Maserati’s first foray into SUVs, the Levante certainly has a lot riding on it.
The Maserati Levante demands you to challenge perceptions. From a brand that has rarely offered more than three cars at any one time, and prides itself on its exclusivity, the Levante not only swells Maserati’s product lineup but it also requires the marque to feed demand like it has never had to before. Some may argue that the Trident badge has never commanded the same sort of cult status as other Italian manufacturers, but strong sales figures suggests otherwise.
There’s a lot at stake for Maserati with the Levante. It’s the first SUV in the marque’s history, and it’s also the fastest selling product it’s ever had. And because it’s bringing the brand to the fore in the fastest-growing and most hotly-contested segments in the world, it’s imperative that the Levante embodies Maserati brand values while catering to the demands of the modern luxury SUV buyer. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to disappoint…
“To give credit where it’s due, the Levante plainly isn’t just another big 4x4 – and you can tell as much before you’ve even got near the driver’s seat.” - Autocar
The Levante is instantly recognisable as a Maserati, as it’s taken design traits found on the rest of the range and carried them over almost unchanged. There’s a gaping grille up front with a floating Trident badge, as well as the distinct triple-openings on the front fenders. The design of the glasshouse sees a little aesthetic gerrymandering, as the rear doesn’t quite finish with as distinctive a curve as other Maseratis, though the rear pillars still carry the Trident logo proudly. At the rear, you find all the hallmarks of a modern Maserati, replete with quad-exhausts and a written ‘Maserati’ badge above the number plate.
Maserati engineered the Levante with its racing pedigree in mind, so it sports the lowest centre of gravity and lowest drag coefficient of any car in its lass. Least, that’s what they claim. The aluminium-intensive architecture means that the car itself is light, weighing in at just 2205kg. The platform for the Levante is closely related to that of the Maserati Ghibli compact luxury saloon, so you don’t find any Jeep bits here. Skyhook air suspension is standard fare, resulting in a five-way adjustable ride height.
It’s an Italian car. Of course it’s sexy.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The Maserati Levante will feature only one engine – a 202kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel.” - WhichCar
If the thought of a Maserati SUV seems alien to you, then it’s about to get weirder. Though we’ve seen diesels in Maseratis before, they’ve always been offered alongside (more desirable) petrol motors too. The Levante is offered here exclusively with a diesel engine: The oil-burner in question is a 3.0-litre turbo V6, which is good for 202kW of power and 600Nm of torque. It’s mated exclusively to an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
It isn’t the end of the world, though. The diesel itself, while gruff-sounding at idle, is pleasant to listen to when you’re out and about, and the torque on offer means it can tow a great deal. It helps that it also offers pretty good fuel economy, which is always a boon. But those lusting after a throaty V6 or V8 will likely look elsewhere, probably in the direction of a Porsche Cayenne, or a Mercedes-Benz GLE-Coupe.
“The interior is equally impressive with its sharp, tailored design and quality feel. Worthy of special mention is the optional Luxury Pack, which features a bold combination of leather and 100% silk by Zegna and gives the Levante an indulgent and original ambience.” - Evo UK
The same way the lining of an Italian suit should always be a little bold, the interior of the Maserati Levante is the same. The design itself is dramatic and exciting, and certainly ensures that passengers feel special. Luxury models gain Zegna silk highlights through the cabin, while Sport sees the use of carbon fibre in places. Fit and finish isn’t great though, as the bits and pieces that have been adapted from other FCA offerings let down the overall appeal of the Levante, and leaves it vulnerable to rivals like the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne.
The uConnect infotainment system plonked in the centre of the dash is a huge step up from the Maseratis of old, though its interface (which it shares with Jeep and other FCA products) detract from the experience slightly. Though it doesn’t feel exclusive, it does feel good, as it’s reactive and immediate. There’s a dual-dial rotary controller to interact with the uConnect system, which operates well. Plenty of legroom at the front and rear, and headroom is generous too. Boot space is at a premium though, with its 580-litres off the pace compared to the BMW X5, and totally embarrassed by the Audi Q7.
Behind the Wheel
“The Maserati Levante is fast enough, though it’s a shame there’s no super-quick GTS to give the Porsche Cayenne Turbo a real run for its money.” - AutoExpress
The Levante must, if anything, excel here most of all. It’s a Maserati, after all. With only a diesel to draw power from, the Levante seemingly comes off at a disadvantage. However, aside from the clatter outside, the deep burble you get within the cabin wouldn’t tip you off that it was actually running on diesel.
The engine itself, though perfectly adequate, needs to be wrung-out completely to keep up with the competition. 0-100km/h takes 6.9-seconds, which is slightly off the pace. The 600Nm on tap certainly makes itself useful during overtaking manoeuvres, which are handled with very minimal fuss. The gearbox rankles the experience somewhat though, as it’s a little too willing to kick down under heavy acceleration. The paddle shifters don’t help much either, as the reactions are delayed somewhat.
