Italy is known for a lot of things including, Pizza, Pisa, Prada and cars that can make your human head turn like that of an owl. Which means, it was only natural that when I was invited to drive one with the Maserati badge on it, I did wee a little bit in shock and joy.
The car in the picture is the new Maserati Levante, (say it like an Italian, Leh-Vaan-tehh) and boy did it look stunning. The name, I was told, is inspired by the warm, Mediterranean wind that kisses the boot shaped country and can go from mild to gale force in seconds.
For now, what you absolutely need to know is that the car has finally graced the Indian soil and you can buy the base version for as low as ₹1.45 crores. The car is offered in two more trims (GranSport - ₹1.49 crore and GranLusso - ₹1.54cr) with the engine spec staying the same across the lineup. Right then, we know you are eager to know about the engine and performance, but first can we look at this thing?
Sculpted to perfection
Maserati cars have an immense road presence. The Levante takes that forward quite beautifully and aggressively as the design takes cues from its very own sedan platform. The car was designed in the Maserati studio at the FCA Centro Stile of Turin and one look is all it takes to be fixated on to it.
Front on, the most striking feature is the grille, which is inspired by the stunning Alfieri concept, it is something you’ll instantly recognize in your rear view mirror. The signature concave grille pays homage to historical Maserati models like the Tipo 60 Birdcage. The design is further emphasized by the flow of the front wings, which highlight the shape of the engine compartment lid and run into the headlight surrounds at the front . As the car moves closer into the frame, the stunning Bi-Xenon and LED headlights make their presence felt even in broad daylight as your eyes finally are drawn to the Trident symbol, smack at the centre of the grille.
The car’s prodigious build attacks the visual senses instantly, but it almost doesn’t look like an SUV and that’s a compliment, mind you. Levante is designed with the right amount of curves and aggressive lines to make you go aww and whoa at the same time.
Glance on the rear and the muscle and aggressiveness continues with the bent metal line that runs the entire length of the car, starting from the signature side vents at the front and eventually fading effortlessly over the rear wing, giving the vehicle its mean look. Overall, the design is coupe-ish, aggressive, and Maserati has managed to pull it off brilliantly.
Step inside and the cabin in the base version is well appointed. The finish on this one is standard dual-tone black, however, you can have yours customised to your heart’s content with a choice of leather for seating and wood inlays. For the money you pay, you get a panoramic sunroof to look at the stars on a clear night, the four-zone climate control will ensure that you are kissed with the right amount / temperature of air and when you finally want to exit, the 360-degree cameras will come in handy. Surprisingly, there is no heads-up display, which would have been a great addition for a spirited night drive. Sigh.
There is ample leg room both in the front and in the rear. Though the seats on the back literally have you sinking down on them. I would have liked a bit more of thigh support on the rear, especially during long drives. However, I never sit in the rear seat, so I guess that’s okay. For me. The Levante is 5 meters long and with its 3-metre wheelbase, you get maximum room once you are inside. A family of five can easily sit inside without struggling for leg or arm space.There is ample boot space too, 580 liters of it, which means it can fit more than just a large suitcase
Other interesting bits
The car also provides a glove box locking system that can be locked and unlocked via setting a code through the touchscreen. This could be particularly useful to keep valuables (such as a packed sandwich), safe when you need to step out of the car for a pit stop during your long drive. Talking of which, having a large boot always helps. There is ample boot space in this one, 580 liters of it, which means it can fit more than just a large suitcase. The neater bit being that you can open the boot and shut it right back without moving an inch from your seat by pressing the button shown above..
Entertainment and information is important, which is why, when you glance off the gorgeous steering wheel and look left, you’ll see the infotainment system which supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite navigation and has capabilities to make a pizza in about four minutes. No, it cannot do the last bit. However, the 8.4in touchscreen is a delight to work with thanks to it’s responsive feedback. Information is laid out in a manner intuitive enough that your pet could operate it. Readers of our sister magazine What Hi-Fi? will particularly love the next bit. The Maserati Levante offers a pretty neat choice of audio kit too. You can fuss over and finally choose between the 17-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system or opt for the Harman Kardon system. Either way, it will be a sonically satisfying drive. Though, I did what I love most and turned the volume all the way down and sunk into the aural drone of the 3-liter V6. It sounds unlike any diesel engine I’ve heard before.
Performance and Handling
If one of these fail to compliment the other, the whole drive experience sways towards the lackluster territory. Fortunately for me, the Maserati Levante absolutely nails it when it comes to performance and handling. Maserati has developed the chassis, targeting an involving on-road experience along with off-road capability. The Air Suspension and the Q4 AWD system work together to keep the car planted at high speeds out on the open roads and offer supreme comfort when you drive on bad ones. The 207mm of ground clearance is great when you streak through the expressway, but could be heart wrenching in a pothole-scarred city like Mumbai. However the Levante has a party trick.
You can raise the suspension to 247mm and coast through badly designed speed breakers and bad roads without a fuss. You can even lower the car to a ground hugging 162mm to load things easily. However, there is a slight caveat. While the drive feels great on long straights and swooping, relaxed corners. The air suspension setup and the 2.2 ton weight make their presence felt during quick manoeuvres. You can switch to the Sport damper mode and get rid of that, which is great.
The Maserati Levante is powered by a 3-litre, Diesel V6 engine that develops 275hp of power and 600Nm of torque, good enough to send the car from a standstill Italian monolith to 100km/h in 6.9sec and eventually reach a top speed of 230 km/h. That’s seriously impressive and once you spend some time with the car, there is a ton, actually more than 2.2 tons of fun to be had. The V6 won’t give you a bare knuckle punch in the gut, but the acceleration is swift and thoroughly exciting and the drive engaging. The usage of lightweight materials and the 50-50 weight distribution work well together to keep safety in check while ensure the drive never gets dull in any way.
The eight-speed automatic ZF gearbox is slick and effortless in its approach, regardless of the driving condition. You can choose between four driving modes which include ‘Normal’, ICE, ‘Sport’ and ‘Off-road’. The car automatically changes character as you switch between the driving modes, by changing engine, transmission, suspension and electronics features, keeping the drive fun at all times.
The new Maserati Levante was a much awaited car, here in India. However, after driving one, I can safely tell you that the wait was well worth it. It is a brilliantly well-rounded package of luxury, comfort, features, performance and drool value. If you have the money for it, this would make a perfect addition to your garage.