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By Jonathan Crouch
Maserati has evolved its Levante luxury SUV. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Reviewword count: 41
The Levante is a luxury SUV from a brand you possibly wouldn't expect to be making such a thing. It's a luxury crossover with rather exotic genes. And a car that in recent years has been crucial for its maker, Maserati.
Backgroundword count: 81
It's mark of the rise and rise of the SUV that every single luxury brand now knows it has to have such a thing within its model portfolio. Maserati has been dabbling with the idea for years, showing its Kubang concept at motorshows as long ago as 2003. The brand finally got around to updating this Giugiaro prototype in 2011, but it took until 2016 to get it into production, badged as the Levante. Was the wait worthwhile? Let's find out.
Driving Experienceword count: 319
Levante customers needing to keep their spend the right side of a lucky lottery win choose between two petrol options; either a 430hp 3.0-litre petrol V6 or, more likely, the Alfa-derived mild hybrid 2.0-litre petrol 330hp four cylinder engine that also sustains this model's Grecale SUV showroom stablemate. We tried the fieriest 580hp 3.8-litre petrol V8 version. The two mainstream powerplants are quite closely matched, though the 2.0-litre model has significantly less mid-range grunt than the 3.0 V6 (there's 130Nm less torque to play with). Despite that, the performance figures aren't actually that much different. With four cylinders, the Levante powers to 62mph in 6.0s en route to 152mph; with six cylinders, those figures are improved to 5.2s and 164mph. Even the soundtrack, rather surprisingly, isn't massively different between the two engines; the engineers worked for ages to give the electrified base Levante a traditional 'Maserati growl', which cuts in once you've given the car a bit of a boot to get going and got the e-Booster electric turbocharger spinning through the mid-range. Across the range, this car doesn't offer the sharpness you'd find with many rivals, but it compensates with excellent refinement and an accomplished standard of ride from a standard air suspension system that works with adaptive Skyhook dampers. The 8-speed ZF auto transmission responds with smoothness and alacrity, particularly if you decide to take control yourself with these cool Ferrari-style alloy paddleshifters and click out of the 'Normal' drive mode into green-themed 'Sport'. The V8 version we tried adds an extra orange-themed 'Corsa' drive mode setting, which when engaged will drop the car by 35mm, stiffen the ride, sharpen the throttle response, give more aggressive gear changes and fire you to 62mph in just 4.1s en route to 188mph. Talking of drive settings, all Levantes get an 'ICE' drive mode for slippery mornings; and an 'Off Road' mode which raises ride height by at least 25mm.
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Category: Crossover or SUV 4x4s
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