It doesn’t handle itself with the same composure or poise as the Porsche Macan or BMW X4, but it certainly does better than most competitors. The car feels stable and solid, though not particularly exciting or invigorating. Despite its standard-fit air suspension, it isn’t the most comfortable car over imperfect surfaces. Body roll isn’t totally sorted either, despite no less than 2 ‘Sport’ settings for the suspension. However, mild off-roading can be tackled in this Italian brute, so there’s a wide breadth of ability to be enjoyed here.
Safety & Technology
“Not impressed yet? Neither are we…” - Edmunds
The Levante’s packaging may lend it a little family-wagon appeal, but where the competition tries to outdo each other with more active and passive safety tech, the Levante doesn’t really seem to care. There’s lane departure warning, front-collision alert, blind-spot monitoring and active cruise control, all picked up from the Ghibli and Quattroporte. There’s active torque vectoring here too, a first for the brand, as to ensure maximum agility no matter the conditions.
Interestingly, despite offering a forward collision warning system, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is missing here. The Levante currently does without an ANCAP or Euro-NCAP safety rating, though its shared underpinnings with the smaller Ghibli should see it fare reasonably well. There are six airbags dotted around the cabin, which is reassuring, as well as ISOFIX tethers in the back for little ones.
The Maserati Levante was always going to be seen as a concession to trends, and for the most part, that’s what it is. Luxurious high-riding wagons are all the rage now, and Maserati had to bow to the trend eventually. The Levante feels like it was conceived and assembled by a marketing department rather than a team of engineers, because it ticks all the boxes it has to while being seemingly bereft of the charm and soul that other Trident-badged offerings have by the spades. As a result, the Maserati Levante’s position is very vulnerable to attack from all fronts, with strong competition from the Audi SQ7, Range Rover Sport, Jaguar F-Pace, and Porsche Cayenne.
Due to the luxury that comes with the Levante as standard, even the entry-level model (if we can call it that) is plenty plush enough, with the Levante Luxury recommended only if you need a little Zegna silk in your life. The Levante Sport makes absolutely no sense to us, because we feel it adds more sporty expectations to what is, at best, a motorway mile-muncher.
Drive - 7.0/10.0 - “There are mixed results, then, for Maserati's first SUV. But if you want to understand the appeal of a vehicle that combines an elevated ride height with the loftiness of the Trident badge, you only need look at sales numbers set to make the Levante the biggest-selling Maserati yet.”
Evo UK - 4/5 - “However much you might dislike the notion of this blue-blooded Italian marque embracing the SUV you simply can’t ignore the business case. You don’t need to be a genius to grasp the fact that if Maserati is to achieve its aspiration of building 75,000 cars a year it needs a slice of that action. On the evidence of this first drive Levante looks set to do just that. Deservedly so, for it’s an accomplished and appealing machine with a breadth of capabilities, character and identity that set it apart from its rivals.”
TopGear - 8/10 - “Left field SUV is surprisingly enjoyable. Has the name, what about the looks?”
AutoExpress - 3.0/5.0 - “The Levante is a good first attempt at an upmarket SUV from Maserati. It’s competitively priced and practical enough, which should open the brand up to a new group of buyers. But it’s neither supremely comfortable nor is it particularly sporty. Quality issues inside also mean it can’t compete with its German rivals. There’s only one diesel model to choose from, though for some the Maserati badge alone will be enough.”
Autocar - 3/5 - “An SUV has become a must-have for car makers like Maserati, so the firm deserves credit for not low-balling its entry. In keeping with the brand’s recent output, being a good-looking, slightly odd-sized and semi-luxurious but not-quite-fast-enough mixed bag. Expect it to become the firm’s best seller in due course, but don’t assume that counts for much. The Levante is more mildly interesting also-ran than the coming-of-age car it might have been.”
Edmunds - 65/100 - “The 2017 Maserati Levante is the Italian automaker's first foray into the popular world of crossover SUVs. This sort of thing used to be a big deal; just ask Porsche, which faced a strong backlash from sports car fans in the mid-2000s when it brought out the Cayenne. But these days every luxury automaker has one, and we're glad that Maserati is following suit. If you're unmoved by the usual crossover suspects, the stylish Levante could be just what il dottore ordered.”
CarAdvice - 7.5/10 - "The Maserati of SUVs is here, but despite the presence of the Trident badge, the Levante leaves a lot to be desired.”
CarsGuide - 6/10 - "Does it invoke emotion and stir the spirit, as a good Italian brand really should? No, not really. There's not enough flair or theatre in the Levante to truly echo a more traditional Maserati."