Maserati Levante S India review, test drive

    With a 430hp petrol V6, the big Italian 4x4 finally goes from SUV to sporty SUV.

    Published on Oct 04, 2020 06:00:00 AM


    Make : Maserati
    Model : Levante
    We Like
    • V6 is responsive, has sporty snarl
    • Appropriate ride and handling balance
    We Don't Like
    • Cabin plastics are ordinary
    • Needs more features at this price

    What is it?

    Maserati’s attractive-looking Levante has plenty of presence. Due, in no small part, to the spot-on proportions, confident stance, and sharp-cut details, it has an identity that’s all its own. Just getting noticed and making an entrance, however, isn’t nearly enough. With the Trident on the grille and the promise of loads of performance, the Levante must deliver too. So can the new-for- India, 430hp petrol walk the talk and deliver a driving experience worthy of the Maserati badge?

    Attractive lines seem to have aged well; it still draws attention.

    What is the Maserati Levante S powered by?

    Things start off well. The presence of the Ferrari-built V6 under the hood gives the Levante some much-needed cred. Tap the throttle and this feels like the genuine thing and not some ‘deep fake’. The twin-turbo motor is responsive, the engine has an addictive elasticity and with the snarl from the quad pipes getting louder the faster you spin the engine, you just want to keep winding it harder and harder.

    The top-end, in fact, is so good that it slingshots you forward with plenty of energy. The claimed 0-100kph time is 5.2sec, but the Levante, when wound hard, feels even faster. Interestingly, this V6 doesn’t share bits with Ferrari’s twin-turbo V8 or Alfa Romeo’s V6. Based on a Chrysler block, the narrow-angle engine is well up to the task, and totally in sync with Maserati’s sporty character.

    What makes driving even more pleasurable is that the ZF automatic is quite intuitive and reasonably quick. In addition, the large metal paddleshifters behind the wheel add a nice mechanical feel and make shifting gears so much more of a tactile pleasure. Just wish the ’box was a bit quicker and smoother, especially in ‘Sport’.

    What is the Maserati Levante S like to drive?

    The 2020 petrol Levante S also clearly feels more comfortable over bumps than the earlier diesel. More supple and less thumpy, the comfier ride allows you to enjoy driving the car more. Maserati says it’s mainly down to “superior tuning of the air suspension.” Whatever; it works. Yes, there is an underlying layer of firmness here and you do feel some of the larger bumps when the air suspension is loaded in a corner, but the crashy, hard-edged nature of the earlier suspension: that’s gone.

    Not class-leading, but now much better to drive.

    The Levante has also moved to an electric steering. Clearly lighter and easier to twirl in traffic, it makes driving the mini-bus-sized SUV much easier. The big Maserati also feels more compact, the new setup is more in sync with the rest of the chassis, and then what makes it feel more natural to drive is that it is reasonably quick too. So, for once, an electric steering seems to be better than a mechanical one.

    Also, it isn’t just the ride that’s improved, it is also more agile and nicer to drive. Yes, in Comfort, it rolls quite a bit on the tall air suspension, especially in tighter corners. Still, put it into a sportier mode, get the springs to squat, the dampers to tighten up and the four-wheel-drive system to work in a more rear-biased manner, and handling really does improve. The Levante feels more compact, it steers into corners with more enthusiasm and then, when you want to accelerate out of corners, it feels more rear-biased too. Sure,

     Porsche’s Cayenne feels more composed in corners and it clearly has a greater reserve of grip, but the Levante is much improved now. It doesn’t drive like it has a hinge in it anymore, and that alone is cause for celebration.

    Feels like a high-quality leather glove, but plastics let the cabin down.

    What is the Maserati Levante S like on the inside?

    Not enough has been done, however, to update the cabin. Yes, the seats are superb, the deep-dish instrument panel hits the spot and the leather-covered dash is a treat, but there are still too many ordinary FCA parts carried over for a car at this price. And the touchscreen, which has a very ordinary interface, is below average at best. Remember, the Levante also takes on SUVs like the Range Rover Sport, apart from the Porsche Cayenne.

    The cabin, is nice and airy though, the big front seats are comfy and the Levante will even carry two in comfort in the back. There’s a good amount of legroom in the rear, the seat base is large, and the backrest is so nicely reclined and supportive, it works well as a chauffeur-driven car too.

    Rear seat is both spacious and very comfy.

    Should I buy the Maserati Levante S?

    The Maserati Levante is an SUV you buy with your heart. Sharp-looking, comfortable to sit in and possessing a genuinely exotic vibe, it offers something quite different. Now a true-blue Italian exotic that, importantly, drives as well as it looks, it is an SUV that has taken a big step forward from its below-average diesel counterpart.

    The new Ferrari-made twin-turbo V6 engine is sonorous, soulful and loads of fun, the ride is improved, the handling has been sharpened up, and with the new electric steering, the 2020 Maserati Levante is even relaxing and easy to drive. It isn’t anywhere as well-equipped as its rivals, the build quality on the inside isn’t as good, and at Rs 1.63 crore (ex-showroom), it doesn’t undercut its rivals either. Still, if you want a blend of sporty performance, attractive looks and a genuinely exotic badge, the Levante ticks all the right boxes

    Also see:

    Maserati Levante S video review

    Maserati Levante Trofeo video review

    Maserati MC20 to use bespoke Bridgestone Potenza tyres

    Tech Specs

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