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Maserati Levante wants a slice of SA’s top-end SUV pie

Maserati Levante wants a slice of SA’s top-end SUV pie
Deon Schoeman

It’s taken a while to reach South African shores, but Maserati’s smart and sporty Levante sports utility is now on sale locally.

Available here as a turbodiesel model only, at least for now, the Levante hopes to attract buyers with an appetite for something a little more exclusive than your run-of-the-mill, similarly sized Range Rover, Grand Cherokee Summit or Audi Q7.

Yes, it’s quite a bit dearer too – but that’s where exclusivity, craftsmanship and the allure of a unique and somewhat left-of-centre brand come in.

The Levante is quite an imposing beast. At a full five metres long and almost two metres wide, it’s in the same dimensional league as the latest Audi Q7 and the ever-popular Range Rover, while the kerb mass is a few kilograms on the wrong side of two tons.

The latter figure suggests that the turbodiesel-powered Levante won’t be rivalling some of the sportier members of the top-end SUV clan as far as straightline performance is concerned. The 3,0-litre V6 single-turbo mill is credited with  202 kW at 4 000 rpm, and up to 600 Nm of torque between 2 000 and 2 600 Nm.

The resulting power-to-weight ratio is a useful 91,6 kW/ton – enough to achieve a claimed 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 6,9 seconds, and a 230 km/h top speed. That’s swift for a big, diesel-powered luxury SUV, but hardly sporty.

The gearbox is an eight-speed automatic, coupled to Maserati’s Q4 all-wheel drive system and a limited-slip diff at the rear. Add adjustable air suspension and hydraulically assisted steering, and it may well be that the  Levante’s real attraction lies in its ride and handling prowess.

Despite its size, it’s a sleek and attractive machine that looks the Maserati part. The overhangs have been kept short, and the streamlined roofline means this isn’t another boxy SUV.

As for luxury, the Maserati SUV isn’t shy of playing in the upper league. With 3,0 metres of wheelbase to play with, the cabin is spacious front and rear, while the all-leather interior’s quality is tactile. Standard spec is comprehensive, but there’s also a long list of extras for those wanting a more personalised package.

The Maserati Levante Diesel retails for R1 650 000 before adding any extras, which isn’t exactly pocket money. If you want something sportier in this league, Porsche’s Cayenne GTS is faster and cheaper (but smaller and less exclusive).

The Levante, however, oozes Italian flair, craftsmanship and individuality – attributes that should ensure steady demand. And if the 320 kW, turbo petrol V6-powered Levante S does become available later, real performance will be included in that mix.

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