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Minor updates make a big impact on high-riding Levante's refinement, even if outright performance still falls shy of rivals

Our Verdict

Maserati Levante

Maserati's first stab at an SUV sees the Italian brand building foundations to be a true luxury power in the shape of the Levante

What is it?

When Maserati unveiled its product strategy for the next five years, much was made of the fact that all of its engines will be built by Ferrari, with the belief that the twin heritage of the two Italian brands could win over customers from both Porsche and Tesla.

And if the prospect of a Maserati Levante SUV powered by a retuned version of the Ferrari-built 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 currently used in the Quattroporte GTS excites you, we have good news. Sort of.

The good news is that the revamped 2019 model year Levante line-up includes new GTS and Trofeo versions featuring that Ferrari unit, tuned to produce 542bhp and 582bhp respectively. The catch is that neither is confirmed for the UK — at least not yet.

British buyers will be given the option of a new Ferrari petrol engine for the Levante: a 346bhp 3.0-litre V6 that sits beneath the 424bhp version introduced last year for the Levante S.

The new lower-powered V6 isn’t due until September, so for now we can only assess the 2019-spec Levante in 424bhp Levante S petrol form and the 271bhp V6 diesel, both of which we’ve previously driven.

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That leaves us to look at the finer detail changes made to the Levante, which include more distinctive styling differences between the GranSport and GranLusso trims, full LED matrix headlights, a slightly revamped interior including a new gearshift lever and drive mode switches, as well as new infotainment graphics.

More substantially, in terms of driving dynamics, Maserati’s Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) has been introduced into its stability systems for the first time. It predicts driving situations and can adjust the engine speed and braking as required — although Maserati’s engineers note that, if it’s doing its job properly, drivers shouldn’t even notice that system kicking in.

What's it like?

In terms of driving, it’s very similar to the previous model year; this should come as little surprise, given these are largely cosmetic updates. Which isn’t really a bad thing.

Maserati views itself as a maker of grand tourers rather than sports cars, and the Levante has been designed as an SUV in this style, capable of both refined, luxurious comfort and fast, sporting performance.

The increased effort to differentiate the GranSport and GranLusso trims reflects this, with GranSport gaining some new exterior features, a matt black grille and some sporty carbonfibre panelling inside. Meanwhile, GranLusso gains its own exterior elements, including more chrome on the grille.

That said, the interior feels solid and well-built but still lacks the grandeur of some rivals. And, while the 8.4in infotainment touchscreen does have new graphics, they can’t disguise the fact that the unit isn't as large, shiny or intuitive to use as systems offered by rivals.

The Levante’s standard air springs do well to roll along with reasonably fluency, while still offering a decent level of driving feel and response. And the 424bhp petrol engine, while mostly offering quiet cruising, is capable of a satisfying roar when called upon — the sort of aural theatre you’d hope for and expect from a Ferrari-powered Maserati.

The revamped gearstick might seem like a trivial change, but it does offer a more satisfying feel, and moving the parking brake switch to the top of it frees up room for a revamp of the drive mode buttons on the centre console. Off-road mode gets its own button — one that Levante owners are likely to never press, but will like to know is there — as well as switches for ICE (Increased Control and Efficiency) and Sport modes.

There’s also a separate switch to activate the Skyhook sport suspension, which lowers the car by 20mm and stiffens the ride. Having the freedom to easily operate that independently of the Sport drive mode (which offers faster gearshifts, a more aggressive throttle map and more engine noise) does make it easier to find a satisfying balance of ride and performance.

We also sampled the diesel-engined Levante that, unless pushed hard, lacks the soundtrack you’d hope for from a Maserati and doesn’t match the petrol in the performance stakes either.

Should I buy one?

The 2019 updates, minor as they are, add a further level of refinement to the Levante package. And while you can argue that the Levante remains behind some of its key rivals in terms of luxury and performance, it continues to offer a range of talents, carried forward with the Italian swagger you’d expect from that trident badge.

That emotional appeal is a key part of Maserati’s offering, especially when soundtracked by the 424bhp Ferrari engine. And if you’re sold on the romance of the brand, you're not likely to be disappointed by the Levante.

How much more emotional appeal is added by the extra performance of the 3.8-litre Ferrari V8 in the GTS and Trofeo versions is a question that UK buyers will hopefully get to ponder some time next year.

Maserati Levante S GranSport specification

Where Hampshire, UK Price £79,125 On sale Now Engine 2979cc, V6, twin-turbo, petrol Power 424bhp at 5750rpm Torque 428lb ft at 4750rpm Gearbox 8-speed automatic Kerb weight 2109kg Top speed 164mph 0-62mph 5.2sec Fuel economy 23.9mpg CO2 273g/km, 37% Rivals Porsche Cayenne S, Range Rover Sport S/C V6

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Comments
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17 July 2018
I would say Autocar should rejoice in the relative lack of performance. It is an SUV for goodness sake. It is like saying Wellington boots don't give good lateral support on a tennis court.

18 July 2018
eseaton wrote:

I would say Autocar should rejoice in the relative lack of performance. It is an SUV for goodness sake. It is like saying Wellington boots don't give good lateral support on a tennis court.

 

Could not agrree more!  The fact that this car can sprint from 0-60 in 5.2 secs and has a top speed of 164mph seems a little lost on the reviewer who speaks of 'relative lack of performance'  To me that is very fast for a car of this ilk

17 July 2018
Moving the (electric) parking break switch to the top of the (revamped) gear-stick, sounds like a recipe for disaster!!

18 July 2018

Best one I ever used was in a DS4, non of the cars I've driven since have had an Automatic one, not even one with a warning to let you know you forgot to put it on

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

18 July 2018

Interesting this divde that's opening up between the traditional car-makers and the new upstarts. Interior being the most fundamental difference; look at the Nio, Byton, Tesla and even more tech-progressive companies like Audi's Q8, and they make the old guard look ancient. I guess while the old wealthy demographic still exists, they'll be customers for this style, but the new money from young wealth in China, India etc will soon want something a bit more relevant to them..

18 July 2018
michael knight wrote:

Interesting this divde that's opening up between the traditional car-makers and the new upstarts. Interior being the most fundamental difference

I guess Maserati's cautious approach aims to appeal to older well off customers, maybe those who buy Poltrona Frau furniture. The sad thing is that such conservative interior isn't subject to any modern reinterpretation. As such it will never become a classic, just old and tired.

19 July 2018
michael knight wrote:

Interesting this divde that's opening up between the traditional car-makers and the new upstarts. Interior being the most fundamental difference; look at the Nio, Byton, Tesla and even more tech-progressive companies like Audi's Q8, and they make the old guard look ancient. I guess while the old wealthy demographic still exists, they'll be customers for this style, but the new money from young wealth in China, India etc will soon want something a bit more relevant to them..

I will take the interior of the Levante, with its lovely leather and tactile and easily operated buttons over the utterly dull, bare and depressing dash of something like a Tesla every day, week and month and that if that makes me sound old and irrelevant old, so be it.

19 July 2018
michael knight wrote:

Interesting this divde that's opening up between the traditional car-makers and the new upstarts. Interior being the most fundamental difference; look at the Nio, Byton, Tesla and even more tech-progressive companies like Audi's Q8, and they make the old guard look ancient. I guess while the old wealthy demographic still exists, they'll be customers for this style, but the new money from young wealth in China, India etc will soon want something a bit more relevant to them..

I will take the interior of the Levante, with its lovely leather and tactile and easily operated buttons over the utterly dull, bare and depressing dash of something like a Tesla every day, week and month and that if that makes me sound old and irrelevant old, so be it.

18 July 2018

Buy an Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

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