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We scrutinise the very first SUV from Italian premium brand Maserati...

Maserati. The mere mention of the name conjures up images of sun-kissed Italian beaches studded with fashionable socialites drinking champagne while watching the sun set over the Mediterranean. For a brand that epitomises la dolce vita, the last thing we expected from the stylish Italians was a high-off-the-ground, all-wheel-drive SUV. Such a model is at odds with the long tradition of sports and GT models begun by the Maserati brothers at the start of the previous century.

However, even that once die-hard producer of sportscars, Porsche, realised that it simply had to recognise market demands to stay profitable and, now, the Modenese firm has also joined the ranks of Bentley, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and, soon enough, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini by offering its very own take on the SUV theme. Welcome to the Levante, a model that, if you’re wondering, is named after a warm Mediterranean wind.

Of course, being style-consciously Italian, Maserati wasn’t simply going to churn out a squared-off, two-box design, and the Levante’s curvaceous lines immediately set it apart from more angular rivals. While there are hints of Jaguar F-Pace around the rump and more than one tester was reminded of Infiniti’s ungainly QX70, the Levante certainly stands out from a sea of Range Rover Sports and Porsche Cayennes. Even with relatively few Maseratis on South African roads, and considering that the SUV derivative is all new, it was interesting to note how quickly onlookers pegged our test car as a Maserati.

The large front-sited air intake, with pride of place going to Neptune’s trident, and narrow headlamps, help create strong stylistic links between the Levante and other models in the family, such as the Ghibli. Riding on optional 21-inch wheels (19-inchers are standard), with a low-slung roofline, the Levante certainly lives up to the “S” in the SUV part of its description. In images, the Levante comes across far more compact than it really is. In the flesh, it casts a large shadow, measuring a touch over five metres long and nearly two metres wide.

The curvy theme continues inside the cabin, with a bowed cowl over the main instruments, a shapely facia and beautifully crafted door handles. Our test unit was specified with an oxblood-red interior, an attractive hue that suits a car of this ilk; this bright shade of leather is offset by optional polished carbon-fibre trim. Centre stage on the facia is occupied by a high-definition, touchscreen infotainment interface, which also serves as the display for a rear-facing camera. Stitched leather on the facia and on contact surfaces makes the cabin a sumptuous proposition.

While the exterior dimensions are generous, space in the cabin isn’t. The cockpit feels smaller than it should, and one tester even remarked that the transmission tunnel impinged on his driving position. Rear leg- and headroom are at a premium, making it less-than-ideal transportation for four adults, and luggage volume also falls below that of its main rivals, or even that of smaller SUVs (despite the boot only carrying a deflated space-saver tyre).

For now, there is only one powertrain option in the local Levante range, a 3,0-litre turbo-diesel. There’s no word from local representatives as to when we can expect the petrol derivatives that are available in other markets. Power is fed to all wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and, unique to the segment, the Levante possesses a mechanical limited-slip rear differential as standard. Peak power is rated at 202 kW, accompanied by a handy 600 N.m of torque.

On our test strip, these figures should have made for brisk performance; however, while the Levante is no slouch with a 0-100 km/h time of 7,44 seconds, this acceleration performance is blunted somewhat by a measured mass of more than 2,4 tonnes (heavier even than the  portly Range Rover Sport). In our braking tests, though, it performed well, returning an average stopping time of 2,88 seconds. Once on the move, the compression-ignition motor announces itself vocally, but obviously without the evocative exhaust crackle you usually associate with Maseratis. Even with 600 N.m of twist action, the power delivery, despite feeling exceptionally smooth, does feel underwhelming.

Again, though, it’s probably a function of the high mass and a refined drivetrain rather than a lack of performance. There is also a definite trace of turbo-lag; plant the throttle to make hasty progress or overtake, and there’s a momentary pause before the V6 gets into its stride. You can provoke more urgency from the engine by switching to sport mode, but oddly the throttle calibration in this mode feels unnatural and more like an on-off switch. In keeping with the brand’s sporting heritage, although not as dynamically adept as the RR Sport or Cayenne models, the Levante displays a definite sporting slant.

An oddity in this day and age, the steering system is hydraulically assisted, which allows for clear communication between the front wheels and driver’s palms. The ride is firm, in part due to the low-profile rubber, with the payoff being a flat cornering stance and a commendable level of cornering grip when you turn up the wick. The air-sprung suspension nevertheless provides impressive bump absorption at higher speeds. The ride height is variable should you ever venture off-road and, on the open road, the ride clearance adjusts automatically depending on speed.
CAPE TOWN – In a world where the luxury SUV often proves king, the Maserati Levante hasn’t enjoyed quite as much success as one might have expected. In fact, due to a lack of demand, the Italian brand was forced to halt production shortly after its launch. When we tested the Levante 3,0 Diesel back in 2017, we noted the SUV was going to be a tough sell against other offerings in the segment, chiefly thanks to price.

