Following Maserati’s announcement that the 2017 Maserati Levante will be released this coming fall, some of the other luxury car companies that produce high-end crossover SUVs might be shaking in their knickers — and I don’t blame them. The ones who aren’t scared? They are going to get a slap of reality when the Levante begins climbing the sales charts. At that point though, it will already be too late. Even with a price tag that’s just as legendary as the company, I predict the new Maserati Levante is going to dominate the competition, for a couple of compelling reasons.
Reason one: its design looks like Maserati disinterred the body of the best Greek artificer, resurrected him from the dead, and then commanded him to use a magical chisel and hammer to create it. In other words, it’s flawless, and perhaps the best-performing crossover SUV design out there.
Secondly: it has performance capabilities that are going to give the other crossovers a run for their money. Like a 0-60 mph time that makes some performance sedans on the market jealous, along with off-road capability that approaches Jeep’s status – minus the rock-crawling. Don’t worry Jeepers, you’re still cornering the market on that aspect…
Flawless design and competitive performance are the two main reasons the new Levante will send the competition running for the hills. And I’m not even getting into the unparalleled levels of luxury, technological innovation, and supreme quality that will be experienced when drivers languidly slip between the steering wheel and driver seat.
Best-in-Class Performance-Oriented Design. Is That a Thing? It is Now…
If there were such a title, the Levante would win it, and likely keep it for a very long time. When I said flawless, I really meant flawless. There is nothing wrong with this design, absolutely nothing. If you think there is, then get ready to turn beet red as you read some of the facts about it. While it would be so easy to go off on a creative tangent about how beautiful and fantastic the design looks, it’s more important to use the white space to tell you how this vehicle has been designed for performance perfection.
This vehicle was designed with one thing in mind and one thing only: to be an apex predator with a roaring engine and perfect form to chase down the weaker crossovers on the road.
Levante Up Top, Ghibli Below
In order to banish the brutal and slightly comical images I just put into your head of the Levante tearing cars apart like a majestic cheetah, let’s review some facts about this marvelous creation. First, it’s important to note a lot of the Levante’s design success is because it’s sitting on the Ghibli’s platform. For those living under a rock these past ten years, the Ghibli is one of Maserati’s most successful — and very fast — performance-luxury vehicles. Even at ground-level, the Levante was bred to have sports car-like performance. In particular, this should give the Levante some of that best-in-class on-road handling that its sedan brethren are known for, along with best-in-class-like handling on snow and ice. Combine this with the Levante’s off-road ready design, and you’ve got a crossover that can hunt prey on and off the road with ease.
The Levante also has an electronically controlled air suspension, which is obviously borrowed from the Ghibli, complete with air springs and Skyhook shock absorbers, a double wishbone in the front, and a five-link setup out back. In order to provide even better handling, the steering is hydraulic, and has speed-sensitive power assistance. If you don’t understand that technical jargon, all you need to know is this suspension is the perfect setup for a performance focused crossover that is looking to go on and off the road.
A mechanical limited-slip rear differential is added on the suspension in the back, along with the Levante’s rear-based Q4 Intelligent AWD system. This is an electronically controlled system, and has sensors monitoring things like wheel speed, steering, engine output, etc., so it can send power to the front axle almost instantly, giving you on demand AWD.
So, even if you are surprised by hazardous road conditions, the Q4 system will provide you with instant AWD performance on or off the road.
Why the Design is Flawless
The Levante weighs in at 4,650 pounds. Thanks to a perfect 50/50 distribution of the weight in the front and back though, it doesn’t even feel it. This 50/50 split not only helps with the on-road performance, but when going off-road as well. Complimenting this 50/50 split, the roofline is cut really low. This assists with aerodynamics, but also lowers the center of gravity — the Levante has the lowest center of gravity in the class. Having such a low center of gravity means it’s going to hug the road better than the rest of the competition, and a perfect weight distribution will ensure optimal NASCAR-like handling.
With a Ghibli platform, perfect weight distribution, that coveted 50/50 weight distribution, and damn good looks, the Levante is a crossover SUV that has a truly flawless design.
Just as Fast as a Performance Sedan (Almost)
The engine that powers this vehicle down the road is a gas-powered V6 twin-turbo-direct injection engine that comes with two levels of power. While the 350 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque variant will provide mediocre (by performance crossover SUV standards) speed and acceleration, the 430 horsepower and 427 lb-ft of torque engine will give you superb acceleration. The 0-60 mph time of a Levante clocks in at a blazing 5.1 seconds, which is only 0.4 seconds slower than the Ghibli S’s 0-60 mph time.
There might be some luxury performance crossover SUVs out there that have more ponies and torque under the hood, but there are none that can touch the Levante overall. When you combine its stellar handling, perfectly balanced weight, surprisingly good off-road capability, and sedan-like performance, the 2017 Maserati Levante truly shines, which is why it’s going to dominate the competition when it hits the market this coming fall.