"Italians do it better.” Readers of a certain age might recognize the words from a naughty T-shirt Madonna wore in one of her early videos; if it could wink, it would. She certainly wasn’t talking about making cars, but she wouldn’t be mistaken if she were. For decades, Italians have been making incredibly sexy cars, easy on the eyes but with the performance on the track to back it up. One thing they haven’t been able to achieve, though, is success with the SUV format. That’s all about to change.
The Italian marque Maserati unveiled the Levante, the first SUV in its 102-year history, at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016; Philippine motoring enthusiasts had to wait just a bit longer, but finally it’s here. Like many sports cars in the Maserati stable, the SUV’s name is inspired by the wind, in this case, the Viento de Levante, the wind that blows through the Strait of Gibraltar in the western Mediterranean. (For the curious, other wind-based Maserati designations include Bora, Ghibli, Karif, Khamsin, Mistral, and Shamal.) The Levante wind is said to be capable of changing its character in a flash, calm at one moment, then powerful the next. This SUV has been designed to change personalities as well, depending on where you take it: a quick spin in the city, on spirited drives on the highway, or for fun and adventure off-road.
Showcasing the beauty of the Maserati Levante for all to see
In terms of looks, it’s definitely a Maserati. While some SUV manufacturers forget that the S stands for sport, it’s in the Levante’s DNA. The large, unmistakable trident logo is front and center on the polished grille. Its bold, vertical slats extend to the sides, met by slender headlights. Then the muscular curves of the hood begin; the swooping lines rise gently towards the car’s roof and mid-section, before a slight downward taper toward the rear. It’s not all for show: these lines greatly impact the Levante’s aerodynamics, giving it a drag coefficient of 0.31, which Maserati claims is the best in its class. When viewed from the rear (a likely scenario, as the Levante’s power is capable of leaving most cars in the dust), it shares a common trait with other luxe SUVs—four intimidating exhaust pipes designed to quickly expel exhaust gases from its powerful engine.
A better view of its body
Under the hood, the Levante is offered with three powertrain options: a 350hp 3.0 liter V6 twin-turbo; an upgraded “S” version, which pumps out 430hp; and a 275hp V6 diesel. All models come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox fitted with Maserati’s Q4 all-wheel drive system, which distributes power and torque to where they’re needed. As expected, the Levante S is the quickest of the three, maxing out at 264 km/h, followed by the base model’s 251 km/h. Make no mistake, the diesel’s not to be trifled with, as it’s capable of a swift 230 km/h. In terms of efficiency, however, the diesel is tops, as it only needs 7.2 liters of fuel to run 100 kilometers.
The SUV’s quickness is matched by its agility. Its weight is distributed evenly between front and rear, and coupled with a very low center of gravity, the Levante can execute quick, tight turns with ease. When driving off-road, the Levante adjusts its riding height to the highest level for passenger comfort, and then on the highway it settles to its minimum road clearance setting to achieve a sporty feel.
Inside the swanky Levante
Inside the Levante are the touches expected from a car of this class. The leather seats are completely hand-stitched, and if one chooses the “luxury” pack, the seats and other interior trim—such as the roof lining, sun visors, and door panels—will also incorporate Zegna silk. The cabin sits four adults comfortably, while there’s enough room in the hatch for storing your shopping bags, luggage, and golf clubs. For entertainment, the 8.4” LCD touch screen comes as standard. Here, you can view videos when stuck in traffic or use it to control the sound system; swing for the fences and insist on the Bowers & Wilkins option. It comes with 17 speakers and a 1,280 watt amplifier. It also comes with the Clari-Fi function, which detects if your sound files have been compressed (such as your downloaded MP3s) and automatically compensates for their sound deficiencies, restoring hi-fidelity audio in the process.
For us, though, the best sound is the one the engine makes: rev it up and just listen to that distinctive Italian sports car growl. Music to our ears. Visit the Maserati showroom at Autostrada, 32nd corner 4th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City; 856.2277.