First Drive

Maserati Levante

The story:
Maserati has thrown its hat into the SUV ring, launching its first off-roader with a bang, thanks to big sales ambitions
Category:SUV
Key rival:Range Rover Sport
Maserati Levante diesel
Price:£59,730
MPG:39.2mpg
Emissions:189g/km
On sale:March 2017

This one’s a biggy for Maserati. It’s not often a brand brings in a new model that will pretty much account of half of its sales, however low a base you’re starting from. It’s also a second string to the prestigious Italian firm’s attack on the board-level end of fleet, alongside the BMW 530d-rivalling Ghibli saloon.

The Levante is powered only by the same 275hp 3.0-litre diesel as the Ghibli and Quattroporte, and it emits 189g/km, putting it at the same level as the Range Rover Sport and Mercedes GLE Coupe that the firm considers rivals, though well adrift of the BMW X6’s 165g/km.

Maserati’s claims that the Levante is a sporting SUV are well-founded, and there’s little body roll and nice, direct steering to be found when you push a car that belies its 2.2t of bulk. The only let-down is a ride quality that communicates bumps and lumps rather than absorbing them. A more cosseting result would have been appreciated.

The interior is plush, with very comfortable front seats, and things are almost as good in the rear, where there’s plenty of space. Boot space of 580 litres can’t match some rivals on paper, but in reality it’s plenty.

The infotainment system includes Apple Carplay, with Android Auto following later this year, and the system allows you to handily personalize six shortcuts for jumping between the likes of navigation, climate, audio and 10 other functions.

High-speed refinement is particularly impressive, and though engine noise is audible under acceleration, it doesn’t offer any hint of diesel rattle. In fact, the refinement masks the performance, and the car is more responsive and rapid than it feels from the cabin. The throttle response is a touch oversensitive and requires a light touch to avoid jerky take-offs.

Whole life costs are a mixed bag, with the residual value of 44.3% being 1.7 percentage points better than the equivalent Mercedes GLE, and 5.0 better than the X6 rival, though loses out to the Range Rover Sport’s frankly astronomical 54.7%. The Levante is also a touch cheaper than any of these cars, with all in an area ranging from £59,730 to £62,960.

The Maserati Levante is significantly more to insure, and SMR cost is also surprisingly high against its prestige peers.

The Range Rover Sport’s other-worldly residual gives it an insurmountable lead on overall cost per mile, but the Levante is close to the BMW and Mercedes, with the German pair at 120.3p and 121.7p per mile compared with the Italian’s 121.9p.

For a first ever SUV, the Maserati Levante is a good crack. It just about holds its own against some serious competition, and looks imposing thanks to that large grille, though the in-board daytime running lights give it a bit of a cross-eyed appearance nose-on.

But it’s certainly worthy of consideration , and the costs argument stacks up in a similar way to the car itself; the established rivals maybe have the edge, but it’s close enough that the decision to plump for the Maserati is understandable and with plenty of merit.

The verdict

Ride quality apart, there’s a lot to like about the plush Levante, and it should be successful in its task of doubling Maserati’s worldwide sales.