A more affordable Maserati for the people

A more affordable Maserati for the people

The luxury sportscar company shifted gear to bring out an SUV, the Levante, in 2016, and has now launched a more affordable, entry level version, says Jack Evans.

Few people could argue with Maserati’s decision to launch the Levante, in 2016.

Though the introduction of an SUV may have jarred with the Italian firm’s roots in sportscars and supercars, the Levante made commercial sense because of the appetite for high-set vehicles.

That’s why there’s now an entry-level petrol engine to make the Levante more accessible. It’s already Maserati’s most popular model, having sold 55,000 units globally since its launch.

WHAT’S NEW?

While this new entry-level Levante provides a wider access point to both the range and the firm, it’s not lacking in performance.

It still has a Ferrari-derived, twin-turbo V6 engine, and all manner of driver aids. Two distinct trim levels have been developed — the Gran Lusso and Grand Sport — the former leaning heavily on outright luxury and the latter on sportiness.

We’re in the first of the two today, which is why our test car is decked out in high-quality leather and plenty of buttons for tech-savvy buyers.

WHAT’S UNDER THE BONNET?

There’s a 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 under the bonnet of the Levante, which has its origins in Maserati’s friends over in Maranello. It churns out 345bhp (with S-badged models pushing out considerably more, at 424bhp), but there’s a decent slug of torque: 500Nm, in fact.

It’s sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed, ZF automatic gearbox, and there’s plenty of off-road wizardries to help when the Levante goes off the beaten track, which, we imagine, won’t be very often.

Performance-wise, this entry V6 model punches well above its weight, going from 0 to 60mph in a snick under six seconds and onwards to a top speed of 156mph. When it comes to efficiency, it isn’t the best, however: Maserati claims 23.5mpg combined, while CO2 emissions are a chunky 278g/km.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

There’s much expectation when you hop into the seat of the Levante and see that prominent, trident badge sparkling on the steering wheel.

Maserati, after all, know a thing or two about making comfortable, yet powerful, long-distance cruisers, so you’d expect the Levante to at least reflect that.

To begin with, things are good. That V6 burbles away joyfully, giving all manner of character to your forward progress. The steering is well-judged, too, with plenty of weight and accuracy.

The ride is left wanting, however, as even with air suspension, which our test car had, the Levante transfers a lot of the road imperfections into the cabin. They’re less obvious when travelling at speed, but for around town, the refinement isn’t what we’d expect.

A more affordable Maserati for the people

HOW DOES IT LOOK?

Of course, a car’s design success is down to the individual, but we’d argue that the Levante is a handsome brute. It’s large — there’s no way of getting around that — but the various angles and curves do help to mask its outright size. The optional, 19-inch alloys fitted to our car gave it plenty of presence, too, while the red callipers highlighted the performance.

It’s a well-executed design, that’s for sure, and the Levante is the sleeker, perhaps more understated, option on the SUV spectrum.

[h2]WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE?You’d like to think that for €140,000 or so, you’d be getting a high standard of fit-and-finish, but inside the cabin of the Levante, the materials don’t feel as classy as those in rival offerings, while the main displays and dials lack the clarity we’ve come to expect — particularly at this price point.That said, the ergonomics are okay, and there’s plenty of adjustment for the driver.The Levante is practical enough. It has 580 litres of boot space, which, though somewhat smaller than the load area in the BMW X5,is still large enough toaccommodate several big bags.

WHAT’S THE SPEC LIKE?

The Levante’s main infotainment offering is based around a central, 8.4-inch display.

It’s pleasingly easy to navigate, but it’s just lacking in the kind of functionality or detail that we’ve come to expect. The mapping system, for instance, gets you where you want to go, but it’s clunky in its orientation and doesn’t have the most high-definition readout.

Pairing your phone is simple, however, while the new central rotary controller, in partnership with the touchscreen system, gives you options on how you want to navigate the main screen.

All in, there’s plenty of technology on offer here, and though the cabin materials may not be quite up to the standard set by the price tag, the wealth of standard equipment mitigates this.

THE VERDICT

It’s easy to understand the Levante’s success. It’s good-looking, feels reasonably purposeful to drive, and has plenty of kit as standard. This entry-level V6 makes even more sense, particularly as droves of potential buyers leave diesel behind and find the idea of a cleaner petrol more palatable.

It may not quite match its rivals for outright interior quality, but few will notice the smaller foibles.

Those who drive the Levante for the first time will likely be swayed by thatburbling exhaust, its sleek design, and its competence in clinging on aroundbends — and that’ll likelybe more than enough to seal the deal.

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