Here's What It's Really Like to Drive the New Maserati Levante
In our corner of the world, the Maserati brand is still shrouded in mystique as compared to its competitors, which are more familiar by name and appearance. To motorsports enthusiasts, Maserati is known as the manufacturer with which one of the greatest Formula One drivers, Juan Manuel Fangio, won his last World Driver’s Championship in 1957.
I’m embarrassed to admit this but my closest encounter with a Maserati was a vicarious one—through Vincent Chase, the lead character on the HBO hit series Entourage from the mid-2000s. In one episode, he nonchalantly lent his Maserati Quattroporte to a couple of outcast high school boys to help them score cool points from their girl classmates.
The opportunity for me to finally drive a Maserati came up during a recent Maserati ride, drive, and sail event. We took off from the Manila Yacht Club parking lot at mid-morning, and I took the wheel of the Maserati Levante Q4 GranSport.
Sports car-like dynamics
Extensive use of lightweight materials, an ideal 50:50 weight distribution, and the lowest center of gravity are qualities that many car manufacturers strive to endow their cars with, but only a few hard-core sports cars, much less an SUV, can boast of. And these are exactly what Maserati achieved with its first-ever SUV launched locally two years ago, the Levante.
Achieving that 50:50 weight distribution is an automotive engineering holy grail as having an equal amount of weight bearing down on the front and rear tires
We took off from the Manila Yacht Club in a convoy consisting of Levantes, Ghiblis, and a GranTurismo, which inevitably got split up as jeeps, buses, and lesser cars weaved in between the Maseratis. Playing catch up with the rest of the pack, I occasionally floored the accelerator of the Levante, letting loose 345 horses and 500 Nm of torque from the 3.0-liter V6 gas engine. This quickly catapulted us to triple-digit speeds. It was a challenge restraining my right foot and staying within the speed limit.
Setting the drive to Sport made the eight-speed automatic hang on to high revs a bit longer while the engine rumbled. A crisp burble came out of the quad exhaust pipes. With the car’s mechanical symphony keeping us entertained, we hardly found the need to crank up the 14-speaker, 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system.
Maserati’s trident logo was derived from the Fountain of Neptune statue in Bologna
The gear shift lever takes a lot of getting used to. From Drive, pressing the release button in front of the shift knob while pushing the lever forward would shift the tranny to Neutral. The same action without pressing the release button would shift the ZF tranny from Drive to manual mode.
Too bad our route after the end of CAVITEX consisted mostly of crowded small-town roads filled with tricycles and other slow-moving vehicles as I never got the chance to gun the Levante on winding roads.
Our next ride was a Ghibli S Q4 which we drove hard, just as it was meant to be. As our convoy of Italian exotics approached the Kaybiang tunnel in Cavite, it seemed all the drivers had the same thing in mind: Slam on the gas and lower the car windows to better appreciate the wails of the Maseratis’ V6s reverberating against the tunnel walls.
Exciting as the morning’s drive was, an even more memorable ride back to Manila awaited us after lunch: an Italian-built (but of course!) Aicon yacht.
Autostrada Motore Executive Director Marc Soong intimated that although the day’s event was meant to offer a glimpse into the Maserati owner’s lifestyle, Maserati intentionally had a short media guest list. Soong likened the ride aboard his family’s yacht to opening their home’s doors for an intimate gathering among friends. Unlike the intense drive we had earlier in the day, the cruise back to Manila had a relaxed and chill mood to it as everyone shared beers and anecdotes.