The Maserati SUV was now five years old and had become a lynchpin in the Trident’s lineup and balance sheet. It had quickly become Maserati’s bestseller around the world. But, by comparison to the big German brands, their sales were miniscule. While the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE Class were shifting 5,000 units a month, in the US alone, the Maserati Levante was averaging just 200 units.
Though these Teutonic autobahn rockets came in a cornucopia of trims and setups with performance numbers and specs ranking higher than the Italian SUV, this was missing the point of what the Maserati Levante delivered. If you prefer ruthless efficiency encased in an amorphous shell, touched off with elegant blandness, then the Trident is not for you.
If possessing a piece of motoring exclusivity that is designed, built and driven unlike any other, then the Levante is perfect for you. An alluring SUV shell covering the heart of a high-performance sports car dressed up with sumptuous interior leather and exotic hard surfaces that are customized to the point of making every vehicle unique. This is Italian panache and the height of automotive cachet.
The 2021 Maserati Levante came in a variety of powertrains and trims. The Base and S models were fitted with a V6 twin turbocharged Ferrari engine while the GTS & Trofeo came with the bigger V8 twin turbo engine from the Prancing Horse. The Base and S models could be enhanced with a better trim which included the GranLusso, that emphasized the luxury aspect, while the GranSport pumped up the racier tone of the Maserati.
For the Base Maserati Levante 2021, the V6 twin turbo Ferrari engine produced 345 bhp at 5,750 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. This gave the entry level Levante acceleration of 0-60 mph in 6.0 seconds and a top speed of 156 mph. The S model took more power from the V6 so it achieved 424 bhp at 5,750 rpm and 428 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. This made the vehicle faster with the 0-60 mph dash completed in 5.2 seconds and hitting a top speed of 164 mph.
As expected, the V8 models were on a different level. The GTS generated 550 bhp at 6,250 rpm and 538 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. This saw the GTS finishing the 0-60 mph sprint in just 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 181 mph. But the ultra high-speed Trofeo made the best figures with 590 bhp at 6,250 rpm and 538 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. This produced electrifying speed and acceleration, with 0-60 mph in a mere 3.9 seconds and hitting a blistering 189 mph.
With every model the sonorous engine note bursts from under the hood and out of the back of the quad tailpipes every time revs are applied to the throttle. No other SUV comes near to offering the same thrilling engine growl as the Maserati Levante.
But all this power comes at a premium as fuel economy is not one of their priorities. Across the lineup, their city numbers are between 14-15 mpg while on the highway it reaches 18-21 mpg.
Though not available within North America, the 2021 Maserati Levante also had two other powertrain options – diesel and hybrid.
The 3.0 liter turbo V6 Diesel engine was designed and built with the help of Paolo Martinelli to ensure the best performance possible. Snr Martinelli had been behind Michael Schumacher’s continued success in F1, as he oversaw all the V10 engines for the Scuderia Ferrari Racing Team. The engine performed pretty well, considering its lumbering diesel background, as it made 271 bhp at 4,000 rpm and 443 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. This diesel SUV accelerated from 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds and hit a top speed of 143 mph.
New to the Maserati Levante 2021 was the introduction of a hybrid engine. Although not as comprehensive as other hybrids on the market as it uses a mild-hybrid setup. The 2.0 liter turbocharged gas engine powered with a 48 volt “e-booster” battery provides 325 bhp at 5,750 rpm and 332 lb-ft or torque at 4,000 rpm. Performance was reasonable with acceleration from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds and making a top speed of 156 mph.
Coursing through Maserati’s blood is speed and precision driving and the 2021 Maserati Levante is no different. Despite the SUV weighing over 4,600 lbs. and over 16 feet long, it hugs the roads and drives like a roadster half its size. Regarded as being one of the best driving experiences in its class, steering is immediate and accurate.
