First Drive: Maserati Levante GranLusso

26th October 2017
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? Less than two years after Maserati launched its Levante SUV, it’s time for the first refresh. 


Unsurprisingly, the Levante is already Maserati’s best-seller… it’s an SUV, stupid  where else would it fall in the sales charts, other than in pole position? SUVs count for 57 per cent of the luxury car market these days, and the Levante counts for 55 per cent of the world’s Maserati sales. The most significant number, however, is 90… for 90 per cent of Levante customers, the SUV is their first Maserati: that’s almost 25,000 new customers for Maserati, nicked from other brands, in the past year. Bingo.

This refresh is a visual blink-and-you’ll-miss-it redesign. There are two new specifications: GranLusso (luxury trim) and GranSport (sport trim), with the “S” badge acting as the base version in the UK. GranLusso gives you more silver bits and pieces on the outside, GranSport turns the grille and other details black, for that sporty vibe. Oh, and the doors are soft close and the Trident has a blue edge to it.

But the main party piece is the new 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol engine. This was introduced in the UK in the summer but gives buyers of the new Levante a choice from launch  this or the V6 diesel.

And the answer is this. Most definitely, this. Maserati’s sibling, Ferrari, builds Maserati's petrol engines in Modena. And it is this petrol V6 which finally makes the Levante so very much a Maserati and quashes the nagging feeling that you’ve somehow bought the badge but not the car. This is now the car.

What an engine. It just makes you giggle in an SUV. Yes, it’s ridiculous to hear that noise coming from a jacked-up, large five-seater, but it delivers on performance too: 0-62mph in five seconds. You can’t stop flipping the cool-touch metal flappy paddles on the steering wheel when the powertrain is in Sport mode, partly for the surge of power but also for the noises the engine makes as it beats around the rev range.


The engine is the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed and it’s just as good in the Levante as it is in Jaguar Land Rover products. 

The steering is now electronic instead of hydraulic; mixed reviews on this from my colleagues, but the added torque around the dead-ahead works brilliantly for a sense of precision and control at slow speeds. That’s crucial in this car because it really does feel heavy and wide compared with, say, the Alfa Stelvio. You might think, all being equal under the Fiat umbrella, these two companies would share components and engines, if not platforms (Stelvio is Giulia, Levante is Ghibli, also due for refresh soon), but no, everything, is different, partly to assuage Maserati owners that they’re getting value for the extra pounds. 

And you do feel that, up to a point. Levante owners get four-wheel-drive and air suspension as standard, both of which you’d want, the first for practicality, the second for comfort. And there’s the spine-tingling noise that the engine makes as it works its way up to 424bhp. For that, we’re tempted to ignore the clumsy and fiddly infographics on the satnav screen.

This new Levante is a much, much better proposition than the launch version, purely because of that Ferrari-derived engine which turns the car from a half-hearted marketing attempt to tick the luxury Italian SUV box into a seriously engineered, driver’s proposition.

The numbers:

Engine: 2,979cc twin-turbo V6 petrol

Transmission: 8-spd auto

bhp/lb ft: 424/428

0-62mph: 5.2sec

Top Speed: 164mph

Price as tested: £76,995 (from £56,250)

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