Italy is probably best known for three things: food, wine, and sports cars. The dream machines that hail from the Mediterranean's boot are often tinged with the same richness and flavor as the country's pasta and primitivo, and Maserati's offerings are no exception. The Levante, introduced in 2016, attempts to bring the ethos and mystique of the exotic Italian brand to the hot-selling SUV segment.
What's New for 2018
Two new sub-trims now join the fold: the GranLusso, which is skewed more towards opulence, and the performance-oriented GranSport. The hydraulic power steering unit has been usurped by an electronic system, and a number of new active safety features have been bundled under the Advanced Driving Assistance Systems moniker.
Choosing Your Maserati Ghibli
When setting out to build an SUV – something most purists consider sacrilegious when it's done by an esteemed sports car manufacturer – Maserati did not want to trade on its reputation to turn a profit. That means that the multi-cylinder affair under the hood is not an underwhelming hunk of cast iron and aluminium – it's a true Italian straight from the old country.
The twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 makes 345 horsepower in standard trim, and 424 horsepower in the upmarket S model. The former engine will propel the Levante to 62 mph in six seconds, while the latter will do the same task in just 5.2 seconds. And make no mistake about it: this thing will make some very intoxicating noises while getting up to speed. Seriously, go to Maserati's website and take a listen to a sound bite of the exhaust. Mamma Mia!
Even if you can refrain from treating every trip to the store like it's a grand prix, you'll still need a supercar budget to fill the tank, as fuel economy for the 345-horse motor is rated at 14 miles per gallon city, 20 highway and 16 combined. For the 424-hp engine, the highway rating drops to 19.
A standard all-wheel-drive system provides the Levante with grip at all four corners. Drivers can also increase control and confidence by selecting from one of four driving modes - Normal, Sport, Off-Road or I.C.E (Increased Control and Efficiency). All but ICE mode offer a manual option, which lets the driver shift the eight-speed automatic via the gear selector or the optional paddle shifters.
Standard safety features on the Levante include six airbags, intelligent bi-xenon and LED lights, a stability program, and an adaptive front lighting system. Additional standard features that buyers will appreciate include a 280-watt eight-speaker sound system, an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, heated front seats, and leather upholstery.
Both the base and Levante S are available in the GranLusso or GranSport guise (or you can pass on each sub-trim entirely and save some coin). Both packages cost the same, although the price varies depending on how much power is available. Upgrading the base Levante to either package boosts the starting price by $6,060, while doing the same to the Levante S requires $5,560.
Opting for the GranLusso means bestowing the dapper Italian SUV with an equally dapper Italian interior. It brings a heightened sense of luxury through the Ermenegildo Zegna Silk upholstery with hand-stitched chevron patterns, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and soft-close doors. It also comes with 12-way power seats, a ten-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, navigation, illuminated door sills, and adjustable pedals. The GranLusso also drives the price of the Climate Package down to just $400.
The GranSport, on the other hand, brings performance to the center stage. It includes unique 12-way power sport seats, a sport steering wheel, and adjustable sport pedals. As with the GranLusso, it includes navigation and parking sensors. It also features red brake calipers and blue detailing on the badges and center caps, and a fender callout tells other drivers what exactly what type of Levante you're driving. The GranSport's Climate Package costs $500.
Both Levante trims are also available with a Nerissmo Package. Prices range from $1,200 for a base GranSport to $5,000 for a standard Levante S, which is pretty pricey for a kit that's mainly black styling touches on the grilles, headlights, taillights, and exterior trimmings.
The Levante S' extra power is fine, but unless you have an autostrada nearby that you wish to terrify, the standard Levante's more reasonable starting price makes ticking option boxes a less stressful exercise. As for packages, the GranLusso really does change the nature of the Levante. The luxury-oriented trim boasts a very distinctive and posh cabin that the base car simply cannot match, and on top of that it also comes with a compelling list of additional features. Together, these two factors mean the $6,000 premium is well worth the money, and that makes the GranLusso the Italian stallion we'd ride home.