Maserati Levante V8 MC Edition 5dr Auto
We drove both the Levante S and Levante D. If you can bear the claimed 23.9mpg economy (21mpg in our hands), have the petrol. Designed by Ferrari (it has a Ferrari codename, F160) it has quite a bit in common with the F154 engine found in the 488 Italia. It’s lovely to use if you indulge it. Maybe not as muscular low down as some potential rivals, but very happy to rev, raspy and potent at the top end and good to listen to. In short, entirely in keeping with how a Maserati should act and sound.
The diesel is more prosaic. And still not that efficient (against a claimed 35.7mpg, we got 25mpg). It does a job, and is broad shouldered enough to support not only the 2,205kg kerbweight, but whatever extra mass you need to contain inside it. It’s also smooth and quiet. But it’s never going to make you feel like you’re driving a Maserati. Which is surely the point of owning one. In an attempt to lift the diesel experience, Sport mode introduces a partially-artificially augmented engine note. We’re unconvinced.
Both motors are equipped with ZF’s eight-speed automatic. It’s the best in the business, the only quibble being that the integration isn’t quite as smooth here as it is in cars that have more R&D resources behind them. BMW, for instance. However, what Maserati has got right is the gearshift paddles. You might not use them often, but when you do, you’ll love the cool feel and crisp action of the metal paddles.
The Levante’s competence also extends to the way it goes down the road. At higher speeds it’s stable and quiet and the suspension doesn’t make too much fuss of the surface it’s riding over. And if you do decide to find out if a Maserati SUV handles in the way you imagine a Maserati SUV should – with a bit of guts and go – you’ll discover that it's reasonably crisp and more agile. Not as taut as a Cayenne, but with steering and handling that inspires confidence and delivers a good shot of enjoyment. Especially if you’re in the petrol. It’s another reason why we need the V8.
The whole thing is helped by standard air suspension. It can crouch for high-speed driving, lowering the centre of gravity and cutting drag. It lifts to keep the belly off the floor when you’re in the rough, and compensates for the considerable variations in load an SUV will be asked to swallow.
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