The impressive Levante is Maserati’s first foray into the rapidly growing SUV market
SINGAPORE (Aug 19): Lately, I have been on a quest to test drive as many luxury sports utility vehicles (SUVs) as possible. This challenge has taken me from the super-sporty Lamborghini Urus to the ultra-luxurious Rolls-Royce Cullinan, with a few stops in between at the BMW X7 and Bentley Bentayga.
Now, it is the Maserati Levante’s turn. As the rapidly growing SUV market evolves, the latest trend is to make them either as plush or as fast as possible. These upmarket 4x4s are definitely hitting the right note in Singapore, as motorists love their practicality and high seating position, while also wanting to wrap themselves in comfort and luxury. It seems that bigger does mean better.
Maserati’s first foray into the world of SUVs was the Levante, which means “rising” in Italian. Other brands that are building SUVs are seeing increased sales, and Maserati is no different. Despite being less than two years old, the Levante accounts for 55% of the company’s total sales. That is why I thought it was high time to take the vehicle for a spin, to see whether it stayed true to the Maserati heritage and could compete with its elegant and sporty rivals.
Maserati is normally overlooked in favour of its more famous Italian cousin, Ferrari, as well as other sports cars brands such as Aston Martin, McLaren and Porsche. But its heritage and reputation for producing powerful and beautiful-looking cars is just as impressive. The throaty growl of a Maserati is unmistakable, whether it is by the sporty Ghibli or the four-door Quattroporte. And while Ferrari is synonymous with red and McLaren with orange, a Maserati in anything but black just does not look right.
Thankfully, the Levante sounds just like a Maserati even if it does not look like one. And that is pretty much the case at Ferrari too — its prototype SUV codenamed Purosangue bears little resemblance to anything the Prancing Horse brand has ever produced.
The Levante is also very distinctive in the Maserati stable. While it is bigger and bulkier, it comes with an aggressive-looking nose that mimics the shape of a shark. Up close, it looks strong and sturdy from front to tail, with its muscular wings, imposing front grille and quad tailpipes.Under the bonnet, the SUV is all about power and strength, with a Ferrari-created, twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6 engine that roars into life at any given opportunity.
I have always liked Maserati as a brand, as the cars are understated and generally driven by a more refined driver. But this also means people do not always realise just how fast and powerful they are with a speed demon at the wheel. The good news is the Levante helps you release your inner Lewis
Hamilton with plenty of horsepower and torque on tap. It is incredibly fast and furious on the open road, and you sometimes forget you are not driving a coupé instead.
While performance is a high priority, I feel Maserati is trying to distinguish the Levante more through its luxurious credentials than anything else. You get the choice of two trims — the GranSport and the GranLusso — and both are sumptuous.
The GranLusso comes with a special Zegna trim with silk inserts on the seats. High-quality leather hide is stitched tightly across the dashboard. For me, this puts the Levante’s interior up there with more prestigious brands such as Rolls-Royce and Bentley, but at a much lower entry point.
My test-drive model had undergone a few nips and tucks as well as enhancements to its driver aids compared with the original model. These include a new electronic steering system, traffic-sign recognition, active blind-spot detection and highway assist, which acts on the steering to pull the car back into line if it detects you straying into the next lane.
There is a good balance of new technology inside, without overpowering you. At the heart of the infotainment system, called Maserati Touch Control Plus, is an 8.4-inch touchscreen display that looks sleek and hi-tech. It is fairly easy to use, adding to the high functionality of the Levante.
Boot space is ample at 580 litres and rear passengers get plenty of legroom, thanks to an extended wheelbase. All in all, the Levante exceeds expectations in terms of power and precision, comfort and luxury, along with looks.
$388,800 without COE
Engine: 2,979cc twin-turbo V6 petrol
Fuel consumption: 10.7l/100km
0 to 100kph: Six seconds
Top speed: 251kph
Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast