Maserati revs up with new luxury sport SUV
Posted on September 12, 2017
I have a confession. Apparently, I’m one of the few people on the planet who’s not smitten by SUVs. I have nothing against “utility” or a “command of the road” seating position. It’s just that a low-slung sedan or coupe is my default choice. If hauling stuff that won’t fit in a trunk is required, an old-style station wagon has been my utility pick. All of this being said, I recently enjoyed getting to know Maserati’s new offering, the Levante.
I wasn’t exactly surprised when Maserati jumped on the SUV bandwagon. In North America, Maserati exists in the same showroom alongside Ferrari with nice synergies. Ferrari is pure sport with a rich racing history. It’s one of the few brands that sticks to its roots. Maserati’s niche is Grand Touring sports coupes and convertibles that fit two additional, if diminutive, occupants in the rear seat. Sport sedans have also been part of Maserati’s heritage, so a sporty SUV is a natural fit.
Since Maserati is part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) family, a robust parts bin and off-road knowledge from Jeep was combined with Maserati’s ethos for athletic reflexes and Italian style to create the Levante. The result was good enough to win me over. From a low center of gravity that firmly connects the driver to the road to effortless power and control, the all-wheel drive Levante delivers on Maserati’s sporty heritage.
During our time with the new Levante S, I had several fun editorial chores to accomplish. We drove to Carmel Valley in Northern California for the Quail Motorcycle Gathering, a lovely concours celebration of rare two-wheeled machines. Parked at the Quail golf course was a variety of luxury vehicles, but when we arrived, nearly every head turned. That’s just the reaction a luxury auto marketer hopes to get.
After our visit, we headed up along the coast. The Levante’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 kept us moving quickly to Santa Cruz, where we checked into the newly remodeled Dream Inn. This unique property has a surfing history, sitting on the site of Jack O’Neill’s first surf shop. It is a stylish combination of casual luxury that’s often elusive. The youthful valet parking staff was quite taken with the Levante and gave the Maserati a special, very visible position.
There are lots of choices in sport luxury SUVs and if your favorite brand hasn’t launched one yet, stay tuned — even Lamborghini is threatening to get into the act. But even in this crowded environment, the newest Maserati stands its ground. Sure, BMW’s M-tuned X4 or X5 are just as quick, and Porsche’s Macan Turbo will win the performance contest, but Maserati is still a bit more exclusive. And isn’t that part of what you’re buying? Brian Douglas
Photography by Brian Douglas