Maserati’s new Levante pushes the envelope and stretches the goal posts when it comes to SUVs. We drive one
By: Somnath Chatterjee
Posted on: February 18, 2020
When you think of Maserati, you get sepia tinted visions of racing cars flying through Italian roads, and sports cars with more than a whiff of Italian blue blood embedded in them. They always made fast cars dripping with an infectious personality along with having bucket loads of charm. You do not drive a Maserati as much as drink in its sensations.
However, the behemoth that you see here, seems to be standing for everything that Maserati does not embody or want too. But while we scoff at the idea of a Maserati SUV, the world has changed. Today the luxury car is more or less SUV shaped with the wealthiest corners of the world having tons of them jostling for space.
Maserati making an SUV, therefore, seems to be the obvious choice given the fact that it is now a part of a massive automotive group where the cash registers demand an SUV. The Levante has been around for a few years and needless to say is Maserati's best selling product. But numbers do not mean anything unless the Levante wears its trident badge with pride on the grille and also proves to be a real Maserati.
Digging in the details
First impressions suggest that the Italians have somehow mastered the unique concoction of making an SUV seem svelte and desirable. We must add that SUVs have mostly originated from off-road vehicles where the objective is to drive over any kind of terrain and with little or no regard for aesthetics.
The Levante is not designed with that philosophy and seems to do enough to belong to its illustrious family tree. The design, for example, is unlike anything you have seen before, as it is more like a sports car on stilts than a SUV. The headlamps are spread thinly and sit in perfect coherence with its flanks while the grille is a massive chrome affair with little regards to being subtle. And it all binds together in perfect harmony, making Levante the prettiest SUV in the market today. Trust the Italians to do that!
Our favourite angle though has to be the rear which tapers off slightly with the stance being surprisingly low-slung. In this strong black hue, garnished with dark wheels, Levante cuts a menacing look, which needless to say gives it immense presence. Attention from fellow road users seems to be standard when driving a Maserati as the craned necks and camera phone flashes indicated during our drive.
Inside, more than the garish use of technology or over complicating matters, Levante is beautifully built with the finest Italian craftsmanship. Unlike the Germans, it threads a different path where form matters over function. Everywhere you look there is Italian leather (in a bold red) draped lovingly all over, while even the gear lever is a thing of beauty and seems to be ripped off from a Florence art museum.
However, it does have all the latest gadgets and gizmos, but they are tucked away and form a part of the experience - not dominate it. Elsewhere, Levante is quite cavernous with ample room for your golf bags, while you can even lounge at the back - if you’re not in a mood to drive.
But we wonder why anyone would not want to grip that lovingly made steering wheel or even not be closer to that glorious power train. Levante is available with a diesel engine and while that engine makes sense, it’s not our first choice. We instead go for its twin turbo V6 petrol engine with deep ties to Ferrari, no less. A Maserati should sing like Pavarotti and the Levante does that as the power train emits a deep and guttural roar when provoked. The sonorous soundtrack, however, is just one of the attributes which we loved as the whole driving experience drips in a rich textured feedback which is reminiscent of a sports car.
You cajole it down the road as Levante makes you a part of its driving experience and not merely a spectator. To be blunt, it’s more engaging than its slightly aloof German rivals. It does not chase numbers and instead is far more visceral. You simply do not expect a vehicle of such mass to display such a level of finesse and that is down to its sports car genes. Maserati has clearly made the Levante as a driver’s choice and that is indeed a relief for all those (including us) who initially dismissed this idea as blasphemy.
For the spirited driver, there is an even more potent version of the Levante as it brings in a great big hulking V8 into the table. Called as the Trofeo, the sheer pace of this thing beggars belief along with a sound which can be measured on the Richter-scale.
That said, the Levante also does mundane tasks very comfortably. It is surprisingly capable off-road - should you ever entertain the thought of getting your shiny new luxury SUV covered in mud.
In the end, it’s hard not to like the Levante, as it is everything you want and need from a Maserati, but only with the added practicality of an SUV. Being an SUV hasn’t detracted it from the core values of design, power and, of course, the ability to plaster a huge smile on the driver’s face.
It is by far the most sporting of its breed and injects the SUV segment with some humour and personality in a way only an Italian can manage. Prices start at Rs 1.45 crore while you can customize it in many ways with an endless array of options - with your cheque book and your imagination being the only limiting factors. Overall, the Levante is the most fun and charismatic SUV that you can buy.
It is a through and through Maserati …
Available at: Petal Maserati, Luxury Arcade, Taj Santacruz Hotel, Domestic Terminal, CSI Airport, Mumbai, India
Images by: Somnath Chatterjee