Out on the road, this particular Levante is a bit hit and miss - especially when you take into account the fact that Maserati views itself as a manufacturer of luxurious grand tourers as opposed to out-and-out sports cars. If nothing else, a grand tourer - even a 2.1-tonne, SUV-shaped one - should be capable of covering ground in a reasonably rapid fashion, while remaining composed and comfortable on all manner of road surfaces.
On both of these fronts, the big Maserati didn’t quite hit the mark. The occasions when the gorgeous yet demanding roads of our Northumbrian test route proved to be a bit much for the Levante were just a touch too frequent for this tester’s liking. Numerous undulations unearthed what seemed to be a fairly loose approach to vertical body control, and the seemingly constant heaving soon became tiring. Admittedly, switching the adaptive dampers to their sportiest setting went some way to remedying this, but next to a Porsche Cayenne - which Maserati considers to be a direct rival - the Levante just isn’t as composed or controlled.
The same is true of the way it goes around corners. Although the Maserati offers a genuinely impressive amount of traction through the twisty stuff, it isn’t quite as successful at masking its considerable weight as other performance-oriented SUVs are, and allows for a wee bit more lateral roll than you might like. The steering would likely benefit from being slightly more athletically weighted too.
And as for the engine? Well, it certainly sounds the part. Stray above 4000rpm or so and you’ll be treated to a mellifluous howl that has just the right amount of aggression to its timbre. It’s a wonderful soundtrack, and one that’s made all the more enjoyable by the fact that there’s no detectable synthetic aural trickery going on behind the scenes.
It’s a shame, then, that the Levante’s performance isn’t as intoxicating. There’s certainly a healthy amount of poke on offer here - overtaking manoeuvres on tight country B-roads can be dispatched with confidence - but it doesn’t feel as quick as its claimed 6.0sec 0-62mph time suggests. Throttle response isn’t particularly sharp, and there’s a degree of lag that needs to be endured before the engine really comes on song. That said, the wonderfully tactile metal paddleshifters make the task of keeping the engine on the boil easier, although the eight-speed auto ’box can be a touch hesitant to respond to requests for downshifts. Of course, as enjoyable as revving such a sonorous engine out is, do so frequently and you’ll pay for it at the pump. Over the course of our test drive, which combined those fantastic B-roads with reasonably lengthy dual carriageway stints, the Levante managed just 12mpg.
Ultimately, it was on those dual carriageways where the Levante felt strongest. Here, its not-so-convincing body control wasn’t as noticeable, and the cabin’s isolation was generally good. Those 20in alloys made for a secondary ride that was irritatingly busy at times, but on smooth surfaces the Levante felt like it was much closer to being in its element.