The Maserati Levante GT continues to exude the Italian marque’s famed flair and mantra, now packaged in a family-friendly package.
Love them or hate them, SUVs - or crossovers - are here to stay. The general public just can’t seem to get enough of them, and the industry that shifted so much to the point where producing SUVs has now become a make-or-break move necessary for keeping a brand afloat.
Here’s where the Maserati Levante comes in. Introduced in 2014, it’s the Italian marque’s answer to the ever-increasing demand for cars that drive on stilts. Today, it’s one of Maserati’s best-selling models, but does it hold up to the Trident’s famed long-standing history?
Handsome is my middle name
If the Italians are good at one thing it’s design, and the Levante GT is no exception. The designers have managed to morph all of the elements that define a modern Maserati into one beautiful, albeit elongated, entity.
A sleek and aerodynamic theme follows throughout the car, with sharp lines and elegant curves that give it a sporty yet refined appearance. The aggressive front grille, adorned with Maserati’s signature trident emblem, exudes a sense of confidence and sophistication, and it gives the Levante real road presence too.With its tall stature, you can easily intimidate other road users when you pull up at the same set of lights.
21-inch wheels and updated GT badging round off the exterior, and looks alone can probably convince someone to part ways with their hard-earned cash for one of these.
Italian business suit
As much as we may hate the SUV body style, the benefit of having a bulbous shape is the increased space you get in the cabin. The Levante sits five adults comfortably, and the wide span ensures each occupant has sufficient wiggle room while on the move.
The Italians sure know how to treat a car, and you’re immediately engulfed by a premium blend of high-quality materials, giving the Levante some much-needed upmarket appeal. Most touch surfaces are upholstered in thick and lush leather, and animal activists may wish to look away, but I do like my cows finished in this deep maroon shade.
However, spend more time in the cabin, and some of the features do feel dated. The infotainment system is cumbersome to operate, and while there is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available, in practice it was buggy with drops in connection throughout the day.
While the native interface has been updated, it’s still far from next generation. This isn’t helped by the steering wheel controls either, which can’t even provide basic functions like changing the volume. At least the HVAC controls are physical and not embedded within a screen menu, which I’m sure would have caused a riot.
Other amenities include an analogue gauge cluster with a TFT display, and quick rotary dials to change the media volume or scroll through menu settings. The Levante does have a classy interior, but it hasn’t shaken off its old-school persona just yet.
While the Maserati Levante is a natural rival for the Porsche Cayenne and has larger external dimensions, in terms of practicality it’s more of a matchup against the smaller Macan sibling.
You do get 580 litres of cargo space at your disposal, but it’s 90 litres smaller than the Cayenne’s. Thanks to the raised ride height, cargo ingress can be tricky trying to slide them past the rear bumper. There is an easy entry system that drops the suspension by 45mm to make life a little easier, but in reality, few owners will take the time to use this feature on a regular basis.
A powered tailgate comes as standard, and the rear seats split-fold 60:40 to reveal a big (but undisclosed) load area, so the Levante can hold its own even on adventurous furniture trips.
Despite its large size, the Levante is fairly easy to park thanks to a suite of sensors and a crisp rear camera. Blind spots are covered by Blind Spot Monitors embedded in the side mirrors, and cross-traffic alerts help mitigate potential head-on collisions with other road users. Cruise control makes life easier on the roads, but the lack of adaptive functionality can become frustrating in start/stop traffic.
While other manufacturers share chassis platforms to build multiple different models, Maserati has built the Levante from the ground up. This is a double-edged sword situation. While Maserati may not get the same amount of reliability as other tried-and-true mass-produced models, having a bespoke platform enables them to optimise the Levante’s chassis to their specifications, and properly dial in performance.
Traditional propulsion options are no longer available in the Levante, with local units ditching the V6 or V8 Ferrari-derived variants in favour of a new mild-hybrid 2.0-litre in-line four-banger scoured from other sources in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group. Still, this 4-cylinder puppy can churn out a respectable 330bhp and 450Nm of torque, which is sufficient to rock the century sprint in about six seconds. Keep your foot down, and the Levante can sprint to a top speed of 245km/h.
All Levantes feature dedicated all-wheel drive drivetrains coupled with a rear limited-slip differential, and while the 8-speed ZF gearbox does not feel as responsive as other competing DCTs, you still receive bouts of power each time a gear clicks into place, and the entire sensation makes the Levante engaging to operate. As a bonus, the thick metal pedal shifters have fantastic feedback and are nice to the touch.
This new powertrain also features a 48V mild hybrid system which works in tandem to help improve fuel economy. In practice, I did not really feel the aforementioned mild hybrid system working all that often, with the combustion engine tanking all of the load.
This means fuel economy isn’t all that great in the Levante. On my test, I averaged a reading of 5.95km/litre. But come on, with a burbly exhaust at your fingertips (or toes since it’s a pedal), why wouldn’t you want to hear that lovely tune each opportunity you get?
On the subject of exhaust notes, the Levante does feel a little lacking since it doesn’t have the baritone voice of a V6 or V8 equivalent, but it still puts up a good show in the tunnels.
As the Levante was set up to be a GT car, the steering is tuned more for gentle cruising rather than a track day. Electronic assistance is noticeably strong in this regard, and I sometimes felt that the front end was unresponsive when pushed hard. Though in the car’s defence, this setup makes the experience more comfortable as a whole, and the car would not normally be subjected to extreme cornering manoeuvres in the first place.
But, if you see a nice set of bends ahead and wish to throw the hammer down, the Levante is still composed throughout without feeling unruly. Its SUV heft does not bog it down through the corners, and the resulting understeer is fairly minimal.
For those who crave flamboyance
Cars like the Maserati Levante GT are born out of necessity. Automakers build them because people like them, and they act as additional revenue streams for other more intense models. The MC20 is a great example.
For some, the idea of a Maserati SUV is sacrilege. But, looking at the long line of SUV customers waiting for the next hottest thing on the market, it seems inadvertable that the industry is chugging in that direction.
Maserati was late to the SUV party, but the Levante has the stylistic flair and flamboyant appeal to make it an attractive model in this sector. This won’t appeal to everyone, especially those who wish for something more sensible and sterile. But, the Levante GT is an intriguing alternative to the clinical German norm.
Maserati Levante GT
Engine: 1,995cc in-line 4 L4, mild hybrid
Gearbox: 8-speed ZF Automatic
0-100km/h: 6 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 245km/h
Fuel Economy: 9.4km/L (claimed)
Price: S$388,800, without COE (accurate at the time of this article)
Contact: Maserati Singapore
Photo Credits: Sean Loo (@auto.driven)