This is Maserati’s first SUV, and quite a departure for a company that has traditionally made glamorous coupes, cabriolets and luxury sporting saloons. This, however, is the era of the SUV, with more and more customers choosing them for their raised seating, air of safety, their usefulness and the more exciting image that they project.
Maserati’s Levante has all of these things, as well as the promise of high performance and a sumptuous interior. It also offers the real-world practicality of a diesel with its lower running costs; this 271bhp V6 is available only with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Standard-fit height-adjustable air suspension, hill descent control and off-road electronic modes are intended to provide useful agility when the road runs out, although this car is more about sparkling on-road behavior.
What is the 2016 Maserati Levante Diesel like to drive?
The Levante diesel's performance sits somewhere between brisk and fast, the V6 usually mustering enough puff to be worthy of the badge. Maserati says it’s not going after Land Rover with the Levante; instead it aims to provide a sporting on-road drive. Nevertheless, the Levante provides enough ground clearance, and off-road grip and agility to cope with most off-road venturings.
The performance element of its make up is evident as soon as you find an open, twisty road and sink the accelerator. The Levante doesn’t rocket forward but it’s certainly very brisk, with the swift, smooth upshifts through its multiple gears adding to the sense of momentum. The lightly sporting sounds issuing from its engine and exhausts enhance the feeling of briskness.
More impressive is its way with bends; this sizeable SUV slices through them with the deft confidence of a hot hatchback that ate all the pies. Maserati designed it to be easy to drive fast, to be safe and free of any unusual driving quirks, and it achieves all of these besides being more entertaining to drive than most SUVs.
More relevantly for many, it’s also very stable at speed on motorways, including at a pace legal only in Germany. The Levante’s ride quality is rather firm, but it’s well controlled and should prove acceptable on British roads.
On the move the Levante is pretty refined, Maserati working hard to make it easier for rear-seat passengers to converse with those up front. There’s some wind noise at speed, and occasionally some road roar, but conversations are easy to hold.
What is the 2016 Maserati Levante Diesel like inside?
Anyone familiar with the bigger SUVs will find much that’s broadly familiar. There’s a bit of a haul to get yourself aboard, after which the high-mounted seats provide a pleasing vista and the cabin feels amply spacious. It’s pretty luxuriantly trimmed too; leather covers not only the seats but much of the dashboard, too.
This is a plush car, then, if not quite as plush as some past Maseratis. However, it’s not as expensive as many of them, and there’s scope for upholstery and trim upgrades. The centre of dash is dominated by a decently sized infotainment touchscreen that can also be operated via a rotary controller. It’s intuitive to use, and supplemented by a versatile screen between the main instrument dials. A head-up display is unavailable, however.
Space up front is generous and it’s fairly good in the rear too unless the front seats are set low, preventing feet from sliding beneath them. The middle rear seat is fine for short journeys, and there are two Isofix child seat mountings. The boot is long and wide, too, if a bit shallow, and the seats are easy to drop. In-cabin oddments storage is average, though.
Should I buy one?
The Levante is more practical than you might expect of a five-door Maserati sporting mild off-road ambitions. More than that, it’s a good long-distance cruiser and more fun than most SUVs on a twisting road, where it excels. That it’s fairly keenly priced should help, too.
However, you’ll need to want these capabilities sufficiently to counterbalance its below-average CO2 emissions of 189g/km, and average fuel economy of 39.2mpg. Ultimately, the truth is there are large SUVs that manage to blend efficiency, quality, pace and handling more successfully.
What Car? says...
Maserati Levante Engine size 3.0-litre diesel Price from £55,000 Power 271bhp Torque 443lb ft 0-62mph 6.9 seconds Top speed 143mph Fuel economy 39.2mpg CO2 189g/km