The R2 million Maserati Levante GTS is a drool-worthy preview of what Ferrari's SUV could be like
- I tested a 2020 Maserati Levante GTS SUV that with thousands in options stickered at approximately $136,000 (R2.2 million).
- The Maserati Levante GTS has a 550-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8 engine, plus a gorgeous red interior.
- The Levante GTS is beautiful, powerful, and fast. That puts it near the top of the luxury, high-performance SUV segment.
- But competition is coming - and the Levante is a great preview of what Ferrari may put on the road in the next few years.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Let's say you want a Ferrari, but you hail from a strange region where nobody is taught the lore of Maranello sports cars. An SUV is just your style, you decide. So you swing by your friendly neighbourhood prancing horse dealership one day and ask if you can look at a couple of utes.
The dealer would thank you for your interest and slip you the business card of a colleague who represents Maserati, which since 2016 has been selling the Ferrari of SUVS, right down to the Maranello-sourced engine.
The question, of course, is why anybody would want the Ferrari of SUVs? Well, that's a question provisionally addressed by Maserati (we won't tarry over the adjacent question of why anyone would want the Maserati of SUVs). But come 2022, Ferrari has promised an "FUV" to be called the Purosangue - its own version of the high-riding heresy.
Interested in what that vehicle might be like, and uninterested in waiting? Look no further than the Maserati Levante GTS, which I was lucky enough to enjoy for a week. Here's how it went:
My 2020 Maserati Levante GTS tester arrived wearing a "Blu Emozione" paint job and several thousand dollars in extras that pushed the $123,290 (R2 million) stick price to $136,000 (R2.2 million).
The glorious piece of Italian design is either the best-looking SUV on Earth or a solid number two, depending on what you think of the Jaguar F-PACE.
The "Nerissimo" pack was a $1,000 (R16,000) add-on that brought some slick, black highlights to the exterior, notably the grille.
Like Mercedes, Maserati has retained a flush hood ornament, as well as the prominent trident badge, in chrome.
The trident makes an additional appearance at the Levante's rear. (The "Levante" name, by the way, comes from a Mediterranean wind.)
It's important to get the entire front end of a luxury-marque SUV right, as it both proclaims the vehicle's pedigree and makes up for inevitable compromises demanded by the ute rear end. The Levante's headlights are dashing without overwhelming the fascia's design.
Yes, it's a Maserati, so it must sport the signature ports on the flanks, rimmed in chrome.
The 22-inch wheels cost an extra $4,000 (R66,000).
The three-season tires added another $400 (R6,000). The red brake calipers came gratis!
Did I say the back end demands compromises? Not with the Levante! As with the F-PACE and, to a lesser degree, Levante's stablemate, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Levante's designers nailed the elegant hind-quarters.
The coupé-style fastback roof slopes to an integrated spoiler.
We have the model designation on the hatch.
And we also have the GTS call-out. This is almost the top-dog Levante — only the Trofeo sits higher in the lineup.
Cargo capacity for the Maserati Levante GTS is 21 cubic-feet (0.5 cubic-meter) rising to 57 cubic feet (1.6 cubic meter) with the second row seats folded away. This was more than enough to handle my week-in-the-'burbs shopping needs.
Let's pop the hood and check out the Levante GTS's powerplant.
But first, we have to contend with the most craptastic yellow plastic hood release in all of motor-dom.
Restore your sprit by gazing upon the glory of a 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged, 550-horsepower V8 engine, making 538 pound-feet of torque and sending the oomph to an all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
My tester didn't come with specs for fuel economy, but with this motor, I would expect less than 20 mpg combined, and that's how my Levante was tracking during the week I drove it around in a combination of city/highway conditions.
Moving along, it's time to slip inside and sample the red and black interior, clad in "pieno fiore," or full-grain, leather.
I've always found Maserati interiors to be nearly impeccable. In the Levante, there's no "nearly."
The multifunction steering wheel is leather-wrapped. Mounted on the steering column is a pair of long, carbon-fiber paddle shifters.
The instrument cluster is all-business, with a customisable screen between the speedometer and tachometer.
A well-designed clock and stopwatch takes up pride-of-place in the middle of the dashboard.
The start stop button is found to the driver's left, Ferrari-style.
The joystick shifter exudes Fiat Chrysler, but one gets used to it quickly enough.
The drive mode selector is easy to find on the center console.
The remaining climate controls occupy a narrow strip on the center stack.
The interior tailoring is beautiful.
You can find examples of it everywhere.
And the trident makes a subtle reappearance, in red.
The backs seats are just as sweetly appointed.
But legroom is merely adequate.
Not much space to stretch my gams, and I'm just 5-foot-7 (1,7 meters).
The dual-pane moonroof floods the cabin with natural light.
The infotainment system is undergirded by FCA's excellent Uconnect. It runs on an 8.4-inch screen, which is small by the standards of the luxury market.
Touchscreen functionality is supported by a limited knob-and-button selector. Note the switch that raises and lowers the Levante's chassis.
The system works well. Bluetooth pairing is a snap, there are USB ports to connect devices, and GPS navigation is effective. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available. My tester also came with a mellifluous Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system, for $4,000 (R66,000).
So what's the verdict?
The Maserati Levante GTS is a thing of beauty, but once the lookin' is done, the driving can begin. And this is where the SUV offers a compelling reason to write the big check.
The V8 roars to life and then keeps right on roaring. The soundtrack is spectacular. But it isn't just noise. The o-60mph (96km/h) run is, according to Maserati, a four-second phenomenon, but I thought it came in a hair under that. And the GTS is exceptionally capable in the corners. The best part of that is diving into a curve and then powering out, feeling the energy flow through the car, into the wheels, the tires, and then down into the pavement as the Levante grabs hold.
Yes, other high-performance SUVs can do this. But the Levante GTS does it with an exhaust note that's downright mythological, while cosseting you in acres of Italian style. It never gets old.
You almost forget that Ferrari might be making and selling one of these things in a few years. You also almost forget that you can't dive into curves and power out at will if you have a weekend's worth of provisions stashed in the cargo hold, at least not without making a mess.
The word that always coms to mind when I savoyr a Maserati is "magical." These machines transport me, in ways that similarly ambitious Porsches, Mercedes, and BMWs don't. Take nothing away from those German masterpieces of SUV engineering. They, too, can be oh-so good.
But Maseratis are more. So if you're in this market and you'd like to stand apart, more than just a little, the Levante GTS could be your ute.
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