With an oil-burner under the bonnet, we found our initial experience in the Levante somewhat underwhelming. So, we were keen to give it another go what with the twin-turbopetrol 3,0-litre V6 derivative now available in South Africa.

Badged as the Levante 350, this variant's engine delivers 257 kW and 500 N.m of torque to all four wheels though an eight-speed ZF torque-converter automatic transmission. While this seems a healthy dose of oomph for an SUV this size, it’s worth noting the Levante weighs in at around 2,4 tonnes. As a result, this output translates to a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 6,0 seconds and a top speed of 251 km/h. If it’s more performance you’re looking for then we'd suggest looking to the Levante S, which uses an uprated version of this engine.

At start-up, the petrol engine makes its presence clear with a very characterful idle note that's somewhat louder than I was expecting. It's certainly easy on the ear, although still fairly subdued at lower revs (as you'd expect in a luxury SUV). If you want a more aggressive soundtrack, the Levante 350 features a dedicated “sport” mode.

I also immediately felt this powertrain was a far better fit with the Levante than the turbodiesel. It’s a lot more responsive, communicates better with the ZF transmission and manages the SUV’s hefty weight quite impressively. Thanks to its twin-turbo setup, the engine doesn’t suffer from much lag, which makes the throttle feel quite responsive. In the aforementioned sport mode, the transmission's workings are also altered; each time you dip shift up or down, a forceful kick can be felt through the seat.

Through the bends, the Levante proves more composed than one might expect (considering its heft), which makes it a satisfying SUV to belt around. It inspires plenty of confidence thanks to immense grip provided by the Q4 all-wheel-drive system (with a rear limited-slip differential) and the Pirelli P-Zero tyres (265/50 R19). The ride is commendable, too, thanks in part to the standard active air suspension setup.

Add the engine’s responsive nature to the chassis’ dynamic composure and you're left with a driving experience that’s overall quite satisfactory. For added entertainment, the metal column-mounted paddle-shifters deliver a pleasing mechanical "click" when pressed. An improvement worth noting is the gear selector that frustrated us in the 3,0 Diesel; the redesigned leather-wrapped selector mimics the feel of the one used in the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio, resulting in an easier and more accurate action. That said, the cabin still features a mite too many buttons and switches (chiefly on the centre console).

While the Levante is still likely to struggle against the competition largely thanks to its price, it’s refreshing that a more rounded option has been added to the range. Despite this version playing the role of entry-level model, it's easily the more satisfying drive of the two.

2017 Maserati Levante Diesel for sale

R1,149,900
Ref No: 1829190

Full Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: opt front electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Hill descent control downhill brake control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane departure warning: Optional
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Optional
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Directional turning headlights: opt / opt LED
  • Adaptive headlights varying light distribution: opt / opt LED
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: adaptive
  • Self levelling suspension: Standard
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Normal, ICE, Sport, Off Road
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: std (opt adaptive)
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Optional
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • CD player: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear + boot
  • Central locking: keyless
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: access (opt start)
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: Standard
  • Sun roof: opt panoramic
  • Panoramic roof: Optional
  • Electric seat adjustment: driver (opt front passenger)
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: opt driver
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: std (opt LED)
  • Highbeam assist: Standard
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: front + rear + rear camera (opt surround view)
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Towbar trailer hitch: Optional
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: diesel
  • Fuel range average: 825 km
  • Driven wheels: all
  • Driven wheels quantity: 4
  • Gearratios quantity: 8
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Gear shift paddles: Optional
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 265/50 R19 (opt 265/40 R20 / opt 265/40 R21)
  • Reartyres: 295/45 R19 (opt 295/40 R20 / opt 295/35 R21)
  • Air suspension: Standard
  • Length: 5005 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1981-2158 mm
  • Height: 1679 mm
  • Wheel base: 3004 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 11.7 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 580 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 2205 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 80l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 8.2 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 6.6 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 9.7 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 220g/km
  • Emission control phase Euro EU level: Euro 6
  • Power maximum: 202 kW
  • Power maximum total: 202 kW
  • Power peak revs: 4000 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 91.6 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 600 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 2000-2600 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 600 Nm
  • Torque overboost: 600 Nm
  • Torqueo verboost peak revs: 2000-2600 r/min
  • Torque to weight ratio: 272 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 6.9s
  • Maximum top speed: 230 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 2987 cc
  • Engine size: 3.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 3.0TD
  • Engine + detail: 3.0 turbo diesel
  • Cylinder layout: V
  • Cylinders: 6
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: V6
  • Valves quantity: 0
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 3
  • Warranty distance (km): unlimited km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 5
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service interval (distance): 20000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Maserati
  • Status: c^
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 41075200
  • MMVariant: LEVANTE DIESEL
  • MMintrodat: 2017-02-09
  • Introdate: 2019-04-01
  • DuoportarecordID: MaseLeva1e6

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