2019 Maserati Levante
by Greg Riley
"Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet"--Roger Miller
Just a few hours ago I returned from the Texas Auto Writers Association Truck Rodeo near Austin, Texas. What a wild ride it's been! I feel like I should insert the video of Stevie Ray Vaughn's Texas Flood here, cause flood it did. Maybe I'll sneak Stevie it in at the end.
I had the opportunity to drive a wide variety of trucks, SUV's, and CUV's over the course of two days. The 2019 Maserati Levante was on hand and I was especially interested to get seat time in it.
Maserati is a 104 year old brand with a storied past, and some of the most beautiful cars of all time to it's credit. The company's tagline is, "Luxury, sports and style cast in exclusive cars," and it's mission statement, "Build ultra-luxury performance automobiles with timeless Italian style, accommodating bespoke interiors, and effortless, signature sounding power."
Those are some lofty statement's, but Maserati has a history of delivering exactly that. Although I must admit the they've also produced some head scratchingly odd designs like the 1979-1990 Maserati Quattroporte III.
This is the same company that produced the iconic Birdcage racers. These cars are some of the most mechanically beautiful every produced, with performance to match.There are countless beautiful Maserati's from nearly every era. But who is the historically typical Maseratista? Well it's someone who think a Rolls is too stuffy, a Ferrari, to unrefined, a Lambo garish, and a Porsche nowhere near exclusive enough...and with plenty of fat stacks to back it up.
Today Maserati's sporting customers are demanding that same exclusvity, but with much more utility and cutting edge tech. Even Rolls Royce and Lamborghini are now in the SUV/CUV segment.
After the Maserati Kubang premiered at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show It wasnt a question of if Maserati would enter the segment, but rather when and with what? That was answered for those of us on the left side of the pond in April 2017 when the Levante went on sale in the U.S.
I can't recall seeing a single Levante on the street, but that is likely becuase I'm hanging out in the wrong zip codes. Sales were 1,916 in 2016, and 5,460 in 2017. I could only locate 90 day of sales date for 2018, but it looks like sales were a bit softer year to date.
There are numerous competitors to the Levante, including it's corporate cousin in FCA's lineup, the 707hp Jeep Grand Cherokee Track Hawk. Not long ago I spent a week with an '18 Track Hawk. It may now be the fairest direct comparison, but it's one I can't help but make. A few years ago who could have imagined a Jeep SUV that can transform from grandma's grocery getter, to snarling beast in an instant all for and msrp of around $93 large??
The Trackhawk will crack of 0-60 times of 3.5 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 180 mph. I spent an entire week with the Track Hawk, but only about 30 minutes with the Maserati. I will be begging for a week with the Maserati as well, but I'm guessing there is a long waiting list of eager journalists.
The Maserati is impressive in many ways. First there is the beautiful noises of the 3.8 litre, Ferrari assembled twin-turbocharged V8 of 550hp and 538 lb/ft of peak torque beginning at a stump-pulling 2,500 rpm. The Maserati is claimed to have 0-60 times of 4 seconds, and impressive top end of 181 mph from a mere 3.8 liters compared to the Jeep's 6.2.
The interior has numerous classic Italian touches like hand stitching. The styling looks fresh and unique enough so that no one will mistake it for a run of the mill SUV. Nope, the Levante looks and sounds like quite something special.
I enjoyed my very brief drive in the Levante. There was way more punch on tap than could be tested on the wet Austin streets, but the wonderful manners and handling were readily apparent. The is an SUV I'd love to take on a lonesome moonlit West-Texas highway, or a cross-country trip such as our annual Amelia Island pilgrimage.
The Levante starts at $119,980 compared to the Jeep's approximately $85k base price. The difference in price gets you what I think is a beautifully styled SUV very much in the spirit of the classic Maserati designs. When you get over $100K price point, I kinda think you've entered the "money is no object" car buying club. As I've pointed out there are numerous other choices but none combine the refined performance, and stylish exclusivity of the Levante.
BTW, I've been resisting the urge to say Avante, Allante, Levante, all night...oops I guess I just did. Now I'll be repeating that in my head for days.
I have several other reports to share over the coming days. Next up will be my favorite of the event the incredibly impressive Volvo XC40 R-Design.
As promised I'll leave you with a little Stevie Ray 😉