Automobile review: The 2023 Maserati Levante

The first gen Levante is at the end of its lifecycle, but it isn’t going down without a fight… against climate change

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Thu 18 May 2023, 6:50 PM

One of the first luxury SUVs to come out of Italy was the Maserati Levante. Named after the sea breeze that moves from the south of France to the Strait of Gibraltar, the Levante has helped carry the Italian brand with the trident emblem since 2016.

To keep its relevance in the changing luxury market and before turning to electrification, it has rolled out a hybrid variant of its popular SUV. But with an asking price of Dh399,000, is it worth your 9-to-5 years’ worth of EMIs? Let’s find out!


Design & Aesthetics

The Levante crashed the party for luxury SUVs in the mid 2010’s with its dashing looks and sporting demeanour. It was on the to-buy list for many an executive and business savant. And who wouldn’t want one? The coupe-esque silhouette and the quintessential Maserati traits, like the sleek LED headlamps, giant concave grille, and coveted trident emblem slapped at visible locations made it a style statement for both men and women, young and old.


This, the GT Hybrid variant, gets some blue accents to separate it from its ICE-only siblings on the badge and trio of race-inspired vents on the side fenders to tell you it is here to save the planet, although the lovely quad exhausts will tell you otherwise. Thankfully, there aren’t any exhaust amplifiers or faux tips here. I'd have to say, one of my favourite bits are the puddle lamps which in the late hours shine down in the shape of the trident; and they have tried to incorporate the logo into the spokes too which is nice, but the wheel design itself, I’m not a big fan of.

Some eight years on, this example of Italian flair still holds its own in the now-crowded luxury SUV segment, but its age is starting to show on its metallic skin, and the slight tweaks aren’t helping. But there is something about that hefty metallic keyfob — one of the heaviest we have held — that will earn you the nod in corporate rooms, business lunches, and gala dinners. The brand itself seems to carry a lot of weight.

And with that sense of esteem, you can slot yourself into the Levante, one which exudes Maserati sportscar vibes but with more ergonomic-minded entry and exit and seating position thanks to its more practical ride height, large door cavities and generous head and legroom. On the inside, your clients would be happy to be chauffeured around in its very luxurious interiors. Again, it may seem classically styled to some and dated for others, but again, who wouldn’t want dual-tone interiors with red leather upholstery and extra stitching detail? Just the bright red seats alone make you feel like you’re living life and not merely surviving. And splashings of stain finish chrome here and there, and a Maserati-supplied analogue clock that sits atop the dash give it that little extra.

From the driver’s seat, the overall visibility in all directions is also good and all the controls i.e., the chunky steering wheel, switchgear, and pedals all come to the hands and feet nicely. There is enough space in the back too for two adults (preferably 6ft and under) and a child in the centre, which represents the most spatially efficient scenario without compromising comfort. But it isn’t all appreciation for the crossover, the shift lever is a tad clunky and strangely enough, this variant didn’t come with paddles. And there is an unassigned button on the steering wheel — that sort thing always irks you. It’s also got an analogue instrument cluster which I don’t mind, but tech crazed crowd of today would disagree.

Giving access to the digital world is the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system, mostly unchanged from Chrysler, which seems average sized for this day and age, but it does the job thanks to its livid graphics, good touch screen response, and functional 2-tier rotary controller. And I’m glad that it has hard buttons for HVAC. Can’t be poking the screen in annoyance over and over to set the right temperature, especially during the summer months.

Powertrain & Performance

What’s different about this Levante is that it’s got a hybrid powertrain and for that reason, it’s a game-changer for the brand. Taking on the role of the base model, previously occupied by the V6 motor, is the potent 2.0-litre inline 4-inline engine, which has a mono-scroll turbocharger strapped to it, as opposed to the twin-scroll type we see so often. This L4 Mild Hybrid system combines the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) with an eBooster and 48V BSG to make a healthy 330 PS of max. power and 450 Nm of peak torque — numbers worthy of a naturally-aspirated V8. And all of that thrust is conveyed via an 8-speed automatic that puts the power down to all four, meaning that its got the traction for all four seasons… two in the case of Dubai; and it also means that it won’t leave you groping for grip at the drag strip or traffic light.

