I had an affair with an Italian. And what an affair it was. In fact, my wife didn’t mind.
Yes, my weeklong relationship with Maserati’s Levante GranLusso SUV was an exhilarating and luxurious experience. It’s a luxury SUV with the heart of a Ferrari. The latter comes compliments of a Ferrari produced 3.0-liter, twin turbo V6 that puts out 345-hp and 369 lb/ft of torque. Maserati says it can do 0-60 in 5.8 seconds. That’s not too shabby for a heavy (4,700 lbs) and stout SUV. But with the Ferrari powerplant, EPA mileage ratings are 15 city, 21-highway mpg with Start/Stop mode. It’s not miserly, but consider what’s propelling it.
Opt for the Levante Trofeo and it has a 590-hp V8 and can do the 0-60 jaunt in a mere 3.7 seconds.
Levante is offered in base Levante (tested), Levante S, Levante GTS and Levante Trofeo. There’s also a choice of GranLusso or GranSport options group. The former adds luxury features whereas the latter offers sporty features.
With those four levels, and aside from various features and options, the major differences are that the S trim also has a V6, but with 424-hp and 428 lb/ft of torque. The GTS comes with a 3.8-liter V6 with 550-hp and 538 lb/ft of torque. And the top line Trofeo has the potent V8. All come standard with a lightning quick shifting 8-speed, shift-by-wire automatic transmission and AWD. The sound under full throttle sounds like the shift points of an Indy car.
Just starting Levante’s, engine gives goose bumps. The sound immediately tells you there’s something special under the hood. Goose the accelerator and the exhaust tips bark and rumble. Those sweet tones are music to the ears. Once underway, there’s gobs of power just waiting to be released from this Ferrari bred stallion. And it produces it at all rpm levels, and more so when the turbo kicks in.
After a 20-inch step-in, you’re treated to a posh interior with full drilled natural leather seats that are heated/cooled and supportive. Open pore Radica wood trim compliments the rich and delightful smelling leather. You wouldn’t expect anything less from Maserati.
When in Off-Road mode, the adjustable air suspension system can lift the body from 10-12 inches to better negotiate deep snow or mild off-road obstacles. In Sport mode, shift points are changed and exhaust tones become even more throaty and goose bump producing.
An 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen with voice control lets you change cabin temperature by calling it out, and it also serves the audio, rearview camera with surround view, apps, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and more. It’s surprising thought that since Fiat-Chrysler owns Maserati, the SUV didn’t have their UConnect system with Wi-Fi hotspot capability.
The other oddity is that the push button electronic ignition switch is on the left side of the dash, whereas most vehicles have it on the right.
Another chore is air flow selection is a two-step operation. It requires taking the eyes off the road. First you must touch the climate icon on the screen, then touch the air direction desired. Auto start/stop too, requires a two-step procedure whereas most cars have an A with a circle around it to quickly shut it off.
The gear shift resembles that on BMW’s, but better in that it’s a normal gate. With Bimmer’s, I always worry the trans isn’t in Park when selecting it.
Levantes’ back seat is spacious for three adults with good leg and head room. And the seats are heavily padded.
Back in the cargo area, there’s 19.4 cubic feet of space and the 60/40 split seats have a pass-through for skis or other long items. More meaningful, it measures 40 inches deep, 43 wide and 30 high with the back seats upright. Flip them and cargo depth increases to 69 inches. Beneath the cargo floor is a foam bin that can hold several small items out of sight.
Ride quality on Pirelli 20-inch tires is impressive. And the ride is quiet and smooth.
Handling is athletic and nimble. It’s easy to park and there’s nary any body lean in tight turns. Nasty road imperfections are nicely dampened by the air suspension system.
Levantes’ brakes are painted red and are Brembo-like, but took a while to adjust to them as they grab quickly despite attempts to feather them.
As an exotic SUV with Italian heritage, all this pleasure doesn’t come without a price. A long list of standard features and safety features such as lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, forward collision warning, traffic sign assist and more, are built into the base price including delivery. As such, the Levante carried a bottom line of $80,850. This is on par with the Porsche Cayenne and BMW’s X6. And depending on options ordered, maybe less expensive.
Levante is part sports car and half SUV. But it’s doubtful many, if any, owners will take them off-road. Otherwise it’s a hoot to drive and be seen in. Just its suave, sexy looks, sound of its exhaust and engine, turns heads.