At last, the right engine for Maserati’s luxury SUV arrives in the UK
The magic ingredient guaranteeing an upwards sales curve these days is a three-letter acronym: SUV.
Even Maserati, one definition of a traditional European sports car maker, has received a massive boost in its fortunes from its new Levante crossover. It’s already the firm’s biggest seller, and looking like the base on which Maserati’s future success will be built. Not bad, considering it’s only been around for 15 months.
The next crucial step for Maserati is to keep the Levante competitive in its class, and to that end here’s a model-year update just 18 months after the car’s unveil. Globally, the update is mainly to do with safety and convenience features, but there’s a big change for the UK market, which is the new availability in right-hand drive form of the 424bhp 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbocharged petrol engine.
Maserati Levante S GranSport
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6, twin-turbocharged, petrol
Torque: 428lb ft
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight: 2109kg
Top speed: 164mph
Fuel economy: 25.9mpg
CO2 rating, tax band: 253g/km, 37%
Up till now, only the 271bhp V6 diesel has been on offer in RHD markets, but now we’ll also have the 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbocharged petrol unit in its 424bhp S flavour. There is a 345bhp version too, which we may get later.
There will be three Levante spec levels from now on, with an introductory model joined by a luxury 19-inch-wheeled ‘GranLusso’ chromey specification and a performance 20-inch-wheeled piano-black with red trimmings ‘GranSport’.
On the other side of the soft-close frameless doors, you’ll find a very rich ambience with supple, bright leather on very comfy front seats, a bit less rear room than in some of the opposition, and – relative to the Audi Q7 and Volvo XC90 at any rate – slightly disappointing switchgear and infotainment graphics.
New active safety features include traffic sign recognition and lane- and distance-keeping systems. The provision of these systems has necessitated a switch from hydraulic to electromechanical power steering. It’s now lighter at parking speeds, with the facility (in sportier driving modes) to add extra weighting.
In ‘normal’ mode on butter-smooth Dubai roads the Levante displayed the kind of ride comfort and insulation you’d expect. Pressing ‘sport’ twice sets up the powertrain, drops the standard air suspension by 20mm, stiffens the ‘skyhook’ adaptive dampers and reduces steering assistance. That sequence of events turns the Levante into a genuine enthusiast’s car. Porsche’s Cayenne tops it on cornering balance, but not by much.
And then you add the Ferrari-developed twin-turbo petrol engine, and your enjoyment goes up by another substantial notch. There’s a smidgeon of turbo lag, but once you’re past that the pull is keen and the revs flow sweetly. The sound through Maserati’s active sports exhaust is genuine and requires no artificial enhancement.
If you were one of those who fancied a 424bhp Levante but not one with the wheel on the ‘wrong’ side, we encourage you to reprise your thinking. This important Maserati has quickly grown into something worth having. There are a few negatives, but it’s mostly good – and this new-to-Britain engine is a peach.