The Maserati Levante is the first SUV/crossover from the Italian luxury brand, making this a bit of a watershed moment. Maserati has been a relatively niche brand for a long time with close links to Ferrari before the latter was spun off as its own company in 2015. Now though, Maserati has started to move to a more mainstream position, with cars that are more accessible and easily accessed. While the Ghibli sedan was their first move towards this goal, the Levante is a greater appeal to the desires of the masses.
Consumers these days are buying SUVs and crossovers at an insatiable level, and companies are responding accordingly. Therefore, it’s only natural for Maserati to release one of their own in order to grab a piece of the pie. However, while most midsize SUVs like the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE-class, and Porsche Cayenne start around the $60,000 mark, the Maserati Levante enters the game with a whopping $76,980 base price. It may not be hard to surpass that mark when pricing the other SUVs once you get into options, but can the Maserati provide an experience that’s nearly $20,000 richer than the others?
One thing Maserati brings to the party is performance. Base models receive a twin-turbocharged V6 that puts out 345 hp, while the $87,980 Levante S cranks up the power to 424 hp. Meanwhile, the top-tier Levante GTS and Levante Trofeo receive a V8 from Ferrari with outputs of 550 hp and 590 hp respectively.
The result of this power is exactly what you’d expect. The base trim will sprint to 60 mph in a healthy 5.8 seconds, while the Levante S will get there in 5 seconds flat. At the top of the range, the GTS with its bigger V8 will hit 60 in 4 seconds and the Trofeo can do it in a seriously quick 3.7 seconds, especially since the Levante weighs over 5,000 lbs.
Where the Levante really shines is in the corners. Driving through tight West Virginian back roads, the Levante S handled beautifully, even at speeds that exceed what the Department of Transportation would recommend. The steering feels tight and direct, while the chassis is very communicative. The all-wheel drive system offers a lot of grip on the road, even if it doesn’t inspire confidence in going off-road. The Levante also comes standard with adaptive air suspension, which can adjust itself to be either hardcore for the most spirited driving to a more relaxed feel that can soak up highway miles easily.
Unlike the Audi SQ5 performance SUV, the Levante has a bit more panache to its presence. Where the Audi is Teutonically handsome with an almost stoic demeanor, the Levante is flashy and full of curves, with deviously squinting headlights and a very large Maserati trident in the center of the grille. Likewise, even the base Levante models have a sonorous exhaust note that sounds beautiful. The Levante is an Italian design, unafraid to turn heads and grab the attention of onlookers.
Unfortunately, the interior is a serious let down; it simply does not live up to the Levante’s almost $80,000 entry price tag. Nothing really grabs your eye to let you know that you’re behind the wheel of something more special than your standard luxury SUV. The leather in the lower trim levels doesn’t feel particularly high end and there’s a surprising amount of plastic used throughout. Most egregiously, anyone who has spent time in other products made by Fiat-Chrysler will immediately recognize the infotainment system is exactly the same as every other model they have even if it’s called “Maserati Touch Control Plus” in the Levante, and many of the switches and buttons carry over from other FCA cars that sport a quarter of the price tag. A high-end luxury SUV should never feel like corners have been cut to save costs, and yet in the Levante the cost saving is on full display.
Furthermore, despite the high price tag, it isn’t that well equipped. If you want an interior trim that isn’t a fancy name for plastic, you have pay at least an extra $1,000, while ventilated seats with premium leather that actually feels luxurious will set you back at least $3,400. Driver assistance features like Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking will cost you $1,590, even though every new Toyota offers those features as standard.
Overall, the Levante simply doesn’t feel like $80,000 from the driver’s seat. You wouldn’t be faulted for thinking Maserati has priced the Levante where it is only to differentiate it from BMW or Mercedes SUVs. While the driving experience of the Levante is spectacular, there simply isn’t enough to justify the premium over the cheaper competition.
Photos courtesy of Maserati Spa