EVER stared off into the distance wishing you had the $175,000 or more required to buy a serious luxury motor vehicle, that’s loaded with performance and handles like a dream. You know you have, we do it all the time.
Enter the new Ferrari-powered ‘base model’ 2019 Maserati Levante. A luxury performance SUV you can get behind the wheel of for $125,000 plus on-roads, and one we’ve taken to the roads of country NSW in for some serious road test fun.
First, let’s tell you about the car though. The new petrol Levante is the baby brother of the beefed up Levante S, a car that does sit in that upper price bracket, with this new variant packed with everything there is to love about Maserati’s off-road capable offering.
The differences between the two models are just enough to open up to a new market and not too much as to sully what is still truly a premium Italian built car. It still features full leather hand stitched lovingly by some old Nonna in the Mirafiori factory in Turin, Italy.
It still features an interior layout that looks like it was designed by Leonardo DaVinci and then put together by little Italian men in short shorts with handkerchiefs on their head.
It feels loaded with tradition is what we’re trying to say. The supple upholstery blends in seamlessly with light grey and piano black trim, while there’s velvety finishes to door and roof.
It’s nice, really nice, but not over the top nice. There is reserve, and while it looks like the more powerful Levante S, you can notice the difference in accessories and add-ons; you can feel and see the savings, as it were.
The beating heart under the bonnet is the same though. The beautiful Maranello-built 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 Ferrari engine is here. It’s been slightly de-tuned to provide less power (some 350hp or 275kW), but still produces 500Nm of torque.
It puts that down via Maserati’s Q4 intelligent all-wheel drive system, a limited slip differential and an 8-speed automatic gearbox which can run in manual mode, either via the gear shift or column mounted paddles.
To enhance the driving experience, it also gets double wishbone suspension, sky hook shocks and adjustable air suspension, along with pre-programmed drive modes for off-road and sand, among others.
In addition, there’s Increased Control and Efficiency (I.C.E), which is not only good for driving in wet slippery conditions but also enhances efficiency by keeping gear changes smooth and frequent, and managing performance functionality.
The downside to I.C.E is it makes the Maserati feel lazy. With what is essentially Eco mode on, and even with auto stop/start engaged, it could still be considered a little thirsty, at 11.4-litres/100km – but when you remember it’s a performance SUV, it’s respectable.
Safety is paramount too in the new 2019 Maserati Levante, and you’ll find autonomous emergency breaking, lane keep assist, active blind spot assist, traffic sign recognition and active cruise control on hand to keep you safe.
You can turn all of the safety features on and off via the multimedia infotainment system too. That infotainment system is crisp and clear and comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, car diagnostics and a host of other functions. It’s also a full touch screen, or you can use the dials to get around.
Maserati’s SUV also gets auto pretty much everything, including wipers, high beam, and even the aerodynamics of the headlights and door handles are designed to help clean themselves while the car is in motion. It sits on very nice 19-inch alloys too.
Right, let’s set the scene for our little 8-hour road trip. We rolled out of the historic Hyatt Hotel in Canberra and headed down the Monaro Hwy to Cooma, where we experienced how well the active cruise control took care of business.
After a short stop in Cooma for a tasty milkshake, we dived onto the Snowy Mountains Hwy, at the same time going full sports mode, stiffening the suspension with some dampener adjustment as well.
A little bit of magic happened right there when we made the switch, thanks to a little hydraulic valve opening to shorten the exhaust system, allowing the engine to breath more freely; unleashing the full noise of the Ferrari power plant.
It’s one of those moments where you look across at your best mate and grin, where the car fan in both of you tingles with joy and you quote those two famous word’s from Swiss electronic pop duo Yello; Oh Yeah.
Once we had come to terms with how good this thing sounded in sports mode and vowed never to turn it off again, we were away to unleash the monster under the bonnet. But wait, something’s wrong, it’s raining.
We did wonder if that might be the end of our excitement but no, the Levante took the rain in its stride, popping and growling as its incredible handling capabilities came to the fore, sticking to the road like a kid to a lollipop.
The car powered from one corner to the next, corner after corner, hill climb after hill climb. We may have had the windows down for some of this, just so we could soak up the raw awesomeness of the noise, but it was too damn cold to maintain our lunacy.
With the windows up, we cranked up the heated 12-way adjustable seats and pushed up the 8-speaker sound system towards its decibel limit, all the while encapsulated in that hand crafted interior.
A quick pit stop in icy Kiandra, an abandoned gold mining town that’s also the birth place of skiing in Australia, told us we should just stay in the Maserati because it was literally too bloody cold to be gallivanting around outside.
From there it was down one of Australia’s longest sustained descents into Tumut before heading to Wagga Wagga to end our day of fun and frivolity in considerably affordable luxury that is the 2019 Maserati Levante.
You can grab yourself a piece of Italian motoring royalty in a host of colours, including Nero, Bianco, Nero Ribelle, Grigio Maratea, Grigio, Rame, Blu Passione, Blu Emozione, Bianco Alpi and Blu Nobile.
There is an endless array of add-on packages and accessories, and you can also upgrade to the extra luxurious and even more sportier GranLusso and GranSport, both available at around $159,000 plus on-roads.
Our test vehicle was provided by Maserati Australia as part of a a drive day program. To find out more about the 2019 Maserati Levante, contact your local Maserati dealer.