It’s been a couple of years since Maserati unveiled their Levante SUV.
They seem to be selling fairly well, relatively speaking, because we see them all over southern Ontario. The Levante takes on the same pleasant demeanour as the Ghibli sport sedan, and adds some ride height and extra cargo space. New for this model year, the 2019 Maserati Levante GTS takes on the basic recipe and adds a Ferrari-derived V8, putting this Italian SUV in the ballpark of the BMW X5M (reviewed here) and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
The 3.8L twin-turbocharged V8 uses Ferrari architecture and is actually built in Maranello as well, but uses proprietary camshafts, pistons, connecting rods and valves. It uses twin-scroll turbochargers, and sticks out 542 horsepower and 538 lb-ft. of torque. The powerplant in this Maserati is an absolute sweetheart, delivering a breathtaking exhaust note even in its standard setting. All of this power is sent to the rear wheels by default, but if conditions demand, up to 50% can be sent to the front axle. The Q4 intelligent AWD system has a rear limited-slip differential, as well.
Pushing the “Sport” button to the left of the shifter sharpens things up even more, and brings even more of a throaty roar to the exhaust. The Maserati sounds sensational, and anyone who challenges its right to exist will be silenced by the noise that it makes. An eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic changes gears in a predictable manner, but the large column-mounted paddles are a nice touch. All of this comes together for a claimed 4.3 second run to 100km/h, and a top speed of 292km/h.
The Levante can handle, too, and the electrically assisted power steering has some analog feel to it. The air suspension system lowers the vehicle 0.4” in Sport mode, and is fully adjustable using a switch on the console. The 21” wheels make for a firm ride, but it feels crisp and well-sorted, on par with the Range Rover Sport SVR and not quite as firm as the Cayenne Turbo. At over 5,000 pounds, the Levante doesn’t feel light in the slightest, but is certainly willing to dance on demand.
Natural Resources Canada rates the Levante GTS at 17.9L/100km city and 12.9L/100km, for a combined rating of 15.3L/100km. Our test consisted of combined driving with liberal use of the performance exhaust, and delivered an average of 15.7L/100km. An increased-efficiency mode (I.C.E. button) does its part to minimize fuel consumption by calibrating the throttle response, transmission shift points, and air suspension accordingly. The idle start/stop system is quick to respond and also conserves some fuel.
Entering the cabin will impress just about anyone, with gorgeous crafted ‘Pieno Fiore’ leather that’s red in our particular test vehicle. The Maserati trident is embossed into the headrests, and is also on the beautiful analog clock atop the dashboard. Carbon fiber accents look and feel great, and quality of the finish is also on par with the price point. The seats are very comfortable and the fronts offer plenty of room, but full-sized adults may struggle with rear legroom.
Maserati’s 8.4” infotainment system, called Maserati Touch Control Plus (MTC+), is effectively a re-skinned version of the Fiat-Chrysler family’s Uconnect system. This is absolutely not a bad thing, because Uconnect is one of the best of the best in the business. It’s not the prettiest interface, but it’s extremely easy to use, fast to respond, and works without any glitches or errors. It’s also supportive of Apple CarPlay in the Levante, and this works well. We would have liked to see physical buttons for the heated/ventilated seat controls, but alas, this is all built into the system.
There are also similarities in other switchgear to other FCA products, but this won’t be a problem for actual buyers of the Levante. Somebody shopping for a Charger is not likely to also have a Quattroporte or Levante in the same garage. The engine start button and steering wheel audio controls being shared don’t matter in the same manner that nobody cares that a $130,000 Lexus LS uses the same clock as a $20,000 Corolla. It’s easy for armchair critics online to comment in this regard, but it doesn’t make an ounce of difference to those spending their dollars on these cars.
The 2019 Levante GTS is priced at $138,500 to start, in line with performance-oriented competition from Germany and the United Kingdom. Our test vehicle had a few options including soft close doors, LED headlights, carbon-fiber trim, a Driver Assistance Pack, and the lovely Bowers & Wilkins sound system. The stunning Bianco Alpi tri-coat paint is an extra $2,130, and the 21” Helios staggered wheels are $2,650. All in all, the sticker price came to $155,540. It seems expensive, but the Range Rover Sport SVR (reviewed here) is nearly identical in price.
Comparing the Levante to the likes of the Cayenne Turbo and X5 M isn’t quite that simple. The Cayenne is a very technical beast, one that focuses on driver engagement and precision before luxury. The X5 M is more than five years old at the time of this writing, and while still decent, aging faster than the parmesan in your fridge. The Levante feels legitimately fast, has excellent upholstery worthy of the trident logo, and modern enough. It’s also significantly cheaper than the Bentley Bentayga and has a similar amount of presence.
Maserati is expecting a 10% take rate on the GTS and up-level Trofeo models out of all Levantes sold, which is a number we don’t think is too ambitious at all. The Maserati is name is one of exotic luxury and a well-established global reputation. This SUV has legitimate credentials and real-world driving dynamics that live up to the Italian passion and pedigree in its heart. Those looking for a performance luxury SUV that’s not your typical German offering will want to give the 2019 Maserati Levante GTS a good, long look.