Maserati Levante now more affordable

Exclusive Italian vehicle brand, Maserati, has expanded its medium SUV Levante range.

Little by little, bit by bit (apologies to 1960’s English pop diva, Dusty Springfield for borrowing from her song) the exclusive Italian vehicle brand, Maserati, has expanded its medium SUV Levante range. And the latest addition, the 350hp (257kW) Levante, makes the luxury marque more affordable.

At the same time, Maserati has made enhancements to the Levante range for 2019 including:

  • New colours, wheel designs and interior veneers
  • Redesigned gearshift lever with shorter travel and improved operation
  • Optional Pieno Fiore leather broadens interior trim choices
  • Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) standard on all versions (previously reserved for Quatrroporte and Ghibli saloons, IVC according to the manufacturer helps stop vehicle stability problems developing rather than correcting it once it has occurred)
  • New exterior features for GranLusso versions
  • Revised exterior trim inspired by the Levante GTS (still to be released here) for GranSport versions
  • Adaptive full LED Matrix headlights now optionally available

Levante was originally released in late 2016 in 3.0-litre turbo-diesel form and followed up around 12 months later with the 321kW twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine Levante S variants.

The just released 257kW Levante models expand the model line further and mark a new point in the accessibility of the marque, with the entry model carrying an RRP of $125,000 plus ORCs. That’s $15,000 cheaper than the previous entry point to the Levante range, and $14k cheaper than the Ghibli D (both of which are turbo-diesel), up to now the most ‘affordable’ model in Maserati Australia’s entire fleet.

The company stressed that the newcomer’s lower pricing doesn’t detract from the brand’s exclusivity and in every sense, it delivers the drive experience, engine sound, design, technology and craftsmanship that

Maserati buyers traditionally expect. In due course, company management expect the new model will account for around 50 percent of Levante sales.

There are three versions sporting the new engine, the ‘base’ model just known as Levante, the GranSport and GranLusso (both with RRP of $159,990). The GranSport as the name suggests is equipped and trimmed with a sporting focus in mind, while in similar vein, the GranLusso places emphasis on refined luxury.

Standard equipment includes 19” polished alloy wheels, hand-stitched Italian leather interior trims, piano black trim inserts, heated front seats with 12-way electric adjustment and memories, Maserati’s MTC 8.4” infotainment system with touch and voice controls, sat nav, digital radio, 280W eight speaker audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, blind spot monitor, rear camera, cruise control, park sensors front and rear, keyless entry, auto-dipping mirrors (in reverse gear), and dual-zone climate.  

The beating heart of the new model is a lower output version of the 321kW Ferrari-produced twin-turbo V6 used in the range-topping Levante S models. With 257kW and 500Nm of maximum torque produced between 1750 and 4750rpm, the new petrol engine is hardly a shrinking violet. The standing start sprint to 100kph stops the clock at 6.0 seconds neat. Not bad for an SUV with kerb mass of 2109kg. That’s 0.9 seconds quicker than the diesel, and only 0.8 seconds slower than its brawnier petrol sibling the cheapest of which will set you back $10 shy of $180k (plus on road costs).

Official combined fuel consumption for the new 257kW models ranges between 11.6 and 12.0 litres per 100km.

The new engine, as in other Levante models, is mated to an excellent ZF eight-speed auto gearbox driving via Maserati’s Q4 intelligent all-wheel-drive system and rear limited slip differential. The system provides a distinctly Maserati rear-drive experience even in low grip conditions, but when needed can swiftly alter front to rear torque split from 0:100 to 50:50 percent.

A flick of a switch allows the driver to access Sport mode for even sharper throttle response, revised gearbox shift mapping, and throttle blips on downshifts, while the bi-modal exhaust system opens for freer gas flow to maximise performance, and that sonorous sound-track you expect from a sports car. The active air suspension also lowers, Maserati’s Skyhook adaptive dampers stiffen, and steering weighting and ‘feel’ is enhanced, providing sportier dynamics to complement the heightened engine performance.

Our launch test drive in a range of conditions around our National Capital and through the rain-soaked twists and turns of the Snowy Mountains high country, arguably some of Australia’s best driving roads, allowed us to sample its impressive handling and grip. It exceeds expectations of what over two tonnes of SUV should be dynamically capable of. The engine offers lusty performance to match and feels very refined while doing it.

For those who wish to go off-road, the Levante’s air suspension can be raised to an off-road setting, there’s a hill descent control system, and dedicated off-road mode. We didn’t get the opportunity to put it through its off-road paces, but then we can’t imagine too many owners taking their Latin luxury conveyance further from the black top than the odd unsealed road, forestry trail, or paddock either.

Expect a further addition coming to the Levante range, with Maserati confirming that the GTS version with power provided by Ferrari’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine, will arrive here late next year. Local pricing wasn’t mentioned for the fire-breathing 404kW, 730Nm Trident-badged SUV, though we could speculate that it will exceed $200k given the most expensive Levante variant currently is $190k and other V8 models in the current Mazza line-up start at $295k. We’ll have to wait to find out.