by Tony West
Earlier this year Maserati dropped its long-awaited SUV with a sophisticated design and 3 powerful engine options. The great thing is that this flagship SUV for the premium Italian brand is already on par with Jaguar’s F-Pace and the BMW X5, but possesses more off-roading capabilities than most luxury SUVs. And the Levante holds its own in a premium SUV segment that grows increasingly competitive.
The 2016 Levante, inspired by a ‘warm Mediterranean wind’ is said to have best-in-class on-road handling in sport mode and on snow and ice. And lightweight materials, a near 50/50 weight distribution, and a best-in-class .31 drag coefficient gives the Levante an even bigger edge over luxury competitors.
Sleek Coupe-like Design Low and Wide
The 2016 Maserati Levante’s is a sexy long-nosed low-slung SUV. I like the coupe-like profile that resembles a Mazda CX-9. But the SUV is said to have the lowest center of gravity of any SUV-great for safety, but not so great for visibility.
The new Levante has a 9 foot long wheelbase with the prominent trident in its concave chrome grille. The SUV also has Bi-Xenon headlights that look like cat eyes, LED daytime running lights with an optional Adaptive Front Lighting System, and LED tail lights. The AFS (Adaptive Front-lighting System) features 3 beam modes; Motorway, Town, and Adverse Weather that use sensors and cameras to monitor oncoming traffic and the wiper speed to intelligently adjust the beam’s depth and width.
The silhouette of the Levante gives the SUV a ‘coupé look’ enhanced by the frameless doors. For the first time, Maserati’s new Levante has an electric air shutter fitted between the front air vents and the radiator that regulates airflow to the engine.
The side profile is defined by a swaged line that runs the entire length of the car. It departs from the side vents at the front and fades over the rear wing, outlining its muscular shape and emphasizing its underlying strength.
The Levante offers 18, 19, 20, and 21 inch lightweight alloy wheels. And functional add-ons are available like silver-finish roof rails, black gloss roof rails, a tow bar, a kick sensor for its power tailgate, and remote start. Available accessories like the aluminum roof racks, luggage soft box, luggage divider, cargo liner, a roof box, ski & snowboard carrier, and the lightweight surf or bike carrier make the SUV truly versatile for cargo and outdoor adventures.
The exterior color range features two solid colors, Nero and Bianco, three metallic colors, Grigio Metallo, Grigio and the new Verde Ossido, two “metallescent” colors, Grigio Maratea and Champagne, and five in mica, Nero Ribelle, Blu Passione, Blu Emozione, and the new Rosso Rubino and Rame. There is also one pearlescent color, Bianco Alpi.
3 Distinct Powertrain Options
The 2016 Maserati Levante has 3 engine options to designate each model. The twin-turbo V6 engine with latest GDI technology available in two versions: the top of the range 430 horsepower and the base 350 horsepower. The base V6 has 368 lb-ft of torque and a max speed of 155 mph. While the 430 horsepower V6 has 427 lb-ft of torque and a top speed of 164 mph.
The 430 horsepower version of the twin turbo V6 engine first featured in the Ghibli, has now been improved even further to deliver an extra 20 horsepower. There is also a turbo diesel V6 available with direct injection. The turbo Diesel engine boasts 275 horsepower and an impressive 442 lb-ft of torque.
Both petrol and diesel versions of the Maserati Levante are matched to an 8 speed automatic ZF gearbox with fast gear shifting. The drivers can choose between four drive modes, “Normal”, I.C.E., “Sport” and “Off-road”.
In default normal mode, a balance is achieved between ride comfort, fuel efficiency, and sporty character with smooth gear changes at low engine speeds. Sport mode enhances the powertrain’s sportiness with faster gear changes in higher revs. By selecting the sport mode, not only do the car’s handling parameters change, but the exhaust valves are opened, providing the shortest possible way to the exhaust gases.
The sportiest mode is “manual sport” which allows the driver to stay in the selected gear even when the engine reaches the rev limiter.
For off-road mode, the transmission identifies different types of terrain, interacts with the ESP and alters its shifting response accordingly. When the driver selects a chosen speed the car continues at this pace, even when climbing. This is useful when the driver has to concentrate on a challenging climb. The car will effectively drive itself as the driver steers.
In the Increased Control and Efficiency or I.C.E. mode the trans makes gentle gear changes and gas pedal mapping is set to comfort mode.
The aluminum double wishbone front and five link rear suspension features standard air springs and electronically controlled Skyhook shock absorbers. The Levante is equipped with aluminum, electronically controlled dampers that adjusts the damping rate separately for each wheel to satisfy the current load and handling conditions. The 2016 Levante’s sophisticated air spring suspension offers 4 ride height levels.
