Pedro Arrais review: Maserati Levante exudes Italian charm

If you are a lover of all things Italian, you will definitely fall head over heels in love with the Maserati Levante, the first SUV to be offered by the luxury vehicle manufacturer.

Founded in 1914, Maserati has a long history of building hand-crafted sports cars. Over the years, it has added four-door sedans to its lineup, but resisted the SUV craze until 2016, when it debuted the vehicles in North America.

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Recently, Victoria welcomed its first dealership, Maserati of Victoria, and I was able to take a 2018 Maserati Levante Grand Sport for a drive.

The Levante is a mid-sized SUV that takes on established names such as the Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz GLE and BMW X7.

The Levante starts at $93,000 and goes up to the Levante Trofeo, which is $187,500, before options.

As you might suspect, the list price goes up hand-in-hand with engine power. There are two engines, a 3.0-litre V-6 and a 4.0-litre V-8. Power ranges from 345 to 590 horsepower.

Acceleration times range from 6.0 seconds down to 3.9 in the zero-to-100 km/h dash.

My tester was equipped with the 3.0 V-6.

If you had a spreadsheet comparing the base Levante to its competition based solely on hard numbers, it is only an average performer. It sits in the middle of the pack, not the most powerful, but not the least, either.

But what the numbers don’t tell you is how it feels to be behind the wheel when you blip the accelerator (in Sport mode).

If the rumble, the pops, the growl emanating from under the hood doesn’t put a silly grin on your face, you should buy yourself an electric car instead.

If you value the sound of a highly tuned engine, the Maserati is your ride. It communicates in a purr in the city, with the turbocharger producing a healthy 369 pound-feet of torque for almost instantaneous response.

Stretch out its legs on the highway and you will be rewarded with a vehicle feeling as if it wants to leap ahead. Don’t just keep your eyes on the road — it pays to glance down occasionally to the speedometer, as you will most likely be speeding. Despite its obvious power, the Levante is one of those vehicles that actually feels slower than you are actually travelling.

It’s so smooth that, if it wasn’t for traffic, you will find yourself cruising at speeds where you might get a hefty fine. You have been warned.

But keep your need-for-speed impulses in check, and the Levante will surprisingly return impressive fuel consumption on the highway — 8.5-litres per 100 km, the best of the group mentioned above.

Power goes through an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive.

The Levante features a driver-adjustable air-spring suspension. Left to its own devices, it will lower the vehicle at speed and raise it modestly should you consider taking the vehicle off-road.

The suspension is tuned for performance — you can take this SUV canyon-carving and keep up with folks in cars. Yes, the tall body and high centre of gravity works against the Levante, but it is as agile as its competition.

The Levante can be upgraded to either a Gran Lusso or Gran Sport model — the premium to upgrade is the same. The Gran Sport model, which I drove, is the enthusiast’s choice, with 20-inch wheels (up from 19), red-painted brake calipers, sport seats and column-mounted paddle shifters, along with other lesser items.

The Lusso would be for individuals who will appreciate its open-pore wood, silk and leather premium interior.

The Gran Sport’s interior is more businesslike — if your business was speed.

The driver is surrounded by a contemporary interior that will appeal to the person who values visual and tactile touches that justify the premium price tag of the vehicle.

The luxury ambience is unbroken, from supple leather-covered or glass-like surfaces, chrome accents to a oval analog clock at the centre of the dash.

Technology is never far, with an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment screen that is both intuitive and visually attractive.

The Maserati trident logo features prominently, on the seat headrests, on the floor mats, on the screen, as if occupants need to be reminded they are being transported around in a premium conveyance.

The Levante is all-new, but it almost seems like it has always been here. This is not just a vehicle to get you to Point A to B: This is an iconic luxury brand that tells those around you that you have already arrived — in style.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Luxury mid-sized SUV, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-litre V-6, 345 hp at 5,750 rpm, 369 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 to 5,000 rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 5,003; width, 2,158; height, 1,679; wheelbase, 3,004

Curb weight (kg): 2,109

Price (base/as tested): $118,000/ $121,095 (includes $2,995 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Nil

Tires: 265/50 R19 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 15.0 city/ 8.5 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car

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