The strata of luxury SUVs is becoming a crowded one, which is good for consumers. Plenty of options to peruse. But selecting your ideal ute from the growing stable grows increasingly harder with each new model launched. You’ve got the mainstay options from America, Germany and Japan, but newer to game are the Italians.
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For the discerning gentleman who wants his leather-drenched luxo-barge to also be the fastest, there’s the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. That 505-hp whopper tore its way around the Nurburgring Nordschleife in an impressive sub-8:00 lap time. A nice marketing tout, but few buyers are looking to shell out six-figures for that kind of performance when it’ll just be used to shuttle to and from work and the grocery store. Which brings us to Maserati and its Levante.
The Levante ticks the right hallmarks of Italian luxury: a swanky interior, polarizing, stand-out design, and a solid powerplant lurking beneath the bonnet. Regardless if you’re a fan of that shark-nose exterior styling, there’s no debate that the Levante breaks through the cluttered SUV space with a definite presence. It’ll get you noticed, should that be the kind of thing you’re into.
The Levante boasts a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, which was conceived and built by Ferrari, save the block itself which hails from a Chrysler plant in Indiana. Offered in the base Levante, it provides 345-horsepower. In the Levante S, the pony total leaps up to 424, which helps shave the zero-to-sixty time by .8 seconds, down to 5.0 flat. The 428 lb-ft of torque in the S is more than ample, with the peak kick coming around 4500-rpm.
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The forthcoming V-8 Levante varietals are the hotly-anticipated ones, with 550-hp on tap in the GTS and 590-hp in the Trofeo, but that doesn’t mean this V-6 is a snooze. The acceleration has tons of zip, available immediately, and the lovely aural experience—despite a serene and quiet cabin—seeps in perfectly. Tinker around in Sport mode, with the giant aluminum paddle shifters manually rowing through the smooth ZF eight-speed gearbox, and you’re rewarded with barking downshifts and snorts that’ll plaster a smile on your face. You won’t tire of the Levante’s soundtrack.
In the south of England, where I tested the Levante, one does not drive; one motors. And the Levante motors well. There’s an all-wheel drive system dubbed Q4 (also available on Alfa’s Stelvio) that has a lovely air suspension (not available on Alfa’s Stelvio) which gives you a ride as cushy as the Levante’s interior, even on pockmarked British country roads.
It’s fun to tip into the throttle and fling it into a nice long sweeper. It’s also decent on the switchbacks, so long as the air dampers have been adjusted down to the lowest ride height. Given its body shape and higher center of gravity, it’s still got some sway when it’s hustling, but it’s nimble enough to pleasantly surpass your handling expectations.
Inside, you’ve got a plush setup. Buttery leathers abound, inviting your fingertips to brush them. Aluminum and carbon fiber flourishes supplement the cow hides and the Levante exudes a premium feel in there. There are still pops of Fiat Chrysler, though, including the infotainment system that will be recognizable to anyone who’s piloted a recent Dodge, Chrysler or Jeep.
Some driver aids have made their way into the Levante, including an active steering assist. This’ll keep your Maserati from drifting into other lanes and, when paired with the adaptive cruise control, it makes highway driving a breeze. And since that’s a highly likely use case for the Levante, it’s an important one.
Luxury has its price and the 2019 base Levante begins at $76,000 and shoots up to $87,000 for the S. Tack on the options you want, and you’ll be around six-figures. Costly? Yep. Worth it? If you value daily driving a statement piece, probably. You can do far worse for the money.