There is no shortage of thrills in the 2019 Maserati Levante. Part of a growing class of high-performance luxury SUVs, the Levante couples dramatic style with sharp handling and a powerful engine built by Ferrari. It is Italian through and through.
The pricey SUV is a halo vehicle for parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It offers BMW and Porsche buyers an alternative with flair.
Though the 2019 Levante is a statement piece that screams upon arrival through its expressive styling and barking exhaust note, it offers some practicality.
A comfortable interior, helpful infotainment and plenty of space for five passengers are on board. It even has features more commonly associated with off-road vehicles, like advanced all-wheel-drive traction and an adjustable ride height of nearly 11 inches.
Trucks.com tested a 2019 Levante S Gransport, the highest V6-powered trim with performance-inspired exterior design. An available V8 engine and the luxury-focused Gran Lusso styling package are also available. The Levante S provides plenty of muscle without venturing into stratospheric pricing.
The starting price for the 2019 Levante S Gransport is $91,980. The vehicle tested included add-ons such as an advanced safety package, full leather interior and 21-inch wheels. Its final price jumps to $104,835 not including the destination charge.
The Levante is striking. It has a gaping front grille and intakes for gulping air into its engine. An oversize Maserati trident is centered on the grille. A long hood and curved haunches lend the Levante a coiled stance that appears ready to pounce on apexes. Compared with the stately proportions of the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5 M Sport, the Levante feels primed for action.
READY FOR THE ROAD
It takes the same approach to the road. The Levante shares its platform with the rear-wheel drive Ghibli sedan. Its rigid chassis has a low center of gravity for a crossover. The twin-turbocharged 3-liter V6 engine makes 424 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque.
Some components of the engine are made by FCA in the U.S., but it’s designed and built by Ferrari and has the character to match. The V6 delivers forceful bursts of shrieking power. From a stop there is a moment of lag before the turbochargers create pressure and punch the Levante forward – particularly in Sport mode, with its cylinders surging. Pull the large metallic paddle shifters and the eight-speed ZF Friedrichshafen automatic transmission sends the engine crackling through its rev range.
There’s no question the Levante is fun to drive. On Trucks.com’s 140-mile test loop through Southern California, the SUV also displayed a range of other skills. The route typically provides a variety of twisting roads and highway conditions. But on this day relentless rain turned roads in the Cleveland National Forest into raging rivers and debris-filled obstacle courses.
The Levante handled it without issue. Its confident handling and wide Pirelli tires kept the SUV planted around blind corners. Its traction control steered through sharp turns littered with sand and pebbles. Off-road mode raised its standard 8-inch ground clearance to 10.8 inches, which helped the SUV cross rushing streams large enough to send water over the windscreen.
NOT RUGGED, BUT READY
The Levante is not a rugged vehicle, but it does have a litany of tools to help it get you home safely in sticky situations. All-wheel drive is standard on the Levante, and maximum towing capacity nears 6,000 pounds – strong for a crossover. But rear cargo space is lacking. It measures 20.5 cubic feet, which is small compared to the X5, Cayenne and Jaguar F-Pace.
The S trim has flush roof rails for attaching equipment such as bike racks and cargo baskets. One drawback is that outdoor companies like Thule and Yakima do not make fitments for the Levante’s exclusive rail design. Buyers must source these pieces directly from Maserati for the time being.
The Levante measured 18.4 mpg on the 150-mile loop, among the lowest numbers Trucks.com has seen for a crossover on the route. However, it outpaced the vehicle’s rating from the Environmental Protection Agency of 15 mpg in city driving, 21 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in combined driving.
Other practical features include robust engine start-stop technology and an efficient driving mode that calculates additional mileage gained from a light gas pedal. By the end of testing the Levante gained 36.3 miles of use from a full tank, according to its digital display.
Like other vehicles in the FCA portfolio, the Levante’s safety equipment works as well as or better than most competitors’. Blind-spot warning is standard on the 2019 Levante, and the Driver Assistance Pack that costs $1,590 includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist.
Adaptive cruise control, which provides respite to the driver on a long road trip or in traffic, changes speed and reacts to other vehicles adeptly. Combined with the SUV’s supple ride at highway speed, it gives the 2019 Levante S true luxury credentials.
The 2019 Maserati Levante S is not the three-piece suited muscle SUV of its BMW and Porsche counterparts. It has quirks and surprises that may turn off some traditional luxury buyers. The proximity alerts are ear-splittingly loud. Interior buttons and stalks are borrowed from some budget-friendly FCA models. The key-sensing door handles sometimes lock and unlock unpredictably.
The Levante S instead relies on its personality – as a tantalizing crossover with devilish performance and style that is good enough to hide most of its blemishes. Buyers should consider the Levante S if they seek an alternative to staid luxury SUVs and are willing to sacrifice some quality for driving excitement. After all, the chance to romp a Ferrari engine through a flooded river doesn’t come around every day.