The Maserati Levante is a midsize crossover that plays at the top-end of the luxury automotive marketplace. It was introduced in 2016 and shares some components with other Maserati vehicles as well as some bits from corporate cousin FCA vehicles. The Levante seats five and comes standard with all-wheel drive. The Levante has a 118.3-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 197.6 inches, whereas the Jeep Grand Cherokee has a 114.7-inch wheelbase and is and 189.8 inches long overall. Competitors include the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, BMW X5, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90. The biggest change for 2019 is the addition of V8-power GTS and Trofeo models.
The Levante lineup includes base, S, GTS and Trofeo. The base and S get a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. In the base it makes 345 horsepower and in the S it makes 424 horsepower. The GTS and Trofeo get a turbocharged 3.8-liter V8. It makes 550 horsepower in the GTS and 590 horsepower in the Trofeo. All engines mate to an 8-speed automatic with driver-selectable manual mode. When properly equipped the Levante can tow a 6000 braked trailer.
In addition to adding the V8-powered GTS and Trofeo, changes for 2019 include additional interior and exterior trim choices, updated infotainment system, and a revised power steering system. Prices range from $76,980 on the base to $169,980 on the Trofeo.
GranLusso and GranSport option packages are available for the base and S. GranLusso adds luxury features, such as premium leather, and the GranSport adds sporty features, such as shift paddles. The new-for-2019 Levante GTS and Trofeo trims blend most of the same features of the GranLusso and GranSport packages, and follow a similar logic: the GTS leans more luxury while the Trofeo leans a bit more sport. Subtle differences include the Trofeo's carbon fiber trim (compared to the GTS's piano black trim), adaptive full LED headlights, and high-performance tires, for example. All models are quite customizable with bespoke interior and exterior trim.
Until this year, all Levante models were powered by a Ferrari-designed, FCA built twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6. Deserving more respect that it received, the V6 is quite a capable and offers plenty of punch -- both off the line and in passing situations. Most testers peg the 0 to 60 MPH time at touch more than 5 seconds. That's pretty quick, even among luxury crossovers.
Hoping to address the respect issue, Maserati has added a fire-breathing, honest-to-goodness, Ferrari designed-and-built turbocharged V8 to the mix. Offering either 542 or 582 horsepower, depending on trim, the new V8 completely changes the game. It adds the panache buyers in this class expect and more than addresses any power concerns not met with the turbo V6. The 0 to 60 MPH time drops to about 3.5 seconds and a quarter mile trip takes just 12 seconds. More importantly, the engine makes the right sounds when the driver's right foot goes to the floor.
Both engines seamlessly integrate with the smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic. For 2019 It gets a new shift lever that's greatly simplified and somewhat similar to the shifters found in BMW models. The standard all-wheel-drive system defaults to rear-drive mode 90-percent of the time. Power is only transferred forward when the rear wheels slip. It is not meant for off-road use.
While the new V8 might do wonders for the Levante's street cred, it's a pain at the pump. EPA numbers of 14 MPG city and 18 MPG highway don't impress. (However, The V6 numbers of 15/21 MPG aren't much better.) As is the case with most vehicles in the class, both engines require premium-grade fuel. In routine suburban commuting expect to average about 17 MPG overall, and that's with some relaxed highway cruising.
When hustling around bends or traversing twisty roads, it is easy to forget the Levante is a 5,100-pound crossover. The GTS and Trofeo have a driver-adjustable sport suspension that's extremely capable, but also provides enough compliance, when set to comfort, to deal with Chicago's frost-heaved pavement. Another welcome change for 2019 is the introduction of electric-assist power steering. The system is a delight to use and does a great job of transmitting road feel without dulling the driving experience. Brakes have ample stopping power and an easy-to-modulate pedal. Overall the Levante is one of the most rewarding midsize crossovers to drive, especially in GTS or Trofeo trim.
Interior noise levels aren't as hushed as you might find in a Lexus or Infiniti, but they are still very low and stay low as speed increases. The V6 emits a refined growl in acceleration, while the V8 positively snarls, in a refined way. Put it this way, with a simple stab of your right foot, you can both scare and impress passengers.
From behind the wheel, Levante is a mixed bag. Materials, for the most part, impress with a quality and upscale appearance. The open-weave carbon fiber on the V8 models is especially impressive. Still, there are a few bits from the FCA parts bin, that, while wholly acceptable, remind you of say, a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Like all Maserati products, the Levante can be customized to a buyer's taste. That's a level of luxury you won't find in a BMW or Jaguar.
The dash layout is familiar and, thankfully, not overly complicated. Drivers face a twin analog dials that surround a programmable center display. The center stack is dominated by a large touch screen for the infotainment system and separate, straightforward climate-control buttons. The center console has a few buttons for drive mode and suspension settings and a jog dial that can help with infotainment settings.
The impressively padded seats offer great comfort and loads of support -- a few other luxury brands could take a lesson from Maserati in seat design. Head and leg room are good, but not ample as large adults might want a bit more stretch-out space. The inviting rear seats are nicely trimmed and offer adult-size room. Three can fit in a pinch, but that crowds everyone. Entry/exit is a snap thanks to oversized door openings. It's interesting to note that the Levante has frameless door windows. That's common on convertibles, but not on crossovers. Either way, it's not a bother and does add to the premium feel. Outward visibility is fine forward but obstructed to the rear because of thick roof pillars and a smallish rear window.
Levante's maximum cargo capacity comes up short when compared to others in the class. Still, the 20 cubic feet behind the rear seats is about average for a smaller midsize crossover. The real disappointment is in-cabin storage. There's scant room in the center console bin and glove box and map pockets are quite small.
Bottom Line -- For Maserati, emotion fuels the buy and the Levante positively oozes emotion. Minor enhancements for 2019 to the steering and suspension benefit all models and pit Levante head-to-head with competitors like the BMW X5, Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Cayenne. The sumptuous Ferrari-built V8 adds an aura of respect that's not matched by competitors and gives the Levante an advantage, despite its high price point. Typically in this class you see compromises, and, in this case, the Levante trades cargo space and fuel economy for performance. For most premium-luxury buyers that's an acceptable trade. Prices are steep, but you can be sure the Levante gets respect -- especially when you blip the throttle on the V8.