As for the drive, let’s just say it is a compromise, but a decent one at that. It’s quick and responsive overall and gets to a 100 km/h in just six seconds with a stomp of the gas pedal. But it lacks the throat you expect from an Italian powerhouse that makes 300-plus horses, only sounding gritty higher up the revs.

So, it’s 15 per cent slower V6 but it makes up by being some 18 per cent more efficient, clocking a claimed 10.3 l/100km. That means the money in your bank stays there longer. And to help with that gain is an 80-litre tank that will technically give you 800 kms of range. But as far as CO2 emissions are concerned, at 231-252 g/km it isn’t making as much impact as a green vehicle should. Other things to note is that this isn’t PHEV or Plug-in hybrid, means you can’t charge her up at home. You have to rely solely on regenerative braking to juice up the batteries.

But let not that hybrid moniker deceive you. Its still very much a Maserati when it comes to dynamism. By the 5,003 mm length and 2,090 KG weight you may think of this as a largish SUV, but I can assure you that it identifies as a lithe sporty crossover. It can glide across the highway lanes and can make those quick turn-ins effortlessly thanks mainly to how the suspension (double wishbone set up upfront and multi link rear) has been set up. I suspect the sticky 265R/50 R19 spec tyres and the limited-slip self-locking mechanical rear differential do their bit to keep the handling in your favour. Can’t really fault its braking either. The ventilated disc 345 mm dia. discs up front and 330 mm dia. disc at the rear help you keep a check on inertia at all velocities.

The Levante also scores high on sound insulation, thanks to double pane frameless windows on the front doors which creates an ambience that is quiet enough to hear your spouse’s murmur or your own thoughts — one and the same. And that rightly sprung suspension keeps things cushy too.

Features & Practicality

The boot, at a capacity of 580 litres is adequate for the average family luggage numbers. It also has a decent shape and is easy to access despite the small lip. And to keep items from going astray, there is a side strap…and ski pass down the middle for longer items.

The recent redesign has also lent it a wireless charger which is a modern-day necessity, but it is a tad inaccessible. And the rear cabin comes with a/c vents and 2 USB A charging ports to juice up your devices. Speaking of devices, at this price point, a rear entertainment system should be standard equipment, even if I always suggest getting your own tablet. And to keep you family safe, it comes with a host of safety features like Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, Forward Collision Warning and Brake Assist System, Lane Departure Warning, and a Surround View camera. I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a few!

Verdict

The 2023 Maserati Levante Hybrid the Italian rendition of what a swoopy crossover SUV with a good mix of style, technology, and functionality would look like. But there is no denying that its age is starting to show. And the fact that the asking price has risen to near astronomical levels and that its rivals are rather competent, make it a less compelling buy than it was before, unless of course you love the trident badge. This hybrid variant still drives and rides like a Maserati although it loses out on aural wizardry for slightly better economy and emissions. But the important thing here is that, it is also a call to the rich and the upper echelon to think about the environment for once, in their lavish escapades.

FUN FACT

The top dog Levante Trofeo makes 598 PS of power and can get up to 304 km/h. Not too shabby at all!

GOOD - Maserati tag; distinctive looks; quick and efficient enough; overall utility

BAD - Aging styling and interior ambience; build quality; price

EDITOR’S RATING - 7/10 stars

SPECIFICATIONS

Body type - 5-seater; 5-door premium compact crossover SUV

Engine - Front-engine; turbocharged 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder + 48V electric motor; all-wheel drive

Transmission - 8-speed automatic

Peak output - 330 bhp @ 5,750 rpm

- 450 Nm @ 2,250 rpm

0 to 100km/h- 6.0 seconds (claimed)

Top speed - 245 km/h (drag limited; estimated)

Fuel economy - 10.3 l/100km (claimed)

Price - Starting at Dh399,000

wknd@khaleejtimes.com



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