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Italian firm’s larger SUV competes in a much tougher segment than when it first entered. How’s it coping?

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It’s eight whole years since Maserati launched the Levante. It entered the premium SUV market long before Aston Martin or Lamborghini had succumbed to such money-spinning moves; Ferrari had thus far sworn blind it would never make a crossover. Yep, times change.

Initially sold with V6 petrol and diesel engines (and adding a useful chunk to Maserati’s sales figures in its early days), it has evolved over time; the range now consists of a four-cylinder mild-hybrid petrol and a V6 petrol, with prices starting at £92,935.

Quad pipe exhaust system really trumpets the V6’s engine note when it’s bypassing the silencers in the car’s sportier driving modes

This feels quite a leap when the range began below £60,000 at launch. Naturally the smaller Maserati Grecale SUV slots into the financial chasm left behind. 

Get in quick and you can wave goodbye to V8 Maseratis with the Levante V8 Ultima. Just eight will come to the UK, priced from £160,625 and using a 572bhp, 3.8-litre tune of Ferrari’s sensational twin-turbocharged F154 engine. Big money but a big heart.




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First off, the Levante still looks impactful. Styling is subjective, of course, but it seems this is an SUV that stays pretty close to Maserati's DNA, however contrived the marketing bumf feels when it links that dominating grille to the old Birdcage race car.

The Levante sits on a strengthened version of the platform beneath the soon-to-be-discontinued Ghibli and Quattroporte saloons. Expect the larger-selling Levante to soldier on for longer before a fully electric replacement lands.

Classic chrome-trimmed front grille features active blades that control the flow of air through to the engine intake tract, improving either engine performance or aerodynamic efficiency and thereby fuel economy

For now, all versions hook up a smart ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox to rear-biased Q4 four-wheel drive, while there’s air suspension across the range, with double wishbones at the front and a five-link arrangement at the rear.


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Putting the Levante's interior under the microscope is an undertaking that’s as exasperating as it is delightful. On the face of things, Maserati seems to have worked hard to create a space that looks and feels not just upmarket but alternatively so, to imbue a distinct sense of identity, richness, luxury and flair next to the more serious, purposeful interiors of rivals from Porsche or Audi.

There's real character here, and those of us with even a few droplets of petrol in our veins will whoop with delight at a car hanging tenaciously onto gorgeous analogue dials. Not least if you’ve opted for the V8 and thus have a real enthusiasm for chasing the 7000rpm redline to fully utilise them. 

In terms of tactile appeal, the wheel-mounted controls for a small digital screen and cruise control are not on a level with the Levante’s German rivals

We also liked the long, fixed metal paddle shifters, which lift the ambience successfully in both Maseratis and Alfa Romeos and make you wonder why most other brands make do with smaller, often plastic alternatives. You’re far more likely to manually shift in here than in its foes.

But these almost romantic initial impressions begin to erode under closer inspection. For all the flashes of character and quality in some places, there are frustratingly cheap and unergonomic controls elsewhere, the oddly flaccid feeling gear selector among those.

Their abundant presence doesn’t make for an endearing juxtaposition against the more tasteful elements of the cabin. The plasticky controls on the centre console look particularly jarring against the wood veneer, while the hard grey moulding that surrounds the infotainment screen is similarly unattractive.

The row of climate controls immediately below might work well from an ergonomic point of view but, as with so much of the switchgear, it lacks the tactile appeal and material richness expected for the price.

The Levante makes use of Maserati’s Touch Control Plus (MTC+) infotainment system, which is effectively a reskinned version of the old FCA UConnect set-up.

This means an 8.4in touchscreen is the main means of interacting with and controlling the majority of the Levante’s functions, which include sat-nav, heated seats and steering wheel, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are also included as standard.

While the operating system itself is easy enough to learn, it’s not always quite as slick as you would expect a near-£80,000 car’s infotainment suite to be: there can be a noticeable delay when switching between menus and the graphics for the sat-nav aren’t outstanding.

Setting up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto mirroring is easy, but the lack of any apparent shortcut buttons makes navigating back to the menu to change the radio station or adjust seat heater temperatures a frustrating endeavour.

