Malaysia has seen a Maserati SUV before — the Levante has been available since last year, but only as a diesel-powered offering. Anyone with any interest in motoring performance, then, will surely be much more excited with the new Levante S (RM788,800) with a petrol-powered V6.
To focus solely on the performance of the Levante S, however, would be doing it a disservice. Yes, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 is capable of a blistering 430bhp that far outpaces its diesel counterpart. Yes, going from zero to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds is sports car territory. So is the double-wishbone front suspension, as well as the 50-50 weight distribution and a low centre of gravity. Yes, the all-wheel-drive system heavily favours the rear wheels when on a road.
But if you wanted a sports car, you would get a sports car. However, you would want the Maserati Levante S for when the highway runs out. In addition to all that handling and performance, it is also an uncompromising all-terrain vehicle, tried and tested in snow, desert and jungle. The Q4 intelligent all-wheel-drive system can redirect the maximum 580Nm of available torque to where it is needed, enabling the Levante S to conquer any terrain.
Perhaps even more importantly, it never loses sight of the fact that it is a Maserati, with the exclusivity and luxurious Italian flair that the marque is known for. “I’m very proud of the job they have done," says Amaury La Fonta, General Manager for Maserati South-East Asia Pacific. “The designers have managed to create an SUV which is very attractive, and embodies the characteristics of Maserati design. The engineers have managed to reset the benchmark for the SUV segment."
The aggressively concaved front grille is as present as ever. The vehicle is sizable — it is meant to comfortably carry five, after all — but the sleek lines give it a trim, athletic appearance while maintaining a distinctive but understated demeanour. The GranLusso package elevates the interior opulence to another level, with wood trim and silk upholstery by Ermenegildo Zegna; the latter is a rare alternative to leather in a luxury vehicle. The GranSport package is available for the more the more energetic driver, and includes a black front grille and red brake callipers.
The Levante S, then, is chameleon-like in the way it can suit any situation. Consider the sophisticated air suspension: it can drop down as much as 35mm from the normal for better aerodynamics at high speeds, and lowers 45mm when parked, for easier access. It can raise up to 40mm for the more demanding off-road obstacles. Even the simplest design decisions are thoughtful — the doors, for instance, extend down to cover the sill steps, so after fording a river you could head straight to a gala without worrying about muddying your dress shoes while disembarking.
“It’s a real driver’s car, but it’s not a selfish driving pleasure. You can share it with your family … they will enjoy the amazing design, the feel and touch of the refinements, the engine sound," La Fonta says. The Levante S is truly a go-anywhere, take-anyone, do-anything vehicle — and it is very much a Maserati.