2017 Maserati Levante — Road Test

Posted on Sep 9, 2017 by
Maserati Levante
  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4 stars
  • Excellent
AEDAED415,000 (as tested), AED329,000 (base)
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  • Last modified: September 9, 2017
  • Exterior
    Editor: 90%
  • Interior
    Editor: 75%
  • Driving
    Editor: 90%
  • Overall
    Editor: 80%

Review Summary:

You can think of the Levante as an expensive SUV or a cheap — either way it's a breath of fresh air in the SUV class. It has its faults, but it's so full of character you can't help but forgive its failings.

Pros

Great engine, superb driving dynamics, looks and feels more special than its German rivals.

Cons

Not as well kitted as the Germans, and decidedly slower in a straight line.

The 2017 Maserati Levante may lag behind some of its rivals when it comes to cold, hard numbers, but look beyond the spec sheet and this is possibly the greatest SUV out there

2017 Maserati Levante

We’re not going to subject you to the obligatory ramblings on the 2017 Maserati Levante being the brand’s first SUV, or how it’s headed into battle with established rivals, or any trite opening wordage. What we will tell you though is that this is one heck of an SUV. And that, even in its base form which we have here, it weighs in at a plump AED415,000. Granted that includes AED86,000 worth of optional equipment, but that isn’t exactly bargain basement. Then again, it’s a Maserati. So, let’s break this down further…

Exterior

From pretty much every angle, the Levante is a striking looking thing. The basking shark-esque grille upfront is aggressive without being pompous, while in profile the Levante appears to sit lower to the ground than you would expect. Even on the move it does not feel it’s on stilts, which gives you plenty of confidence in the corners (more on that later).

2017 Maserati Levante

The Ghibli-inspired headlights look menacing, and viewed side-on they add to the lean-forward appearance and the sportiness of the styling. The exterior in general isn’t fussy at all. The sides are markedly clean, with the pronounced haunches over the rear wheels being the only assertive design elements. The signature Maserati air intakes are clear and present over the front wheel arches and overall the Levante does look more pacey and elegant than most of its rivals. With the sole exception of perhaps the Jaguar F-Pace, which matches it for aesthetic sophistication.

2017 Maserati Levante

The Levante arguably has the most purposeful stance of any premium SUV

This tautness of styling, however, becomes even more astounding when you realise that the Levante is a whopping five metres long, and yet it looks more compact than its main rivals like the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE. It is in fact about 100mm longer than the said BMW, and the Bee-Em definitely looks its size on the road. The GLE, we reckon, comes stone cold last in this three-way cosmetic battle.

2017 Maserati Levante

The Levante is also one of the least colour dependant designs we’ve seen recently; it is aesthetically pleasing in almost every one of the 13 available paint finishes. Our tester in Blu Emozione, with optional 21-inch Anteo wheels and blue callipers, is particularly fetching though.

Interior

For reasons unfathomable, almost everyone on Auto Middle East team who drove the car kept banging their right knee on the lower end of the dashboard every time they tried to get in. There is something decidedly odd about the driving position; especially for an SUV. But once you are inside, and soothed your knee, you realise why. Because unlike almost every SUV out there, you sit much lower to the ground in the Levante. It’s without a doubt, the sportiest seating position of any so-called sports utility vehicle. It almost feels like you’re in a grand tourer at times, which is no bad thing if you ask us.

2017 Maserati Levante

The cabin is not as plush as a Cayenne’s, but it looks every bit like it belongs in an AED400K car

The cabin is suitably sumptuous with its natural gloss Ebano wood trim and loads of supple leather everywhere. It’s not a technological tour de force when it comes to gizmos, but you do get the obligatory lane departure warning system, cameras all around, adaptive cruise control and Apple CarPlay. The optional Bowers & Wilkins stereo is mighty impressive too. On the other hand the quality of the image on the reversing camera is underwhelming, especially when it’s a sunny day where the glare on the screen compromises visibility. Another small gripe, is that the front seats can’t be moved back enough when you have six-foot passengers.

There is reasonable room in the rear, and it does not feel as claustrophobic as a BMW X6. Plus, the pillarless windows provide a sense of openness and space that’s lacking in its German rival. Even though some switchgear decidedly isn’t as premium as, say, a Porsche Cayenne’s, it does feel like a AED400K car in here.

Driving

This is where we face a conundrum. Is it as immediate in the corners as a Cayenne? No. Is it rapid as an X6? Negative. What it is, is a driver’s SUV. But one whose compromises are not as evident as its rivals. It gives some to get some. And trust us, what it gains cannot be measured in cold, hard stats and that makes the Levante something of a star in its class. It drives and feels like a sports saloon. And a very well-engineered sports saloon at that. The Cayenne, for instance, feels cramped, and the ride is bone jarring. The X6, well, it’s eye-widening in a straight line, but its controls and responses are muddy. It always feels like a big, heavy thing.

2017 Maserati Levante

The Levante, even though it’s relatively not as perky in entry level guise, there is something to be said about that Ferrari-developed twin-turbocharged V6. Unlike the engine that powers its corporate cousin, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, this one uses the block from the Chrysler Pentastar V6. Don’t for a minute think it feels any less special; It is one of the most incredible sounding force-fed engines around when you really wring its neck.

The numbers aren’t that impressive though and there is perceptible lag at lower revs. But once on song the V6, which develops 350bhp and 500Nm of torque, enables the Levante to hit the 100km/h mark in about six seconds and top out at 251km/h.

2017 Maserati Levante

The eight-speed ZF gearbox is rather good, too. In manual mode it allows you to hit the rev limiter, without automatically changing up on your behalf. This combined with the fact that the large column-mounted paddles are superb in feel, changing gears manually is a joyous experience in the Levante. That said, the gear shifter is frustratingly finicky in its operation; you end up hitting Park almost every time you attempt to engage Reverse.

The air suspension is well sorted; it quells body roll reasonably well without sacrificing the ride comfort too much. Then there are five ride height settings for when you want to head into the rough stuff, but to be honest, it just never feels right. It’s a Maserati, for Pete’s sake.

The Levante is based on platform that also underpins the Ghibli and the standard all-wheel-drive system is more rear-biased than most rivals. Oh, and it also gets a mechanical rear-diff, unlike a faux electric one of some of its rivals.

Curiously, Maserati decided to go with a hydraulic steering system for the Levante, which helps matters quite a bit. It’s no sports car when it comes to response and feedback, but it does feel more granular than your average SUV. The steering is nicely weighted as well.

Verdict

The Levante isn’t an obvious choice in the premium SUV segment. And there is some evidence as to why. A 420bhp Porsche Cayenne S, for instance, costs AED334,000 in base trim. This is roughly the same as the Levante, which has a 70-horsepower deficit over the Porsche. The BMW X6 35i xDrive, meanwhile costs about AED350,000 with slightly better levels of kit as standard, and 306bhp from its twin turbo straight-six.

2017 Maserati Levante

So, the Maserati sits in a rather peculiar place. In base trim, it is cheaper than both its rivals and yet it is larger than either. Then, it is also the slowest of the lot and not as loaded with tech. But then, it’s an Italian SUV, which immediately makes it that much cooler. Finally, it’s a Maserati. If you’re still unconvinced, let us make it really, really easy for you to come to a conclusion. Say this sentence out loud: “I drive a BMW”. Now, follow that up: “I drive a Maserati”. See? We told you it was easy.

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