For this 2018 model year refresh, Maserati has introduced two new model lines. Having chosen between the Levante diesel and Levante S, buyers can then upgrade to either GranSport or GranLusso specification, the former adding sportier design touches - black body trim and well-bolstered sports seats - while the latter tends towards luxury, adding chrome and body-coloured elements externally and wood trim rather than carbonfibre within the cabin.
Other changes include a switch to electric power steering, as well as a new suite of level two advanced driver assistance systems, including lane keep assist and road sign recognition.
How important is the Levante to Maserati? Given that 90% of buyers have never owned a Maserati before, it seems the Levante is set to form the basis of the marque’s entire business strategy for years to come.
What's it like?
The Levante S has been designed to straddle the line between performance and luxury. That means it should be refined, quiet and comfortable one moment, then fast and athletic the next. That it makes a decent job of both without truly excelling at either demonstrates how squarely Maserati’s engineers have nailed their brief.
All Levantes sit on air springs as standard, but early models tended to ride with a faint edge - a sort of gentle spikiness, like wrapping your fingers around a conker husk - that never went away at any speed. Now, though, the Levante S rolls along the road with a little more fluency, although it doesn't quite pull off the Porsche Cayenne’s trick of ironing out the road surface. The frameless, double-glazed windows keep wind noise down, while the petrol V6 only makes itself known with a cultured, subdued yowl from the exhaust tips.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox, meanwhile, is smooth and unflustered at normal speeds, but if you tap it into manual mode you can use the elegant aluminium paddles to shift up and down, the ratios swapping in and out quickly and precisely, but without the snappiness of a dual-clutch auto.
Pressing the Sport button once primes the powertrain: faster gearshifts, a more aggressive throttle map and a much livelier soundtrack. The engine is sharp and responsive, revving freely and with a rush of energy that you just don’t get from the diesel. The Levante S feels quick without being violently accelerative, Cayenne Turbo-style, but with its more appealing soundtrack and higher rev limit, the petrol V6 is undoubtedly a better fit than the diesel.
Press the Sport button again and the car drops by 20mm and the dampers tighten up. Even on winter tyres, the Levante S handles with control and precision, carrying good speed through corners and remaining relatively flat-bodied and composed. It isn’t in any way exciting or engaging to drive the way the smaller, similar-priced Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio can be, but you don’t find yourself wishing for more front-end bite or any mid-corner adjustability. Dynamically, the Levante S is very well judged.