The Skyhook suspension is a standout feature of the Levante. When the car is switched on, the shock absorbers are set to give priority to comfort. By pressing the “sport” button twice on the gearshift lever bezel, the setting changes and the shock absorbers get stiffer, significantly changing the car’s handling.
The Maserati Q4 All-Wheel Drive system comes as standard in all versions of the Levante. It is based on an electronically controlled, multi-plate wet clutch, installed into a transfer case linked by a driveshaft to the front axle. In a matter of 150 milliseconds, the Q4 system can alter the torque split from 0-100% front – rear to 50%-50%.
The Levante is the only car in its class equipped with standard mechanical limited-slip differential at the rear axle. The torque vectoring function is further developed for the Levante to increase the SUV’s sportiness and driving pleasure. The system distributes more torque to the outer wheels by applying a slight braking force to the inner wheels for tighter cornering.
The advanced performance features don’t stop there. The Levante also features a hydraulic steering system that offers power-assisted speed sensitive adjustments with consideration of drive mode and suspension ride height. And the 430 horsepower Levante S features Brembo brakes with 6 piston aluminum mono-bloc calipers in the front and aluminum 23 inch discs at the rear.
Safety features are innovated with driver assisted technologies to create a proactive and responsive SUV. Standard tech includes the blind spot alert, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, rear view and surround view camera, adaptive cruise control with stop & go, park assist, hill holder, and hill descent control.
The Maserati Stability Program (MSP) is an advanced active safety and driver assistance system that was further developed for the on-road and off-road character of the Levante. Thanks to a series of sensors, it detects any unusual handling behavior and acts upon the brakes and engine to restore the control of the car. The MSP is connected to the Hill Holder function and integrates ABS with EBD, anti-slip regulation, engine torque control, and a brake assist system. The result is increase pressured in ‘panic braking’ and a brake force booster in panic braking called hydraulic brake assist.
Opulent Cabin with Innovative Tech
The cockpit of the 2016 Levante is decked out with 28 leather upholstery options. Two-tone leather seats are also available. Drivers have a 6-way adjustable seat and the passenger a 4-way. A 12-way adjustable seat is optional. Both front seats are heated and ventilated. And a Sport Pack offers sports seats with 12-way memory. The 5-passenger SUV also offers 40/60 split fold rear seats and 20.4 cubic feet of cargo space.
In line with a long Maserati tradition, customers can personalize the interior with a wide range of interior colors and combinations and/or opt for contrast stitching on the seats and headrests. The dashboard can be upholstered in leather and the top of the central tunnel can be covered entirely in wood or carbon fiber. The same elements are featured on the front and rear door panels. The soft fabric cabin roof lining is also available in Alcantara®. The signature fabric covers the upper pillars, the ceiling light surround and the front sun visors, adding yet further refinement to the interior.
An 8.4 inch touch screen houses settings for driver assistance technologies and infotainment. The Levante has a standard 8 speaker Bose audio system. A 14 speaker Harmon Kardon sound system is optional along with a 17 speaker Bowers & Wilkens premium audio system with QuantumLogic surround sound.
The sport package includes a black gloss front grille and front/rear skid plates, body colored rear sport spoiler, steel door sills, 12-ways electric Sport Seats, sport power adjustable Steering wheel, body colored lower parts, 20” machine polished wheels, red brake calipers, gearshift paddles, and brushed steel sport pedals.
The Luxury Package features a chromed front grille, steel door and trunk sills, premium leather or Zegna Edition interior, body colored lower parts, 19” machine polished wheels, black brake calipers, Harman Kardon audio system, wooden interior trim, 12-way electric Comfort Seats and power rear side sun-blinds.
The Levante can also be equipped with the highly exclusive Zegna Edition pack that combines premium Italian leather with bespoke silk from Ermenegildo Zegna, one of the leading fashion designers in the world. The finest leather is combined with natural Zegna Mulberry Silk fiber inserts on the seats, door panels, roof lining, sunshades and ceiling light fixture. The Silk is embellished with a hand-stitched Micro Chevron.
The seats feature a central silk insert with a Macro Chevron weave. The door panels, roof lining and sun visor are covered with Zegna silk jersey. Three different color combinations of leather/silk and contrasting stitching will be available: tan premium leather with dark grey Zegna Silk and light grey stitching; red premium leather with dark grey Zegna silk and light grey stitching; and black premium leather with dark grey Zegna silk and light grey stitching.
Optional equipment includes elongated gearshift paddles in brushed aluminum, a panoramic sunroof, entry & exit system, an adjustable pedal, a glove box lock, rear side sun blind, and double laminated acoustic rear window glass, iPod holder, and 3 child seats for 3 different weight groups.
The new Levante the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley’s flagship Betanyga SUV will go head-to-head in 2017.