The infotainment system is well equipped and provides plenty of connectivity options and gadgets like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The ergonomics and controls are not perfect, I’m not a big fan of touchscreen-only infotainment systems in general as it means taking your eyes of the road doing simple tasks like zooming the navigation map in or out. Heads-up display is not available but a second digital display located between the analogue speedometer and rev counter provides additional – somewhat confusing – menus and information.
What to Spec?
The Maserati Levante S comes pretty well specced as standard but there are still a few optional extras you might want to consider. Here are our favorite optional extras:
20 or 21 inch wheels – The Maserati Levante S comes with 19″ wheels as standard but it looks so much better with slightly bigger wheels. Do note that larger wheels do make the ride a bit sportier so if you prefer comfort stick with 19 or 20″.
Active Shift Paddles – What good is a Ferrari built V6 when you can’t change gear manually with some flappy paddles behind the wheel? The paddles are made from solid aluminium and not plastic as found on many other cars in this segment. The only downside is that they are mounted in a fixed position behind the wheel and not turn with the wheel itself.
Seat cooling – The best and most indirect way to keep cool while driving.
Business Package – Includes navigation and parking sensors front and back.
Driving Assistance Package Plus – Include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot assistant and a 360 degree camera system.
1,000 Mile Drive Experience
Our journey with the Maserati Levante S started at Goodwood Festival of Speed in Southern England. The highways along the South side of London are usually packed with traffic so an ideal place to test the adaptive cruise control system and get used to the controls of the Maserati Levante. An issue a lot of car manufacturers struggle with these days is the sheer number of systems and functions packed into modern day cars. From assistance systems and trip info to navigation, multimedia, radio and adjustable features of the car. Presenting all this info and allowing customers to find and control the things they are looking for is a big challenge.
The Maserati Levante is no exception. Buttons on the front and rear of the steering wheel, a touch screen at the center of the dashboard and additional buttons on the center console. Finding out what is what and how to use all of it is more challenging than ever. This is not Maserati specific but it is obvious that a company like VW Group or Daimler is able to dedicate more resources to development and testing than Maserati. Having said that – the controls might not be ideal, the standard equipment of the Levante S is quite impressive, I don’t think I have ever been in a car with so many USB sockets.
Our first stop is at the channel tunnel on our way to France. The custom officers seem to be extra interested in the car and we are asked to show them the engine along with the interior. Wherever we go with our ‘Blu Emozione’ Levante S people tend to turn their heads at this new Maserati. The looks play an important role in the appeal of the Levante and Maserati’s in general.
Just before we pull into our lovely hotel for the night we a stop at what is left of Reims-Gueux Circuit which was a street circuit very much like Le Mans until 1972. It even hosted a number of Formula 1 races in the 1950s and 60s. Much of the original grand stand and pitlane have been left untouched since the 1970s and today provide an unusual tourist attraction along the D26 national road.
The next day we got up early again for our journey to Geneva but not before taking some photos along the region’s famous produce: grapes for the Champagne production. The Levante is roughly the size of a BMW X5 and passing through some smaller villages you realize how big it is. Out of town you soon forget it again as noise and bumps are largely kept out of the cabin. We eat the kilometers away and before we know it we arrive in Geneva – on the outskirts of the city that is. Google Maps suggests that it is quicker to walk the last 5 kilometers to the hotel than drive.
Having finally made it to Geneva we quickly change to visit one of Maserati’s partners: Caviar House & Prunier. It illustrates that Maserati cars are as much about the product as it is about the lifestyle. The addition of Ghibli and Levante to the line-up opened the brand up to a lot of new customers. Some of which are more interested in buying something more exotic and exclusive than a Q5, X5 or GLE.
The last part of our journey allows us to test the Levante on one of the highest pass roads in the Alps: The Grand St Bernard Pass between Switzerland and Italy. Driving from hairpin to hairpin allows the Levante to show us all it’s got. Steering is quite direct and the V6 responds direct and with some punch, just the brakes lack a bit of feel. In general, I like diesel engines in SUVs because of their torque but this V6 produces almost as much torque as its diesel counterpart but with a much nicer sound. On the downside, the fuel consumption with the petrol V6 is not great.
Before we know it, we are up and over the pass down into Italy where a final highway blast to Turin remained before the end of our 1,000-mile test of the Levante. Before I hand the keys back to Maserati we get a look behind the scenes of the production at Fiat’s historic Mirafiori factory on the South side of Turin. The historic building houses the modern and light production line where all Levantes are being build. The Levante is very much an Italian car with the majority of the parts coming from Italy – more than I would have imagined considering the Fiat-Chrysler ownership.
The Maserati Levante S might not be the best SUV on the market today but it provides a great looking alternative for the rather dull German competitors. The looks and engine are fabulous, the interior provides a lot of luxury but the assistance systems and usability of the infotainment are not quite as good as that of the German rivals. Although it beats the Jaguar F-Pace hands done thanks to a better engine and more refinement in the interior.