Nor is it as practical as its contemporaries, lagging behind the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover on both rear passenger and boot space. Still, we suspect that Levante buyers are fully aware that they’re avoiding more rational rivals for something more riveting. 

Interior space is reasonable but not as abundant as its five-metre footprint suggests it should be. Despite being bigger than both the Range Rover Sport and Cayenne (in both length and wheelbase), the Levante comes up short for rear leg room.

The Levante’s 710mm compares with 740mm for the Range Rover and 790mm for the Porsche. Admittedly, four adults will fit comfortably, but Maserati’s packaging efforts still seem questionable.

This is especially true when you look at boot space as, somehow, it’s the Maserati that trails again. With the rear seats in place, the Levante has a 580-litre boot; the Porsche’s and the Range Rover’s, meanwhile, are 745 and 784 litres respectively.

For the most part, the Levante avoids feeling like an FCA parts-bin haul – but not always.


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The bald performance figures of the Levante are not to be sniffed at.

The GT Hybrid kicks off the range, albeit above £90,000 these days, and does so as a mild hybrid. That means there's no plugging it in overnight to whisper silently from home the next day; its belt-integrated starter-generator recovers energy under braking and deceleration to charge a boot-mounted battery. 

The Levante isn’t exactly guilty of having an overly ambitious speedometer: 70mph is positioned directly at 12 o’clock. Strange how satisfying it is to keep the needle dead straight on the motorway

Its 325bhp peak and 6.0sec 0-62mph time place it roughly where the entry V6 used to sit, while the more potent, 424bhp V6-powered Modena sits around £20,000 higher and cuts the 0-62mph time to 5.2sec while emitting a more scintillating sound.

That said, we’re yet to sample the entry car, and its lighter engine ought to sharpen initial cornering response.

Purists with deep pockets would likely beeline straight for the V8, though, a 572bhp 3.8-litre twin-turbo unit derived from Ferrari. Having put in several years’ service in the Levante Trofeo, it now bows out in V8 Ultima special-edition form. There’s no extra performance, but fancier trim and plaques abound. It hits 62mph in less than 4.0sec and sounds rather brilliant, if not quite as soulful as the naturally aspirated V8s of Maseratis old.

The Levante feels very much the bona fide performance SUV from the driver’s seat – once you’ve probed all the way to the end of the car’s long-travel accelerator pedal, that is. That it launches from standing without the aggressive savagery of its in-house rival, the V6 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, is entirely in keeping with the Levante’s more rounded, sophisticated character; the Maserati feels so much smoother and more serene even at full chat than the Alfa.

There is enough torque and traction here, however, to send the Levante to 60mph in just 5.1sec, to 100mph in less than 13sec and from 30-70mph through the gears in only 4.5sec. In every case, those figures make this car an almost perfect match for a V8 diesel-powered Audi SQ7 on kickdown pace – and a league quicker than the Levante diesel we tested in 2016.

You could buy quicker for the money, certainly, but it would be hard to find a direct rival with a more cultured and appealing blend of speed, soul, mechanical richness and good manners.

The Ferrari-assembled, twin-turbocharged, narrow-angle V6 is of a different engine family than the one in Alfa’s current crop of cloverleaf offerings, but it has a similarly elastic, urgent and free-revving power delivery that rewards the occasional excursion to 6000rpm yet also makes quicker progress easy in the middle of the rev range. It sounds discreetly exotic and well-bred, with a sporting cutting edge that adds just enough spice to the audible recipe.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts with judicious timing in D, and that it could be a touch quicker in manual mode is a little disappointing but easy enough to forgive, given how smoothly it generally operates.


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When we first reviewed the Levante, we thought it had "only just enough sporting purpose and handling poise to lift it above the average big SUV". The large SUV market has only got tougher since, and it’s fair to say Maserati's biggest car is no star performer eight years on. 

That's not to say the Levante's ride and handling is bad, merely that it doesn’t astound or astonish you with dextrous dynamics like the Cayenne typically does.

The Levante’s slightly clumsy, fidgety suspension reminded me of the way heavy, air-sprung cars used to ride a decade or more ago. I hope very much the forthcoming V8 versions get a thoroughly overhauled system

Its air suspension, which continually adjusts its ride height based on your speed, sets out to provide a laid-back sense of compliance when left in Comfort mode with limited success (which we will come on to). It comes at the cost of some lateral body control, making the car feel a little flighty over bumps, and more prone to roll than you expect it to be when cornering quickly.

