Maserati’s Levante launched to positive reviews in 2016, but sales have slowed in recent months, prompting the company to temporarily halt production of the SUV at the end of last year. Perhaps triggered by lacklustre demand, the trident marque has already rolled out a refreshed 2019 model that scores a few tweaks — but no significant mechanical changes — to resuscitate buyer interest.
The MY2019 Levante range will also include brand-new V8 spearheads (available in GTS and Trofeo flavours) but we’ll get to sample those later. For now, we only get to punt the updated V6 models across a selection of narrow English country lanes and highways as part of the vehicle’s international launch program. The drive was punctuated by an extended visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the new Levante made its first appearance in front of a mass audience with a series of runs in the hillclimb, which is the centrepiece of the four-day event.
So, what are the changes vis-à-vis the oldie? You could easily blink and miss them but look closely and you’ll notice the side air intakes in the front fascia of the Levante Gran Sport are more aggressively profiled. They now feature aerodynamic wings at their outer edges and these, in the words of Maserati, “visually push the weight of the car’s nose towards the massive front wheels”. The company claims the side bezel blades and the new splitter also help improve aero efficiency.
You may also like: Exclusive chat with Maserati boss
The rear end has also been fettled to add visual muscularity via a sharper horizontal element and lower extractor that encases the exhaust tips. In addition to its sportier bumpers, the Gran Sport version is also discernible from the luxury-focused Gran Lusso by its front and rear gloss-black inserts, Gran Sport badges on the front fenders, red brake calipers and 20-inch Nereo wheels.
In contrast, the Gran Lusso features chrome inserts in the front fascia, chrome front/rear skid plates, a body-coloured rear spoiler, black-painted brake calipers, 19-inch Zefiro alloy wheels and GranLusso badges on the fenders.
Both models are now offered with adaptive full LED Matrix headlights that work in conjunction with a digital camera mounted behind the rear-view mirror that supports the Glare-free High Beam detection system. This creates light ‘tunnels’ by deactivating individual LEDs so that you can leave the high beam on all the time without dazzling oncoming vehicles. Maserati claims the LED lights offer 20 per cent better visibility and last twice as long as Bi-Xenon lamps. What’s more, the full LED headlights illuminate the road as far as 195 metres ahead — 55 metres further than equivalent Bi-Xenon lights.
Inside, the MY2019 Levante scores a mildly tweaked infotainment system with improved display graphics and easier-to-use climate-control functions. Handily, the button that deactivates the Start-Stop function can now be dragged and dropped on the main screen so you can access it in every menu.
You may also like: Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio: Ain’t no mountain high enough
What’s unchanged is the fruity 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, which in ‘S’ models punches out 424bhp at 5,750rpm and a robust 580Nm of twisting force that’s on tap from 1,750 to 4,750rpm. As reflected by these numbers, the blown V6 is an immensely flexible engine that doesn’t need to be thrashed to extract its best. But, should you flatten the throttle from standstill, you’ll see 100kph flash past in 5.2sec. Not bad for a large, luxo-laden SUV. Top whack is 264kph. Sufficient, in other words.
We already knew the Levante was a fast, capable and engaging SUV to pedal, and nothing has changed on that front. It makes short work of whatever roads you point it at, making some nice noises in the process. The torque-vectoring function has been further sharpened in the latest model, boosting its agility in corners by channelling added drive to the outer wheels to help it turn in.
There’s no doubting the refreshed Levante’s Latin charms and upgraded refinement, even if it can’t match the outright dynamic capabilities of the latest Porsche Cayenne. It’s a worthy premium SUV, but time will tell whether this is reflected by rejuvenated sales.