Maserati Levante review - Engines, performance and drive
The Levante offers frugal diesel power along with the super-quick petrol models
When the Levante was launched, there was only one engine in the UK – a 3.0-litre turbodiesel – but it has since been joined by two V6 petrol engines and two V8s.
The diesel engine is responsive in Sport mode, and even sounds pretty good thanks to the deep burble piped in to the cabin to enhance the exhaust note. However, the Levante feels strained when you rev it out.
Thanks to the portly 2,205kg kerbweight, you have to stretch the engine beyond its comfort zone to maximise performance. It’ll do 0-62mph in a reasonable 6.9 seconds, which is four tenths faster than a Porsche Cayenne Diesel.
With 600Nm of torque, there’s enough performance on tap for overtaking manoeuvres. The trouble is, the gearbox kicks down too easily; and, while the shifts are smooth, even when you use the paddles in Sport mode, they’re not as fast as you’ll find on a Cayenne’s PDK transmission.
The petrol engine in the Levante S is no slouch, either. On paper it's slightly quicker than its closest rival, the Porsche Cayenne S. It’s an engine much better suited to the Levante than the diesel. It’ll be more expensive to run, but the wonderful soundtrack and strong performance make it worth the extra outlay.
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In 2018, a second V6 petrol engine joined the range. It’s slightly less powerful than the S, but it gets the same tuneful engine note and is cheaper to buy. It’s not quite as frugal as the diesel, but it sounds better, goes faster and only costs around £3,000 more.
As these petrol units are lighter than the diesel, it means keener turn-in to corners as well. The Levante handles impressively for such a heavy, high-riding car, with a clear sporting intent and decent resistance to roll in Sport mode. In normal driving, 100% of the drive is sent to the back wheels, with power only sent to the front when slip is detected.
Any slip is kept in line through a system called Integrated Vehicle control. Introduced to the Levante range in 2018, it’s an ESP system that proactively adjusts itself against sliding, giving a near-seamless intervention - albeit one that drivers will rarely benefit from on public roads.
Leave it in the default mode, rather than Sport, letting the engine and gearbox do their thing, and the Levante becomes a competent cruiser, with a supple, refined ride. Wind and road noise isolation are respectable, if not quite a match for the Audi Q7.
Not many owners will take their Levante off road; and while the air suspension can be raised to improve ground clearance, it’s more impressive that, at speed, the car lowers itself to aid aerodynamics and efficiency.
To start with, the only choice for buyers here in the UK was a 271bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine, but that has now been joined by a twin-turbo, Ferrari-developed V6 engine that's also used in the Ghibli and Quattroporte saloons.
Hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, the diesel unit is smooth and delivers strong, relatively refined performance. It’ll do 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds, and hit 142mph flat out. It’s responsive enough, and outsprints the excellent Porsche Cayenne Diesel.
There’s a touch of lag as the turbos spool up, but once on song the engine feels sufficiently gutsy, and despite the forced induction there’s plenty of incentive to push it towards the redline where the motor still feels strong. The eight-speed ZF gearbox is a little slow to kick down in normal mode, but responds speedily enough in Sport mode – even if the changes still aren’t as fast as we’d like.
GTS and Trofeo models make up the hotter end of the spectrum – we’re yet to drive the former, but the latter is a full-blown Porsche Cayenne Turbo rival with 572bhp from its 3.8-litre petrol V8 that shares some lineage with that found in the Ferrari 488. This engine dominates the driving experience and is a joy to use – a rumbling exhaust note, buckets of torque and connected to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox. The engine encourages hard driving and, thankfully, the car’s chassis can keep up – body roll is well controlled and there’s lots of grip and traction.
In this review
- 1Maserati Levante reviewThe Maserati Levante SUV is competitively priced, and practical enough to open the brand up to a new group of buyers
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe Levante offers frugal diesel power along with the super-quick petrol models
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe V6 diesel engine helps to keep costs down; the petrol cars are more expensive to run
- 4Interior, design and technologyDespite arriving in 2016, the Levante’s cabin feels dated and not that well built. The touchscreen is versatile, but kit is expensive
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe Maserati Levante is a deceptively big car, but with only five seats it can’t rival cars like the Audi Q7 for versatility
- 6Reliability and SafetyBuild quality isn’t as good as you might expect, with the Levante’s German rivals beating it hands down for fit and finish