Has it really been 12 years since we first saw the Kubang?

No, it’s been 13 years. Your maths stinks. But yes, it’s been a very long time indeed for this Levante to come into fruition. But then again, these things take time see. And since this is Maserati we’re talking about and not Mazda it takes even longer because, believe it or not, there were a lot of people against such a vehicle being built by them in the first place. You didn’t really expect the Kubang to go into production right away did you?

 

Ummm…

How could you?! Maserati makes sportscars and sports saloons. It has a rich racing history and strict tradition and values to uphold and doesn’t care about big family haulers… Er, well, it didn’t. I guess nothing is sacred anymore.

 

Ok, get a grip, it’s here now. What do you think of it?

Well, it looks pretty good I must say. It really stands out from all the others in the segment and could be the first SUV that I’d say is ‘handsome’. I might have said that before actually but it doesn’t really look like an SUV, it’s more like a big hatchback. The front end is especially eye-catching, the profile is muscular and the quad exhausts around the back hint at the power it’s packing.

 

Wasn’t this originally supposed to have a V8?

It still might someday but for now, we have a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 that makes a very healthy 430 horsepower and 580Nm of torque. The engine and eight-speed automatic are both terrific in this thing; it’s very quick - and comfortable and luxurious too. But then again so is the Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X5/X6. But, the Maser has that exclusivity factor about it. You won’t see too many of these on street corners – although Maserati hopes you will…

 

You’ve lost me…

Remember, they want to sell 75,000 cars a year – and since the SUV segment is seemingly the be all and end all in the automotive world right now, the Levante should make up a large chunk of sales.

 

Aha. Well, it will if it’s good. Is it?

It’s very good. It has a Ferrari-built engine for one and most people wouldn’t even need a second point because that first one is so good. But, it also has variable-height air springs and adaptive dampers that make for an excellent ride, it has a smart cabin and it sounds good too, you know, like Maser’s are known for. But, the steering wheel is a little too big for my liking and also, when I drove it at night and had the AC on the windshield steamed up really bad and I couldn’t see very well because of that…

 

Stop moaning and tell me more about the ride…

It does well to hide the fact that this is a heavy SUV thanks to its excellent dynamics (it has the same Q4 all-wheel drive system as the Ghibli and a sporty and engaging character) but if you push it too hard in the corners, you are reminded that this is a SUV and not a saloon. But in the straights, it does feel like a saloon, a über fast one at that too what with its ability to hit 100kph from rest in just 5.2 seconds. On the highway, it’s quiet and composed but the large infotainment touchscreen blinded me at night it was so bright.

 

Still moaning. Anything else you didn’t like?

Umm, yes. Even though the cabin is really luxurious, I couldn’t help but feel that it was too chunky; the seats for instance are like massive armchairs and even though I had them adjusted to their lowest setting, my head still felt a little too close to the roof…

 

Haha, big head…

Maybe I need a haircut.

 

There’s not much left to cut. Anyway, what do you like best about it?

There are loads of highlights – the engine and transmission for one, the attractive looks, the soundtrack and heck, it even has frameless doors! I like the Levante but I am not 100 per cent convinced by it yet and still feel the Germans do SUVs the best. Can I keep it for a month and then give you a proper verdict?

 

Nice try.

I thought so too.