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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

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.

The Levante isn’t exactly guilty of having an overly ambitious speedometer: 70mph is positioned directly at 12 o’clock. Strange how satisfying it is to keep the needle dead straight on the motorway

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.

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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.