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Is this Ferrari-engined Levante the performance SUV it always should have been?

Last year was not kind to the Maserati Levante.

Worse still, that probably came as a surprise to the management at Maserati’s parent firm, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. In the 15 months following the model’s introduction in 2016, some 25,000 examples found owners; compared with Maserati’s 32,000 sales across all of its models the previous year, such volume was an encouraging bellwether for this new SUV. It seemed the high-riding Levante would do for the Bolognese brand what the F-Pace did for Jaguar, the Cayenne has done for Porsche and the Bentayga now seems to be doing for Bentley – usher in a period of prosperity and provide the financial basis for the continued development of traditional sports cars.

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

However, reports suggest Levante production at FCA’s Mirafiori plant was down more than 40% in 2018, with staff temporarily ‘idled’ to better align the number of cars rolling off the line with demand, most of which comes from China, with the US an easy second before the big European markets. The drop is dramatic, and made all the more painful because the SUV segment continues to grow with global enthusiasm. How has such a strikingly good-looking newcomer from arguably the most storied brand in the business failed to capitalise on this trend?

The answers are hinted at in the Levante’s original Autocar road test. It scored just three stars from five, and we called it out on the grounds of its tepid turbodiesel performance, ordinary handling, questionable cabin specification and perceived quality. Simply, Range Rover and the German brands did it better, even if the Maserati’s all-round ambience and aggressive pricing made it worthy of consideration.

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Now Maserati has refreshed the Levante, introducing new technology and greater aesthetic flair. This time we also have a petrol V6 engine at our disposal, something denied to UK buyers until last year. Time to find out whether this left-field contender can claim its spot in the limelight.

The Maserati Levante range at a glance

Maserati UK has yet to offer one of the V8-engined Levante GTS or Trofeo models, so for now the 424bhp V6 S is the range-topper for Britain. There are effectively three trim levels: Levante, GranSport and GranLusso. GranSport introduces a more performance-oriented aesthetic, including features such as sports seats, aluminium shift paddles and black detailing on exterior panels. GranLusso is a more luxurious take, adding silk interior and chrome brightwork.

Price £79,125 Power 424bhp Torque 478lb ft 0-60mph 5.1sec 30-70mph in fourth 6.5sec Fuel economy 16.0mpg CO2 emissions 273-282g/km 70-0mph 44.0m

Maserati Levante First drives