Either speeding along straightaways or attacking corners at speed, the handling is near perfect. With little over or understeer, the precise 50/50 weight distribution ratio ensures the vehicle’s great balance on the road. This is augmented by the wide and staggered tires that grip the tarmac, as if riding on rails, as well as several driver assist systems. With the installation of stability and traction control as well as anti-lock brakes, even an inexperienced driver can attack road conditions with confidence.
All models of the 2021 Maserati Levante come with the same eight-speed automatic transmission from the German, ZF, manufacturer. This gearbox offers several driving modes: Normal, Sport, Off-Road, ICE & Manual.
When trundling around town, the ‘Normal’ mode provides a quiet and tame beast under the hood as the SUV runs compliantly. This can be enhanced if the ICE (Increased Control & Efficiency) is engaged which subdues the engine and transmission to increase the fuel economy.
To enjoy the thrill of the Ferrari engine, switch to ‘Sport’ mode and the Maserati comes alive. The throttle gets livened up and the shift changes occur faster as well as the rev counts being pushed higher. The exhaust valves are bypassed to allow more of the Ferrari growl to erupt from the SUV. If ‘Sport’ is pressed a second time then the adaptive suspension is lowered and becomes firmer in anticipation of some hardcore driving.
Sliding the (new improved) gear stick across and the transmission enters ‘Manual’ mode where the driver now has complete control over the shift changes. By flipping the gear stick up and down or via the shift paddles situated on the steering column, gear changes are completed instantly.
When heading off the paved roads, the Maserati Levante uses the ‘Off-Road’ mode which raises the ground clearance up to almost 10 inches.
‘Skyhook’ is the adaptive suspension system that is installed on all of the 2021 Maserati Levante models. As well as adjusting intuitively to all road and driving conditions, it also has five height levels for the various modes desired by the driver.
Whether riding over bumpy roads or tearing through tight bends at speed, the suspension always maintains a smooth position and minimizing body roll.
‘Skyhook’ has two lower settings for when it is assisting in entry or loading situations or lower still for a sportier profile. While there are two higher settings for off-road driving scenarios.
Maserati prides itself in offering a symphony of luxury trims that are only limited by our own imagination. The cabin seats five quite comfortably and the front and main rear seats are especially well padded and enveloped in the finest leather.
Poltrona Frau provides the smoothest cowhides and they reserve their best for just Ferrari and Maserati. This leather is also spread over the dash, central panel and doors. A multitude of colored thread is available for the hand stitching and piping to complement the look.
Depending on the model bought, the 2021 Maserati Levante interior is fitted with hard surface veneers in piano-black plastic, several choices of wood, titanium or carbon fiber.
The distinctive and sensual body curves of the exterior are awash in a palette of color choices. The iconic front grille and side vents also come in various accents and trim. Alloy wheels are available in 18-22 inches with colored Brembo brake calipers.
The 2021 Maserati Levante has had its Infotainment system tweaked to speed up its responsiveness even more. The 8.4-inch touchscreen access all the interior controls that include: sat nav, satellite radio, MP3 player (via USB ports) and connectivity through Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The audio system is available in three setups: Base standard is the Harman Kardon 280 watt eight-speakers, the next level is the same system with a 900 watt 14-speaker layout. Top of the range is the 17-speaker surround sound system from Bowers & Wilkins.
Compared with its rivals, the pricing for the 2021 Maserati Levante is quite high. The Base Levante begins at $78,290 but adding either the GranLusso or GranSport package adds another $6,000 to the price. While the Levante S costs $89,290 and another $6,000 for the package upgrades. The v8’s raise the value even more, with the Levante GTS retailing at $125,890 and the top of the range Levante Trofeo hitting $153,090, one of the most expensive luxury SUVs out there.
This slice of Italian cachet will not be available to everyone, but only those who truly thrill at being behind the wheel of an iconic Italian automobile. For those who seek passion and enjoyment when they go out on the road, this is the car for you.