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First drive: Maserati Levante S. Image by Maserati.

First drive: Maserati Levante S
Dropping a twin-turbo V6 petrol into the Levante improves the luxury SUV.

 



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Maserati Levante S

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Maserati expands the Levante SUV range with the addition of the petrol-powered S, packing a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 rated at a healthy 430hp. With bigger brakes, sundry interior improvements and two new trim levels to choose from, the Levante S feels more like the premium SUV the Maserati purports to be. However, it faces strong competition, both from companies without and within the FCA Group...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Maserati Levante S
Pricing: Levante range from 56,250; S from 70,755, GranSport from 76,995, car as tested 91,839
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 253g/km (VED 1,700 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 25.9mpg
Top speed: 164mph
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Power: 430hp at 5,750rpm
Torque: 580Nm at 1,750- to 5,000rpm

What's this?

The Maserati Levante S, the second model to join the Italian SUV's line-up. The Diesel version kicked off the Trident's attempt to break into the lucrative off-roader market that has been successfully exploited for years by the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and more. Well, there's no better way of tempting well-heeled customers into showrooms than by offering them more power. So now the Levante gets the 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6, as used in S-badged Ghibli and Quattroporte models, only it's uprated by 20hp and 30Nm from the saloon applications to 430hp and 580Nm here. The brakes are improved to six-piston Brembo front calipers gripping larger 380mm x 34mm discs, while power goes to all corners (with the brand's Q4 system) via an eight-speed transmission.

As the Levante is only a year old, visually there's little to distinguish the new S from the existing Diesel. There are, however, two new trim levels introduced for the Levante, and they're familiar from other Masers. Essentially, if you want the petrol, the base 'unadorned' Levante S costs 70,755 and then you can go up one of two branches - Luxury (GranLusso) or Sport (GranSport), which have subtly different flavours but identical price tags of 76,995. The former employs 19-inch wheels, silver exterior details, black brake calipers and an interior finished with exclusive Zegna silk, while the GranSport as tested here wears larger 20-inch rims, switches the external garnishes to black and the brake calipers to red, and employs much more in the way of (optional) carbon fibre within. There's still room to tick more boxes, mind, as evidenced by our white test Levante S - sporting a natty red-and-black leather interior - which actually weighed in at 91,839 and 12 pence. Oof.

Visually, we're fans of the Levante and we doubt there will be many who aren't. It has a mean Maserati face with that distinctive grille and is proportionally very sleek, despite the fact it's a big ol' thing that weighs in at 2.1 tonnes without a driver on board. OK, it's not the most distinctive of shapes beyond the A-pillars, but SUVs are bound by their function to be two-box shapes and there's only so much an Italian designer can do with such a basic 'little-blob-big-blob' profile form.

Inside, it's very plush, save for one or two bits of cheaper-feeling trim, and it certainly feels nicer in here than the last Maserati we were in, the Quattroporte GTS. The back seats are adequately spacious enough for two adults, while the boot is big but it seems like its load bed is a long way off the ground. Final point here: all Levantes now get soft-close doors, the 8.4-inch infotainment system from the Quattroporte and an enhanced ADAS driver assist safety system, building on the pre-existing active cruise control and forward collision warning with the addition of blind spot assist, lane keep assist, highway assist and traffic sign recognition.

How does it drive?

Very well, but perhaps not well enough in a world which now includes the likes of the Porsche Macan Turbo, Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S and - perhaps most vexing of all for Maserati - the blinding Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. The Levante's V6 petrol engine has definitely improved it; not that the diesel is a bad SUV, by any stretch of the imagination. But somehow a Maserati, even an SUV, feels more appropriate when it's capable of 164mph flat out and 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds. Not being able to dip below five seconds for that benchmark sprint is an indication of how tough this sector is, of course, and how the Maserati's power-to-weight ratio of 204hp-per-tonne is merely above average in this day and age. In essence, what we're saying is that the Levante S is quick, but it's not chuffing quick.

Not that you'll lament the SUV's performance in isolation, because it goes extremely well and it sounds damned good. There's a nice, hard-edged voice to the V6 itself, overlaid with the very metallic arias of the quad exhausts. It certainly doesn't sound anything like that Alfa Stelvio QF, despite their obvious mechanical similarities. The Maserati has a distinctive and pleasing tune all of its own, but regrettably it doesn't haul ass like the Alfa either. Nevertheless, with Q4 traction and that slick eight-speed ZF gearbox, the Levante is more than capable of moving swiftly enough through modern-day traffic flows.

It's also brilliant in the corners, too, but again not quite as engaging as some of the most enjoyable machines of this type. The body control is excellent, the ride quality good (with the air-suspension dampers in their softest modes; click Sport twice on the console and the Levante firms up noticeably, maybe a little too much for UK tarmac), the steering precise and faithful (if not massively feelsome) and the brakes strong, allowing for impressive speed from the Maserati through a series of challenging corners. It never feels big and lumbering, but by contrast it's also never deft and rewarding. It's just very grippy and capable; not a bad summation, then, yet is that praise enough for something that kicks off at 77 grand?

Verdict

Adding the petrol engine to the Maserati Levante range was something of an inevitability and there's no doubting that the 430hp S feels much more like the Masers of old - it's pacey, it makes a good noise, it has sporty handling and it feels pretty special to be in. But there are other cars in this class that beat it in one or all of these areas, which means the Levante S feels like it's destined to remain a niche, leftfield alternative to stronger, more rounded mainstream fare. Perhaps Maserati needs to look at slotting a V8 beneath the Levante's curvaceous bonnet as its next move...

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 8 Dec 2017









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2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.

2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.2018 Maserati Levante S drive. Image by Maserati.








 

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