When is an SUV not an SUV? When it’s a Maserati Levante. There’s a good reason why the esteemed Italian carmaker has tapped into the SUV market.
It’s become the dominant species – adapted to ride high above congestion, for greater functionality in our ever more active lifestyles, for families, even for road conditions.
Cross that with the desire for upscale performance and finish, and it’s little surprise that every luxury car brand is jumping on the 4×4 wagon, with plenty more to come – from Jaguar, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin…
A 4 x 4 with italian style
But Maserati isn’t just riding a wave. It could easily have produced a car with a high-ride and the right look, but with little actual utility, and still sold plenty to lovers of the marque – and, after all, the public often lumps Maserati in with Ferrari for their like ‘sexy’ Italian heritage and racing histories, so lovers there are aplenty, too.
Instead it’s given us all the Maserati touches – the distinctive rear pillar, concave grille, side vents – but produced a Maserati SUV that’s much better than it need be.
And one with a difference: the Maserati Levante sleeker and longer than any other car in the category – Maserati claims that it has the lowest drag co-efficient of car in its class too – it’s somewhere between a saloon and the usual SUV box shape.
Indeed, it’s based on a saloon chassis, a platform in which Maserati has excelled since bringing its focus onto grand tourers and away from sports cars.
THe Levante is an off-road sports car in disguise
Indeed, it’s properly, surprisingly sporty: its three litre V6 engine (in the basic model) gives it 0.62mph in 6.9 seconds, meaning it can just about outpace the Porsche Cayenne.
Yet switch out of a sport mode and into an off-road one and the car lifts a full 80mm for ground clearance, allowing all sorts of wizardry, shifting traction to the wheel that most needs it, to steadily get you up or down boggy hillsides.
And yet, back on the road, its 50/50 front/rear weight distribution and a five link suspension comprising air springs and electronically-controlled Skyhook shock absorbers means there’s none of the wallowing that SUVs typically suffer from. It’s rock solid.
And, let’s be honest, it’s on the road that the Levante is most likely to be found. Even Maserati has said as much – it expects 90 percent of its customers to take their Levante onto nothing more taxing than long grass; which makes it all the more remarkable that the company has made the car as capable as it is.
Maserati Levante expected to double production
But then Maserati has a lot riding on the Levante – it plans to double production to 70,000 units over the next couple of years and expects half of those sales to be Levantes. It’s a bold prediction. But it could very well be right.
BEST BIT: This is the ideal SUV for those who don’t want to go the full cross country, but still like the idea of being able to.
WORST BIT: Great big shiny 21 inch rims – and the attendant knowledge that going off-road will trash them.
HEAD TURNING QUOTIENT: High – if only because people will be struggling to pigeon-hole it.
DRIVING EXPERIENCE: Fast – when you don’t expect only capable. Capable – when you only hoped for fast.
Starting at £56,250,00 http://maserati.co.uk/maserati/gb/en