The road ends. All I can see are some loosely scattered rocks. I am in a Maserati. Time to head back, you say? Nope. Off-road mode engaged, the big Maserati lifts itself up and simply goes over with utter nonchalance. This is a different kind of Maserati then, and for that alone the Levante is one of the best cars that this fabled Italian marque has made. While purists get all misty eyed with its huge racing history and its enviable catalogue of beautiful cars- the thing is, to survive today, you need an SUV. Sports cars have a limited market and in order to tap into the vast amount of wealth fl oating around newer markets, an SUV is the way to go. Besides, it is not an ungainly extension of the Maserati brand.
First of all, the doubts all melt away when you fi rst clap your eyes on it. The Levante, in whatever angle you look at it, is a sight for sore eyes. SUVs are supposed to be big, brutish and intimidating but beautiful is not in the memo. The Levante changes that. All the usual Maserati design details are beautifully draped in an SUV form. It is a big SUV but manages its bulk brilliantly. You cannot miss the huge grille, the beautifully detailed headlamps, the vents on the sides and the myriad of lines- all of which merge together beautifully.
If you think the exterior is beautiful then the interior is an exercise in fi ne Italian craftsmanship. Fragrant leather covers the subtle use of tech. The Levante has the usual gadgetry which you expect but it does not shout from the rooftops about it. There is an 8.4 inch Touch Screen, Hill Descent Control, dual zone climate system and what not but you get the feeling the Levante would rather have you swoon over the fact that the cabin can be trimmed in Zegna Silk upholstery! Yes, one of the most indulgent materials being used in a car- only the Italians can think of something along these lines!
While we are at it, there are some quirks here and there. The controls for steering are oddly located behind the steering wheel and the tech or feature list is not up-to the standards of ze Germans. But that said, the room at the back is surprisingly good and the boot is big too for all of your shopping needs.
Now as if Maserati making an SUV has not been controversial enough, the Levante is powered by a diesel engine. A Maserati should be powered by a sonorous V6 or V8 petrol with Ferrari DNA fl owing through its veins and not a diesel. But while purists might take an axe to a diesel, the Levante is all the better for it.
The engine is a belter for sure, being a 3.0 turbo diesel V6 with 275 hp and an ample 600Nm of torque. The strong torque on offer propels this big Maser from 0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds with a 230 km/h top speed. Standard is an eight-speed automatic ZF gearbox with the option of four drive modes. As said earlier, with air suspension with All-Wheel-Drive system and Torque Vectoring, the Levante is seemingly ready for all road conditions.
But back to this motor, and once you prod the Sport button twice, the Levante clears its throat for a deep and rather V8 like noise. In a diesel. Let that marinate in your head for a while. Also the burble at idle and the general vibe coming from this engine is that it is indeed the Maserati of diesel engines. We have been assured there is no fakery going on and it is indeed engine noise being turned to music!
Put your foot down and it is fast with a smooth build up of power. Instead of pulverising your ear drums and making you work for the power, the Levante is a smooth operator and just racks up the kms effortlessly- something a luxury SUV must have on its CV.
But that is not the best bit about the Levante. Nope, it is its handling. Here the Levante teaches the Germans a thing or two. For something so big and high off the ground the Levante moves quickly and with utter confi dence. Body roll is cut down and behind the wheel you feel like you are driving a much smaller car. You can even lower the Levante and when dialled up-to the max, it is freakish as to how much fun it is. The steering too befi ts having the Maserati logo embossed on it with plenty of feedback and there is a connection which the car forms with you which only Italian cars manage.
As pointed out at the start the Levante is no one trick pony as you can do some proper off-roading too by raising the car though how much off the beaten path owners will go is debatable. But this is no carbon fi bre diva which you can drive once in a while as regardless of what road surface, the Levante will entertain you.
As you might expect the Levante does not come cheap at Rs 1.4 cr starting and you can easily pile on more cash with some options. But do not think of the Levante as an SUV but more of an all weather supercar with Italian fl air oozing out which is infectious and then you will say it is indeed money well spent!