MASERATI INTRODUCES AN SUV, THE VERY STYLISH LEVANTE

Maserati_Levante_frontHow times change. If you had asked us ten years ago if the iconic Italian sportscar maker Maserati was to design a diesel-power 4WD we would have laughed outright. Our laughter would have turned into shrieks of merriment if you had asked if you could buy that Maser for under $250,000.

Yet here is exactly that vehicle, the Maserati Levante SUV will soon hit the roads – possibly even trails – of Australia. Even more surprising is the price tag. It starts at just $155,000 and tops out at $175,000 for either the Levante Sport or Levante Luxury. That’s $75,000 under the price we would have chuckled at 10 years back. As a further bonus the on-road costs are included.

Mind you, once you’re into the Maserati customisation areas of the showroom and start to tick the options’ boxes the price can head for the heavens.

Potential Levante owners, some of whom may have seen a Levante in Europe when it was displayed at the 2016 Geneva motor show, have attended special preview nights at Maserati dealers in Australia. We looked in at the Brisbane one.

Deposits have been paid, documents signed and the first arrivals are hoped to be downunder by Christmas. ‘Hoped’ because making Maseratis can be a time consuming process as many personalisation materials have to be sourced and handcrafted to individual’s requirements.

Maserati_Levante_rear

It’s difficult to make an SUV look like a sporty machine, but the guys and gals in the Maserati styling studios have done a neat job. (contrary to public opinion Pininfarina wasn’t involved, Levante is all in-house Maserati). Cues to the Maserati sports sedan’s shape are the large grille with the central trident; the triple side vents on the front guards, which are bolder than those in the Ghibli and Quattroporte; the bold rear haunches; and the shape of the taillights, with the chromed spear between them. Yes, it’s a Maserati…

Inside, the first thing you see is the very Maserati analog-look clock sitting proudly at the top of the dashboard. The instruments are large and clear and in the Italian manner are very definitely pointed at the driver.

There’s an 8.4-inch central touchscreen to control many vehicle and infotainment functions, including Apple Carplay, Siri, and Android Auto.

The diesel engine we mentioned at the opening of the story is nothing like the diesels of 10 years ago. A V6 with pair of turbochargers and an output of 530 horsepower (202 kW in Australian money) and torque of 600 Nm between 2000 and 2600 revs, this 3.0-litre oil burner is something out to create smiles on the faces of keen Aussie drivers.

Maserati_Levante_interior

Standard ground clearance is 210 mm, which can be dropped to 165 mm for improved aerodynamics and added on-road corning power.

Levantes are probably not going off-road very often, if at all, but a big ground clearance of 250 mm can be dialled in at very low speeds in off-road mode.

We haven’t had a chance to drive a Maserati Levante yet, there’s only one in the country and it has the steering wheel on the ‘wrong’ side. But we have backside tested the seats and like the softness of the leather and the spacious interior. The rear seats are set up for two, with a smaller third seat between them, not only is that seat narrow but legroom is reduced by the protruding rear section of the centre console.

The sporty slope of the tail limits Levante’s usefulness as a cargo carried. While the load area is long and wide the top of the tailgate sits almost directly over the rear seatback. Large boxes probably won’t fit, try for yourself as part of your private pre-purchase road test. A very handy feature is that the push-button to close the tailgate is low down in the interior side panel, not in the ‘gate itself where it can be hard to reach.

When sportscar makers, especially Italian ones, get into the crossover SUV market it makes for exciting times, we can’t wait till Maserati Levante makes it way downunder and we can report from behind the wheel.

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