2017 Maserati Levante: the Maserati of SUVs
On sale this fall, you’ll find the 2017 Maserati Levante in Albany, NY at your Maserati dealership. When it was recently revealed at the Geneva Auto Show, people were blown away by its unique design. Since then, the Levante has gained traction in the automotive world, and has received praise from numerous expert reviewers like Edmunds and the folks over at caranddriver.com. Praise for what? Well, aside from the fact that we finally get to see the finished product of what Maserati has been promising to deliver for the past 13 years, it’s just a downright great car.
Being called the “Maserati of SUVs” by its own automaker places a heavy burden on the new luxury-performance SUV. It’s Maserati’s way of saying that this SUV is one that stands out from the pack in terms of quality, design, and performance. While that’s a nice concept in a lyrical sense, is the Levante actually able to live up to such a prestigious title?
What it Means to be the “Maserati of SUVs”
With this title, one can’t help but apply that age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did Maserati design the Levante and see the way it looked, then decided this was a vehicle worthy of such a grand and slightly egotistical title? Or did they design the Levante over the past 13 years with this ultimate, SUV market-crushing goal in mind? While that question might never be answered, the outcome is the same: the Levante is a vehicle that is wholeheartedly and uniquely Maserati.
The title itself does two things: bolsters Maserati’s reputation as a car company for being unique when it comes to the world of luxury performance cars, and gives the Levante some serious street-credit (all the pun intended). The problem with this is that the Levante needs to live up to this title. Not only so it won’t let the hype fade, but also so it won’t be the car that single-handedly tarnished the otherwise flawless reputation of Maserati.
Thankfully, Maserati has pulled it off.
The resulting Levante is an SUV that is truly revolutionary and unique, in both design and performance. Taking the guts and platform of the Ghibli, and building an SUV frame on top makes the Levante unique simply by its structure. It also garnered some of the benefits from said sedan platform, such as it’s sporty look and feel, along with pavement-pounding capability. However, it still has the off-road capabilities of an SUV thanks to its Q4 all-wheel drive system and driver-selectable ride-height. Lastly, they made sure to take these performance enhancing and SUV qualities and combine them with the legendary luxury that Maserati is known for.
This creates an SUV that is able to live up to and exceed the title of “Maserati of SUVs.” Since the design and performance are the foundation of this vehicle’s success, let’s take a closer look at those qualities.
We already know that the Levante has been designed on top of the Ghibli’s platform, but what else is there that makes it so unique?
For starters, the looks are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Almost every detail of the Levante is fresh or unique. From the inward curving grille to the elongated hood and windshield, and the steeply tapered back window and wrap-around headlights. Obviously, just looking at it you can tell this SUV has been uncharacteristically designed for aerodynamic perfection, but it provides it with an interesting look as well. To be honest, it looks quite good.
The design of the headlights themselves are sleek, but the main head-lamp itself is circular and sits in the center, with a string of LED lights that run from the inside of the headlight design towards the center. This creates a glaring appearance, and also directs your attention to the smirking chrome-slotted grille. In the center, the Maserati trident sits large and proud. The hood is elongated and relatively plain, with a few lines to help channel the wind, and the windshield and roof appear to be one big arch, to carry the wind up and over the spoiler. Muscular rear quarter panels jut out, and both the front and rear quarter panels are chiseled in the shape of a hard-edged circle, which emphasizes the wheel wells and tires.
Overall, it’s a design geared for one thing, and one thing only: to go as fast as possible. The luxury? That’s found on the inside, and there is plenty of it.
The performance all starts with the engine, which is the Ghibli’s somewhat small and spirited 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. This engine has two horsepower ratings to choose from, and can either put out 345 or 424 horsepower. Regardless of the horsepower chosen, the V6 found in the Levante might be the Ghibli’s, but it’s been upgraded to put out more power. Thanks to tweaks made on the intake and exhaust, the 424 horsepower option is 20 more horsepower than what the Ghibli S’s V6 is able to produce.
As a result, this SUV is able to do a factory-tested 0-60 mph sprint in a screaming 5.1 seconds when the 424 horsepower option is chosen. The Ghibli S? 4.7 seconds. Even though the Levante is heavier, longer, and all-around bigger than the Ghibli S, it can almost tie with it in a 0-60 mph test. Along with the intake and exhaust being upgraded, the throttle response on the V6 has been greatly improved when compared to the Ghibli’s, which is another big factor when discussing acceleration and the quick-shifts between gears.
It’s Off-Road Capable, too
The Levante is also sporting a Q4 AWD system and driver-selectable ride-height. Meaning the Levante can perform off the road as well. While Maserati understands that most luxury car owners don’t want to take their vehicles off-road, it’s still a smart move to incorporate this capability. Not only does it give the Levante even more bragging rights, but it’s nice to know that the SUV you are driving is off-road capable.
Besides, the Q4 AWD system is what allows the Levante to drive safely through hazardous weather conditions. This permanent AWD system is able to transfer torque to the front axle thanks to a computer-controlled clutch that determines when more power is needed. The rear axle is always engaged, so that you have rear wheel drive capability with AWD just around the corner. The driver- selectable ride-height is a fancy way for saying the Levante can electronically adjust its ground clearance. It comes with a handful of settings, and works in tandem with the Q4 system to provide good off-road performance.
When tested at Fiat-Chrysler’s Balocco test track, the Levante had to navigate through the wooded trail that had steep grades, mud, a water hole, and some uneven terrain to test its articulation. Thanks to the Q4 system and ability to adjust the ground clearance, the Levante was able to successfully complete the trail. The Levante might not be rock-crawling or hitting the Rubicon trail, but it still has plenty of capability off-road.
Expect the Unexpected
Something else the introduction of the 2017 Levante has taught us, is that it’s important to expect the unexpected with Maserati. After 13 years of work, we expected to receive something good from their first attempt at an SUV, but not something this good.
With a unique design, exceptional performance, and plenty of luxury and technology packed in the cabin, the Levante is an SUV that truly sets itself apart from the rest of the market.