Walk out into any parking lot, toss a key fob in any direction and you’ll like hit a compact SUV. They’re a dime a dozen on today’s roads. But try finding one that’s genuinely good looking…well, you’ll be in that parking lot for a while. Barring the beautiful, elegantly simple Jaguar F-Pace, the only argument compact SUVs can make is practicality of space — they don’t take up much of it, yet provide a relatively decent amount of room inside. This is the fastest growing market and is only getting bigger, and with the launch of the new Levante, Maserati is bringing some sprezzatura into the fold.
Although the Levante comes in two base flavors (standard and ‘S’), money would be better spent going for the base model and optioning to taste. Both models come with the same 3.0-liter Twin turbo V6, only the ‘S’ just tuned to 424 horsepower. But after carving through Upstate New York highways and around Bear Mountain, the 345hp of the base model gets the job done.
Aside from the Levante’s head turning design, its strongest suit is its interior, and the reason you should consider it at all. Spring for the Zenga Luxury Package and you’ll find four men’s suits-worth of Zenga silk tastefully dispersed on the seat backs, door trim and ceiling. With all the leather, suede and brushed aluminum complimenting the Italian silk, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to living in a custom suit. But, ironically, the interior is also where the Levante tries to hide the chinks in its finely tailored armor.
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive
Torque: 369/428 lb-ft
0-60: 5.8/5.0 seconds
MSRP: $72,000 (starting)
At first glance, the Levante’s cabin is mouth watering. The incredibly creamy leather and lambs ear-soft suede promise the luxury you’d expect from a $75,000 Maserati. But after a few miles worth of using the switch gear and visually exploring the cockpit, you come across the plastic steering wheel stalk switches, the same you’d see in any Fiat or Dodge (Maserati’s corporate siblings). Then there’s a healthy dose textured plastic trim just to the side of all the seats. It may be nitpicking at this point, but when the selling point is ultimate luxury the experience should be continuous, and even the tiniest of details can burst that bubble. When you’re watching a film in a dark theater, you’re somewhere else entirely — it’s not until they turn the lights on that you snap back to reality. Luxury shouldn’t take commercial breaks. It should begin and end with me opening and closing the door.
Are the disappointing plastic accents a deal breaker though? No. The knee-weakening exhaust note and warm embrace of those leather bucket seats are too damn addictive. After all, even the best made suits can have a lose thread here and there.