Two and a half years ago, when we road tested the Maserati Levante in the diesel-engined form in which it was introduced to the UK market, we concluded that it was somehow neither fish nor fowl: not quite a competitive rival for the SUV market’s Teutonic ruling powers, but not a true Italian exotic either.

Now that the undistinguished diesel engine of that car can be avoided, however, and a much more soulful, powerful and pleasing twin-turbo petrol V6 adopted in its place, the Levante’s identity problem has been addressed. The Levante S is a car with the performance, refinement and mechanical richness you expect of a Maserati. However, that it is without the multi-faceted ride and handling sophistication to make it a true challenger to the best driver’s cars of its ilk, even in this form, should remain a source of disillusionment for Maserati brand devotees, just as it was to us.

Better engine improves the class’s curate’s egg but can’t redeem it

Ritzy, rich and eye-catching in some ways yet lacking in substance in others, the Maserati Levante S therefore does half a star better than its forebear did, but remains double the distance off the best cars in the luxury SUV class.

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