Switch to Sport mode on the car’s Skyhook dampers and body control improves along with the steering weight (which is quite light initially), although the ride becomes notably less supple and settled and gets brittle at times.

That said, there's no four-wheel steer to help chamfer the edges off its 2.1-tonne kerb weight, while the rear-led balance of its 4WD system robs the Levante of some surefootedness in dicier conditions. However, it does offer good levels of grip, respectable body control and steering that can, at times, be encouragingly tactile.

The medium-paced steering means it takes more physical input to get the Levante turned into tighter bends than you might expect to put in.

Although it has decent outright lateral control when in Sport mode and sticks to a line well enough on a balanced throttle, the limited-slip differential for the rear axle doesn’t make for a particularly poised or adjustable attitude from apex to exit.

Pour on power mid-corner with the electronic stability control deactivated and the Levante gently understeers. Perhaps it’s a good thing it doesn’t wrap its driver in the same cloak of faux invincibility as other burly SUVs, but if that’s what you're looking for, it’s not here. 

Nonetheless, punting along in a Levante is a broadly very pleasant experience. Its air suspension has a firm edge, but no worse than rivals, and the steering is tactile. But ‘punting along’ is what it tends to encourage over a more spirited attitude, which might feel like a missed opportunity for the self-proclaimed ‘Maserati of SUVs’.

Given the Levante’s athletic ability shortfalls, we hoped it would win back favour by playing the role of cosseting, relaxing long-distance tourer more convincingly. This isn't quite so. The fidgeting sense of restiveness that hassled its primary and secondary rides plays its part, but so too does a handful of other foibles.

The Levante’s ability to isolate its passengers from the outside world, for instance, is far from outstanding.

While tyre roar is noticeable at motorway speeds, it’s engine noise serves to be a greater source of fatigue; settle the Levante into a 70mph cruise and the V6’s mellifluous growl is replaced by a persistent drone.

Under these conditions, our sound gear measured the Levante’s cabin noise at 68dB – one decibel louder than the Range Rover Sport SVR and its famously raucous 5.0-litre supercharged V8.

Adjustability in the seat base, steering column and even pedal box does have the Levante claw back a few marks for comfort, but it still fails to entirely mask a driving position that never quite feels natural.

The steering wheel, for instance, is surprisingly large, and its squared-off rim didn’t sit comfortably in every tester’s hands. The footwell is uncommonly narrow, and there’s a particularly pronounced right-handed offset for the pedals, leaving little space to rest your left foot. And while the seats offer ample lateral bracing, some testers experienced difficulty finding a suitable amount of lumbar support.


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It’s likely no great surprise to learn that its running costs are high, not least when the entry price is now so lofty.

What’s more disappointing is that the mildly electrified four-cylinder Levante offers combined figures of 225g/km and 28.2mpg – not the huge stride on from the 282g/km and 22.8mpg of the more potent V6, with no huge impact on tax bills and its deficit in fuel economy surely recompensed by the extra soul those additional cylinders provide. 

Both the Porsche Cayenne S and BMW X5 40i maintain a greater proportion of their original value after three years/36,000 miles

On which note, the outgoing V8 Ultima posts figures of 19.6mpg and 327g/km – right on par with comparable V8 super-SUVs like the (admittedly much more entertaining) Aston Martin DBX 707.


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There’s a heck of a lot of choice in the premium SUV sector – so much more than when the Levante first launched almost a decade ago. It didn’t drop our jaws then, so it feels a little lost in the middle of the pack now. All unless you’re taken by the styling (we wouldn’t blame you) or the mythos of Maserati (likewise). 

For bumbling around roads chockful of similarly sized crossovers, there’s a certain credibility one might reasonably attach to a rarer, more esoteric choice, particularly with a more potent, Maranello-sourced petrol engine up front. Just be fully aware of the ergonomic and dynamic sacrifices you will make in the name of style and exclusivity. 

Better engine improves the class’s curate’s egg but can’t redeem it

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Maserati Levante First drives