The Baserati Levante sticks a fork in the SUV genre – finally
Italian sports car manufacturer Maserati first publicly hinted that it was
keen to enter the crossover SUV game way back in 2003, when it debuted its
first Kubang concept. It's been more than a dozen years, and the Triton brand
has finally delivered its first production utility vehicle, the 2017 Levante.
The vehicle's road to production has been one of the longer and more
tortured gestations that the auto industry has seen in decades (at one point,
Maserati's SUV was to ride atop the Jeep Grand Cherokee
platform and be assembled in the US!). The finished product will likely be
worth it for faithful Maser customers, however, and it will almost certainly be
worth it to the company's bottom line, because the premium utility market
continues to be white hot. Simply put, the Levante is Maserati's most important
new model in decades.
Of course, adapting a styling language that's only ever been applied to
voluptuous sports cars and sedans to something as boxy and upright as an SUV
was always going to be a trick, and the Roadshow staff is split at best as to
whether Maserati has succeeded with the Levante. There are certainly
traditional brand cues in place, including a somewhat Hannibal Lecter-ish
grille with prominent trident emblem, fender-side vent ports, and so on. The
design's kinship to Maser's Ghibli and Quattroporte
sedans is clear, but its styling is likely to be divisive, particularly details
like the unusual character lines around the tail lamps.
If the Levante's styling is poised to split opinions, this SUV's performance
is likely to unite them. Globally, it comes to market with either of a pair of
3.0-liter twin-turbo gasoline-fed V-6 engines, offering 350 or 430 horsepower,
respectively. As you'd expect, the Levante packs a version of Maserati's well-known,
well-liked Q4 all-wheel-drive system, backed by a standard eight-speed
If I had to bet, the more potent gas version, with its 0-62 mph time of 5.2
seconds, seems like a lock for the North American market. (I'm less bullish on
the likelihood of receiving the 275-hp diesel engine of identical displacement,
particularly in the short term.)
More promisingly, Maserati claims its first-ever SUV has ideal 50/50 weight
distribution and the lowest center of gravity in its class, both of which bode
well for crisp handling, as does a five-setting air suspension, which can lower
for high-speed road work and raise up for whatever minor off-road work a
Maserati SUV is likely to encounter.
Inside its luxurious cabin, Maserati is promising a new evolution of its
Touch Control system, an infotainment architecture many of you will recognize
as a close relative of Chrysler's UConnect. For the Levante, it picks up an
8.4-inch screen and a new rotary controller located on the transmission tunnel.
No word yet on Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility, but hopefully
the new system will be a leap ahead from what's currently found in Maserati's
Once upon a time, Maserati had a chance to be among the first in the luxury
SUV pool, even ahead of the Porsche Cayenne with which it will now surely
compete. In order to still make a splash, it will have to drive amazingly well,
and be priced smartly.
US pricing will start at AED 270,000 plus destination and delivery, which
means it will line up squarely against entrenched rivals from Porsche, Land
Rover and BMW.
Content courtesy of cnet.com