Maserati launched their first ever SUV in 2016 to compete against the Cayenne. Has the Levante managed to do so?
I know SUVs are a sensible topic among real petrolheads. However, when I got the chance to finally drive a Maserati Levante for the first time, I had to write something about it. Stick with me, this car is actually more interesting than you would think.
Whenever a sports car manufacturer launches a new SUV, it causes quite a stir among the car fanatics community. It's true, SUVs aren't that sporty and even though brands like Porsche or Lamborghini manage to make them go very fast, they usually don't have the driving dynamics that are proper to sports cars. Then, why manufacturers still produce them? Because they sell like crazy and the hype is real. So, when Maserati announced that they would launch their first SUV some years ago, I rolled my eyes and said to myself "great another "sporty" SUV for soccer moms. Could it be that the Levante was just like all other SUVs? Or, maybe Maserati spiced the recipe and gave us something unique in this segment? I only got to find this out a week ago.
The Maserati Levante was launched in 2016 to give the Porsche Cayenne a good run for its money. It was almost based on a Jeep Grand Cherokee up until Sergio Marchionne, halted the one year project and said... no, a Maserati needs to be a Maserati. Instead, Maserati's engineers started the project from scratch, which retarded the launch of the Levante for nearly two years.
The result is a car that is supposed to have similar driving dynamics to the Ghibli and Quattroporte despite being a proper SUV. Concerning the engines, you have the choice between a 3.0 V6, a 3.8 V8 and a 3.0 V6 Diesel. Funny, the Cayenne also comes with either V6s, V8s or a V6 Diesel. But let's not talk about Diesels, shall we. Fortunately enough, the V6 and V8 are excellent engines. In fact, the 3.0 V6 petrol was developed by none other than Ferrari. Here is a first interesting factor. But there is something else, last year Maserati launched a 3.8 V8 flagship Levante Trofeo that makes 580 PS. Think of it as the MC Stradale of SUVs. However, we had to stick with the V6 for our test drive. The Levante S 3.0 V6 makes 430 horsepower and that's enough to reach 264 km/h and go from a standstill to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds. The Levante S aims directly at the Porsche Cayenne...S, which has similar performances figures and prices. In terms of looks, I have never been a huge fan of SUVs, but if I had to choose between a 2016 Cayenne and this Levante, I'd go with the Italian. The Maserati has a meaner look that just gives it so much presence on the road. Overall, I think the design works and has managed to keep some of that Maserati DNA.
But does the Levante behave as a true Maserati on the road? Well, first things first, it sounds great. The four exhaust pots make an incredible noise for a car that is just a V6 (Even if it has been developed by Ferrari). Engineers have managed to find a great balance between handling and comfort. The car handles well and it has more grip than I initially thought. It's definitely up there with the Cayenne in terms of driving dynamics. About the interior, the tech has aged quite a bit and infotainment screen looks tiny in comparison to what is done today. In this field, even the 2016 Cayenne is better. Apart from that, I really like the beautiful Italian-leather seats that offer great support and comfort. Some bits in the car feel a bit too plastic-ey and it's like they have been borrowed from a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Overall, the interior feels premium, but not that luxurious.
All in all, the Levante is a good car. Better than I thought. It's actually so close to a Cayenne in terms of everything that it seems like Maserati took a Porsche and did an Italian version of it. In the end, it will come down to your own taste. Do you prefer a Maserati, or a Porsche? We've looked at second hand cars in Switzerland and Cayennes with similar engines and mileage as this Levante are the exact same price even though there are way more Porsches out there. These two cars represent everything a true petrolhead hates. In their heads, these cars are abominations that should have never existed. Yet, they are here, they sell like crazy and they drive well. Maybe these SUVs aren't all that bad after all?
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Maserati Levante S
I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Perego Cars, situated in Switzerland, for giving me the opportunity to review and shoot this car. Website: www.peregocars.com/en Facebook: www.facebook.com/peregocars/ Instagram: www.instagram.com/peregocars/