A breath of fresh air
As an auto enthusiast, getting excited about an SUV isn’t an easy thing. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of safe, capable and fuel efficient examples on the market, although not too many that can get a driver’s heart racing. Enter the Maserati Levante.
Founded over a century ago, the Italian luxury manufacturer knows all about creating sleek, sexy sports cars. Then, two years ago, it pulled a Porsche and introduced the aforementioned mid-size crossover to bolster the bottom line. Fortunately, the utility vehicle is a boisterous hoot behind the wheel and manages to capture the essence of brand.
Named after “a warm Mediterranean wind that can change from mild to gale force in an instant,” the Levante kind of resembles a jacked-up Ghibli, and that’s because its underpinnings indeed belong to the executive sedan. Rather than appearing like an unremarkable box on wheels as some entries in the class tend to, the body is aerodynamically shaped while skinny headlamp housings, a bold, vertically slatted grille and a wide mesh central intake highlight the fascia.
Other details differentiating features include silver ducting on the front fenders, and signature trident emblems are attached to the rear quarter panels. Behind the massive 20-inch wheels, a requisite big brake kit, comprised of bright red calipers and fat cross-drilled brake rotors, are visible. At the back, the Maserati script sits atop a decorative chrome garnish between the taillights, and dual exhaust pipes flank a silver skid plate.
Black or white exterior paint is standard, with optional metallic finishes – still limited to mostly neutral shades such as Nero Ribelle (black) Rame (brown) and Grigio Maratea (dark grey) – cost $1,100 more. Two premium shades, Bianco Alpi (pearl) and Blu Nobile (blue) are an additional $3,200.
Palette-wise, the cabin is a similar story although consumers may choose gorgeous Rosso red perforated leather upholstery covering the seats, door cards, centre console and dashboard. Regardless of colour, hits of aluminum and/or carbon fibre are tastefully applied throughout the interior space. DARPAN reviewed the S model, which bundles the 430-horsepower 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 mill. A more powerful 3.8-litre bi-turbo V8 producing 550 horses (GTS trim) and 590 (Trofeo) is also available, as is a base grade utilizing a slightly de-tuned version of the six-cylinder making 345 horsepower.
The Levante not only looks like a Maserati performance sedan, but sounds similar too. Press the engine start button and the motor, made by Ferrari, rumbles to life, giving a taste of what’s to come. Before hitting the road, choose a dynamic mode to suit the driving mood using one of the self-explanatory buttons running parallel along the eight-speed automatic transmission lever: M for manual shifting, I.C.E. (Increased Control and Efficiency), Sport and Off-road, all fairly self-explanatory.
I spent much of the time in I.C.E. due to inclement testing conditions, causing the computer to dial back down the settings to create a more comfortable, stable ride. Tapping Sport, however, makes throttle response more aggressive, as well as opens up a set of pneumatic exhaust bypass valves that help the vehicle sound like a full-on racecar. Every shift results in a cacophony of pops and burbles coming out of the muffler, which is as addictive as it is gleefully obnoxious.
This crossover can blast from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, as well as get to places other luxury pseudo-SUVs dare not. Driving through a short but varied off-road course consisting of muddy hills, ruts, small logs and rocks, the standard intelligent Q4 all-wheel drive, equipped with an air suspension system and set of electronically controlled dampers, made getting through barely a challenge. The 2019 Maserati Levante starts at $102,900.
Motor: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6
Horsepower: 430 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 428 @ 1,750 rpm G
earbox: Eight-speed automatic transmission
Layout: Front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 14.7 L/100 km mixed city/highway (NRCan)