The Levante is one of the few no-compromise luxury crossovers out there.
Maserati is a name that has crawled back from the brink of extinction less than 20 years ago, to a household name once again, and through that process maintained the majority of its exclusive nature that makes it so appealing. I largely credit the Quattroporte V released in 2003 for turning the brand around. Before this 2021 Maserati Levante GTS, that Quattroporte was their first car in recent memory that really brought some widespread interest back to the brand with a sexy, fast and gloriously sounding sedan that wasn’t out of reach to he typical well-off family.
Fortunately, Maserati was able to build on that formula with the even more attainable Ghibli and eventually their first sport-utility vehicle, this Levante. Originally launched as a 2017 model, the Levante has earned a prominent place as a luxury crossover that offers all the panache of the Maserati brand in a family friendly package. We spent a week in the Levante GTS to find out whether it would be our luxury SUV of choice.
The styling of the Levante is in line with Maserati’s current line up, if a bit polarizing. Personally, I think the front third of the SUV looks fantastic with the signature wide Maserati grille, big Maserati trident logo, curvaceous front fenders and sculpted hood. The rest of the SUV falls a bit flat. It’s well finished but the overall styling feels a bit bland and just doesn’t do a whole lot to stand out from the crowd like you’d expect a Maserati to. That said, prominent Maserati badging, massive 22-inch wheels wrapped in summer performance rubber and gigantic red calipers ensure that anyone half-awake notices.
Our tester came equipped with the Nerissimo Package, an appearance package which includes blacked out grille and trim, unique wheels, black exhaust tips, tinted tail lights and black side mirrors. The package runs $6,375 and does help make the Levante look a little more sinister. In the case of our tester it also complimented the special order ‘Fuoriserie Blu’ tinted clearcoat paint – a whopping $21,000 option that looks like a fairly normal blue. Hopefully anyone reading this has enough sense not to spend that on paint, but if you don’t, this combo looks pretty good.
The interior is a similar story, in our GTS trim tester at least. It’s all very well put together, and with high quality materials like soft natural leather everywhere and a proper Alcantara headliner; but it lacks any real wow-factor. That said, the heated and cooled seats are great, very comfortable and provide more than enough bolstering to keep you planted when things get spirited.
The influence of FCA is apparent as well, fortunately, in a very positive way thanks to an adaptation of the FCA Uconnect infotainment to what is known as “MIA” (Maserati Intelligent Assistant). The system looks slick, is intuitive to navigate, and frequent functions like volume and cycling radio stations can be done via a well-placed rotary dial on the center console. Gone are the days of wonky ergonomics in the Maserati!
Of course, the Levante functions just fine as a practical SUV with loads of handy storage up front, plenty of head and legroom in the second row, which will easily accept a baby seat, and a large cargo area for whatever the family needs. The split second row also folds flat in case you need to press the Maserati into hauling something really bulky, or helping out with household renos.
Don’t let its practicality fool you though – the Levante, particularly in GTS or Trofeo form with the 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8, is a proper performance machine. The base Levante and Levante S get one of two versions of the 3.0-liter V6 with either 345 horsepower in the base model or 424 in the S. The 3.8-liter V8 here comes with a very healthy 550 horsepower. All models get the ZF eight-speed automatic which feeds power to all four wheels through the Q4 Intelligent AWD system. The GTS with its 538 lb-ft. of torque at 2,500 RPM launches like a rocket, and sounds the part too.
The exhaust is slightly on the tame side, until you push the “Sport” button which really opens things up and causes the Levante to sound exactly like the exotic Italian purebred that it is with just a glorious howl. The ZF transmission is on point with sharp crisp shifts, and lightning quick responses to inputs from the paddle shifters. Sport mode also tightens up the steering response, stiffens the dampers, and puts the air suspension into aero mode for even more precise handling. You have to push the Levante GTS pretty hard before you start to feel its weight. Unless you’re driving near the limit, the driving experience here could easily pass for any world-class sports sedan.
Alternatively, keep it in normal mode, and everything calms down to something much more in-line with an everyday SUV. It’s softer, quieter, and much more relaxing to drive. This is one of those vehicles where the sport mode really does transform the experience, and I only wish there was a way to keep the sportier exhaust note without having to force-on the other systems. Jaguar and Land Rover do a fantastic job of this with their ‘exhaust button’. Sometimes you want a relaxed drive, but you probably always want the exotic V8 sound.
The Levante GTS’ fuel economy is rated at 17.9L/100km city and 12.9L/100km, for a combined rating of 15.3L/100km. Our driving test consisted of a fairly even highway and city mix with liberal use of sport mode, 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.
As you’d expect, the Levante is not cheap, even if it’s not as outrageous as you might expect for an exotic SUV like this. A base Levante starts at $97,690, the S at $107,690, and the GTS starts at $146,690. Of course, there’s the top-dog Trofeo at $172,440. Our tester GTS did come with some options such as the aforementioned Nerissimo Package ($6,375), Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($2,625), Pieno fiore natural leather ($2,250) and the high gloss metal net interior trim ($2,250). Of course, there’s the outrageous ‘Fuoriserie Blu’ color option for $21,600 that anyone would be insane to opt for.
All of this brought our as tested price to $183,790, or a more (relatively) reasonable $162,190 if you can live with one of the standard color options. That price is right in line with the Range Rover Sport SVR, which is probably the Levante’s most realistic competitor. I’d have a really tough time choosing between the two.
The 2021 Maserati Levante GTS is one of the few no-compromise luxury crossovers out there. You get all the comfort, utility and capability you’d expect from an SUV, but it’s just as exhilarating to drive as a proper sports sedan, or even some sports cars, period, and it can hang with the best of them when you’re out having fun. It’s also keeping a somewhat boring segment interesting, which is something Maserati has always done best.