The bald performance figures of this, Maserati’s most powerful six-cylinder Levante, are not to be sniffed at.
Unlike its diesel rangemate, the Levante S 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 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 S 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 car’s 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.
Our GranLusso-spec test car went without column-mounted gearshift paddles but, for a car of a grand touring brief, rather than a more dedicated performance machine, the omission doesn’t jar too much.
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.