The Levante Is Maserati's Perplexing Addition to the Performance Crossover Market


With all those Porsche Mecans and Jaguar F-Paces out there, Maserati's SUV goes up against some stiff competition.

For some crazy reason, Maserati decided to only offer the Levante with a single-turbo 3.0-liter diesel engine in the United Kingdom. With just 275 horsepower and a noise that only gets worse on a cold winter morning, Maserati's SUV certainly starts with a handicap over there. Luckily, America got it with 420 horses and a soundtrack worthy of the badge.

Still, after being left with no other options, British motoring journalist Harry Metcalfe wanted to find out what Maserati's first SUV can offer-if you get past the constant reminder of having a diesel.

The Levante is all about the driving experience, offering perfect weight distribution, a low center of gravity and a rear-biased all-wheel drive system as standard. In fact, the Q4 drivetrain sends all of the power to the rear as long as there's no slip, and it won't ever direct more than half of the torque to the front axle. As a result of that, and the limited-slip differential at the rear, the Levante won't understeer like your average all-wheel drive SUV. The air suspension also provides a great ride and decent ground clearance on demand, although you better turn off the parking sensors (via a ceiling-mounted switch, how Italian) before heading off road.

This raised up Ghibli also features an automated shutter for its radiator (like an old two-stroke Saab!), frameless doors, aluminum body panels and a very tight footwell in true Italian fashion. The problem is that despite all the effort, it still weighs almost 5000 lbs., making it significantly heavier than its rivals.

Maserati needs the Levante to sell. But is it pretty enough to make you forget about its shortcomings?