Putting your finger on exactly what makes a Maserati is hard.
Maybe it’s because you don’t see one on every corner… Maybe it’s because their design language is so distinct…
Or maybe it’s because their engines howl with a rawness seldom found in modern cars. Whatever the reason, Maserati seems to consistently stir something deep inside. Even in a market that currently moves volumes, but rarely moves hearts, Maserati has produced an SUV that feels as good as it looks.
The Levante 350 is the latest Trident from the luxury Italian marque and it’s a car worth getting excited about. Fitted with a Ferrari developed twin-turbo V6 engine, the Levante 350 delivers 350 orchestral horses and a body to match. I was lucky enough to drive the Maserati through some of NSW’s best roads, and the results were impressive.
Let’s start with that engine. Built-in Ferrari’s Maranello plant exclusively for Maserati, the V6 is a fusion of romance and engineering. A turbocharger for each bank, direct injection for those hungry pistons and a lightweight exhaust combine to deliver a very lively package. With Sport Mode engaged, the appropriate valves are opened and the snarling symphony begins. Every squeeze of the throttle brings a growling note that even the atmospheric V8 would be proud of.
Those 350 Italian Stallions are delivered at a usable 5,750 rpm and the 500 Nm of torque is spread generously across 1,750 – 4,750 rpm. In layman’s terms… It’s fast. Real fast. You’ll find yourself going from 0 to 100 km/h in an impressive 6.0 seconds topping out at a casual 251 km/h.
Driving the Levante 350 through Wagga Wagga proved it to be a very compliant town car. The active air suspension meant that I had six height settings to play with and with a few wrong turns and some impromptu off-roading, I think I managed to use five of them. Once I got out of Wagga Wagga and hit the highway towards Adelong, I couldn’t believe how peaceful the ride was.
Thanks to an extremely low drag coefficient, wind noise was kept to a minimum and road noise was barely noticeable.
But once I got south of Adelong and headed south for the hills, the Levante really came alive.
Sport Mode was engaged, suspension was set to low and that V6 was champing at the bit. Flicking through S-bends was a predictable breeze thanks to a sharper-than-expected electric power steering rack. When S-bends became hairpins, the all-wheel-drive system stepped up to the plate. The Levante can adjust from 100 per cent rear-wheel drive to 50-50 in 150 milliseconds, meaning you don’t get that usual understeer found in most all-wheel-drive systems, but the grip is there when necessary.
“That’s a bit flash, isn’t it?”, said an impressed local as I pulled up in the main street of Tumbarumba. And I had to agree with him–the Levante carries a presence that just looks expensive.
From the striking front grille, to the beefy curves, it’s a silhouette that floats somewhere in between ‘commanding’ and ‘elegant’. It’s still a large car, but thanks to a tapered, coupe-like tail section, the profile carries a proportional sleekness. Inside the cabin, everything looks and feels distinctly Maserati.
Hand stitched leather at every glance, piano black dashboard; it’s as comfortable as it is luxurious, and with optional trims available, you can go from zero to Agnelli real quick. But if you’re one of those people that’s more about function than form, the Levante 350 has some goodies for you as well.
A 60/40-folding rear seat means you can slide longer items through the cabin and with 580-litres of luggage compartment at your disposal, there won’t be many Italian shoe collections you couldn’t fit.
In a world of shrinking engines, quiet exhausts and reserved styling, there is a refreshing sense of charm and bravado from the Maserati Levante 350. Being Italian, it still has the occasional plug or graphic that misses the mark, but it’s more a point of humour than it is contention.
It’s affordably priced, it looks expensive, and it’s an absolute blast to drive. It’s one of those cars that won’t be for everybody, but those that will get it, won’t let it go. So grazie mille, Maserati.
Even in a world full of constraints, you still seem to produce cars that move the soul.