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Maserati Levante: Reacquainting with the Italian

S.Muralidhar | Updated on August 05, 2021

House of the Trident is emerging out of the shadow of the prancing horse. And it is finally widening its presence here

Italian luxury car brand Maserati has had a resurgence worldwide over the last few years. Even though some of its models like the Ghibli haven’t done as well as it expected in some of the key markets, it has been in the news lately for all the good reasons. It’s new flagship sportscar -the MC20- has put Maserati in the spotlight, not just for getting back into the category it was famous for in the past, but also for finally developing its own V6 engine. The days of depending on Ferrari for its powertrains may soon be a thing of the past.

After years of having just a symbolic presence in India, rather like an exotic car maker, Maserati is finally going to be looking at expanding its footprint with new dealerships in the country. Plans will include new models too, including, possibly, a couple of Trofeo’s. Word out in the supercar community in the country is that MC20 is the next most exclusive model to own and be seen in.

The Levante’s rear gets some sporty touches with the roof spoiler and the dual twin exhaust pipes in chrome

And it might well be seen on our roads before the end of the year. So, I thought maybe it was the right time to get back behind the wheel of one of Maserati’s best selling models in India - the Levante. My test mule had to be shipped from Mumbai to Chennai. Here are my driving impressions after spending a day behind the wheel of the LE35 (short for the Levante 350hp).

Italian design

The Levante is obviously not new on Indian roads, though it may not have been seen as often as some of the other super luxury cars. Its design is still novel and unique; an opinion endorsed by all those stares it elicited while I was out driving on a Friday morning. The Levante is more crossover in flavour than SUV and the design has strong family design language. A raised stance, 20-inch rims within big wheel arches, a tall shoulder line and prominent haunches make the Levante fit into the mould of a capable luxury SUV. But, that tapering roofline, the aerodynamic tapered nose for the hood and the classic Maserati character lines make it unmistakably from the House of the Trident. The two unique design elements that tie it to its forebears are the bonnet grille with the Trident logo in the middle and the trio of gills on the front side panels, a trademark feature across the brand’s models.

The rising beltline and the strong haunches give the rear a lot of character. The headlamp and tail-lamp design also follow the family design lineage, and refer back to the Quattroporte and the GranCabrio. Of course, the new generation models across the model-lines will sport variations to these design elements. The Levante’s rear also gets some sporty touches with the roof spoiler and the dual twin exhaust pipes in chrome.

The car features a sporty steering wheel clad in black perforated leather, drilled metal pedals and a driver-focused cockpit

Genuine, but dated

The cabin of the test mule Levante I was driving sported a sort of terracotta interior colour theme, adding to the warmth of the acres of double-stitched leather on the dashboard and seats. The cabin’s design and layout has that typical Italian flair - a mix between symmetry and sensuous. The car features a sporty steering wheel clad in black perforated leather, drilled metal pedals and a driver-focused cockpit. A perfect driving position, and easy access to controls for driving mode and suspension settings makes it a breeze to switch to sport or off-road depending on the driving condition. Even though the cabin colour theme seemed a little garish at first, by the end of the day I had come around to considering it a liveable option.

This is a three-year old Levante and the cabin does seem dated in its choice of interfaces. It lacked that clutch of ‘techy’, nerdy set of screens and controls that have fast become the norm in so many of the vehicles in this segment. The infotainment screen is a bit too compact and the instrument cluster is still a pair of analog dials with a narrow MID (multi-information display) in the middle. I am personally not too taken in by larger screens, but then there are some plastic bits that seem anachronistic and underwhelming for a vehicle in this segment. The rear seat is comfortable, though the squabs could have been a bit more generous. Overall, the cabin could do with a bit more oomph, which is likely a change we’ll see in the 2022 year model Levante.

Horses do prance

The Maserati Levante I was driving is powered by the Ferrari-built F160 petrol engine. Maserati, which was owned by Ferrari till 2005, parted ways later, but continued to source its engines from the latter. The 3-litre, twin turbocharged V6 engine (in its lower state of tune in my test mule) generates a peak power of 350PS and peak torque of 500Nm. The top of the model line Trofeo variant sports a 3.8-litre V8 that puts out 590hp and 730Nm.

My test mule’s V6 despite being the entry performance variant is peppy, right after the needle gets past the 2,000rpm mark. The 2.2-tonne SUV is not exactly a cracker off the starting block, but just past the trot-like in-city speeds, light prods on the throttle are enough to let it gallop. The engine note is loud and raspy as the Trofeo maybe, but it is good to hear a steady rumble from the rear every time I press down on those metal pedals. The 8-speed ZF gearbox is an excellent match and is reasonably quick.

Manual gear selection using the tall aluminium paddles behind the steering wheel makes it immensely more satisfying to drive. This powertrain in its higher state of tune in the Levante S should feel quicker overall. The power is sent to all four wheels using Maserati’s own Q4 all-wheel drive system. The vehicle is also endowed with adaptive air suspension, which while allowing the option of raising the springs, also enables the dual riding character of the Levante. In comfort mode, it is a bit wallowy and there is some body roll. But the dampers tighten and the spring lowers the vehicle to offer a sharper performance in sport or individual setting modes; perfect for throwing the hulk into corners.

What to expect

While the Maserati MC20 and the Quattroporte will still bring new buyers into the brand’s fold, the Levante is likely to be the long term favourite. The SUV flavour sweeping the luxury car market is still going strong. So it is good to note that the Italian brand is on schedule to bring in the Levante Hybrid later this year to Indian shores. The Levante at about ₹1.5 crore fights in a segment that is teeming with choice now.

It is still fun to drive and that Italian-chic lends it an air of being genuinely exotic. With improvements to the cabin due in the forthcoming model year variants, and with the choice of trim and engine options widening, the Levante should find many new buyers. New dealerships due to open in the country will certainly help the brand reach a wider audience too.

Published on August 05, 2021

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