Maserati Levante Diesel
List price £54,335
Target Price £54,335
Maserati is the latest sports car maker to add an SUV to its line-up. Is it any good, though?
Porsche Macan Diesel S
List price £46,182
Target Price £46,182
The Macan is smaller, but an absolute hoot to drive, classy inside and quite a bit cheaper
When Porsche introduced the original Cayenne back in 2002, car enthusiasts the world over thought the German brand had sold its soul to the devil. However, while some struggled with the idea of a sports car maker building a chunky SUV, thousands of buyers voted with their wallets, turning the Cayenne into an enormous success.
That prompted Porsche to launch a second SUV, the Macan. It's slightly smaller and blessed with handling that would give some sports cars a fright, and is one of the finest luxury SUVs on the planet.
Maserati's very first stab at an SUV could be even better, though. The suave Italian brand might be late to the party, but its all-new Levante turns up with oodles of style, a more spacious interior and the promise of an equally sporty driving experience. So, which is the better luxury SUV?
What are they like to drive?
Think of a diesel SUV and blistering straight-line pace probably isn’t the first attribute that springs to mind. However, sluggish acceleration isn’t acceptable for cars with such evocative badges on their noses. Thankfully, both the Levante and Macan come with powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel engines under their bonnets.
The Levante is capable of a hot hatch-rivalling 0-60mph time of 6.8sec, which sounds brisk until you find out the Macan is capable of dispatching the same sprint a whole second faster. The Macan builds speed much quicker when you accelerate in kickdown, too. The automatic gearboxes in both cars are smooth. However, the Macan’s delivers snappier changes, and it is more obedient than the Levante’s when you take control by pulling at the paddles behind the steering wheel.
While we’re on the subject of steering, the Levante’s feels too light and artificial. Not only does this make it tricky to place the nose of the car where you want it through a bend, it also means you need to make lots of minor adjustments to keep in the centre of your lane on the motorway.
There are no such issues with the Macan; its steering is heavier at low speeds, but you’re rewarded by far more feedback from the front tyres. There’s no need to make continuous small corrections when cruising at speed, and it’s much easier to place the Macan’s nose exactly where you want it.
Once you’re in a corner, the Macan resists body roll better than the Levante, and grips the road better; it’s astonishingly good for a big SUV. The Levante simply never feels as comfortable changing direction quickly, and it feels like a much heavier car, even though the weight difference is fairly small.
Even when you’re not in a hurry, the Macan impresses more. Both cars have a firm edge to the way they ride over bumps, but the Levante doesn’t isolate you from broken and scarred surfaces anywhere near as well as its German rival. Mind you, our test Macan was equipped with (£1788) optional air suspension, which no doubt helped its cause.
The Macan also has the far smoother and quieter engine; the Levante’s is decidedly coarse and clattery. It’s noticeably quieter inside the Macan when cruising, too, although the door mirrors of both cars do suffer from a bit of wind noise.
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