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Sun 11 Mar 2018 11:38 AM

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Review: Is Maserati's SUV competitive enough?

The car brand is fighting to take its share of the luxury off-road market

Review: Is Maserati's SUV competitive enough?
Maserati was known for its sports sedans before venturing into SUVs

Demand in the luxury SUV market has quickly grown over the past few years, particularly in the Middle East, where customers have shown great interest in the segment.

Brands ranging from Lamborghini to Bentley have rolled out the models, with the exception of Ferrari and Aston Martin, in a bid to profit from the lucrative market. Italian motor house Maserati entered the sector in 2016 with its Levante four wheel drive, which received mixed reviews. We tested out the Levante S model to review its performance ourselves.

Maserati has long been known for its Gran Turismo models, as well as its former glory days in Formula One, so we were initially sceptical of its entry into an otherwise unusual territory for the sports brand.

But its S model stays true to the motor house’s Gran Turismo expertise. It is well equipped with a 2,979cc, twin turbo engine that is capable of 430bhp, and boasts a top speed of 264km/h and an acceleration of 0-100 km/h in 5.2 seconds.

As we made ourselves comfortable in the SUV, we found ourselves at ease, thanks largely to the car’s well-organised dashboard and its aligned pedals. All the commands were easy to reach and activate. We could tell that careful planning was put into the vehicle to provide the driver with a relaxed experience inside a luxurious environment.

We particularly liked the inner materials, and the combination of fine, Italian leathers. One element we would change, however, is the seemingly low-end plastic panels across the car.  On the other hand, visibility was great in the Levante S. We were also happy with the advanced technology offered in the model.

The performance was excellent, and came with the enthusiasm one expects from the Maserati brand, especially considering the model is priced at over $100,000.

The initial roar of the engine as we started the car proved that the sportiness was not taken out of the SUV. Throttle response, engine sound and steering firmness were true and engaging. More importantly, the car behaved very well in traffic, and moved with grace and elegance. Its body was very well controlled. Its front and back end were well connected, even when its full power and torque were engaged.

Steering was precise, despite the fact that there is a quite sensible pitch and roll during braking, acceleration and turns.

The Levante S is fun to drive indeed. That said, we would have preferred the paddle shift to follow the rotation of the steering, instead of being mounted on the steering column; this would have prevented us from taking our hands off the steering wheel during sportier driving.

We also took it off road and appreciated the body control and large amount of traction available at all times. The 25 percent rear limited slip differential combined with an advanced air suspension system guaranteed our safety.

With the Levante S, customers get an elegant five seater with a large cargo facility, a dynamic Gran Turismo and a capable off road car. Is it the best in every way? We are not quite sure, but if you are a fan of Maserati, it is definitely worth trying out.

The Levante S pairs high performance with slick Italian style

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