FIRST LOOK

Maserati redefines the SUV

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FOLLOWING the lead of countries like the US – and a little closer to home, China – the sport utility vehicle segment in the Philippines is one of the fastest, if not by now the fastest growing part of the automotive market.

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Sailing into the increasing crowded waters of the Philippine SUV market like the Queen Mary arriving at a canoe race is Maserati’s Levante, the Italian automaker’s challenge to the likes of the Porsche Cayenne and the Jaguar F-Pace.

Aggressive yet refined
Based on the same chassis as the Ghibli sedan, the Levante takes elegance to a whole new level. The rounded roof line and slightly raised tail give the impression of a vehicle built for speed, a look that is only further enhanced by the aggressive eight-bar front grill proudly sporting the famous trident badge, and narrow, sharply-angled lamp clusters. Although the stock package comes with 19-inch wheels (265/50 ZR19 tires all around for the Levante, while the sportier Levante S carries 295/45 ZR19 rubber on the rear wheels), the stylishly aggressive package looks better on 20- or 21-inch wheels, an upgrade local dealer Autostrada Motore can provide.

POWER AND THEN SOME
The Levante has three engine options, a 275-hp turbo diesel, or two versions of Ferrari’s power twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6, available in 350- and 430-hp variants. Photos Maserati

As appealing as the Levante is on the outside, the interior is off-the-scale luxury. With two interior options (Sport and Luxury), Levante owners can select from wood, carbon fiber, or Italian interior appointments, including the exclusive Ermenegildo Zegna silk package. The sports car-inspired instrument panel features bright gauges and Maserati’s 8.4 touchscreen infotainment center, available with either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for smooth integration with one’s smartphones or other gadgets. The Levante also offers first-rate audio choices, either Harmon Kardon or the higher-end Bowers & Wilkins package.

Mechanical strength
Three engine options are available for the Levante, two versions of the twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V6 petrol engine built by Ferrari (who provides the power for all Maserati models), one rated for 350 horsepower, and the more powerful 430-hp variant. With the stronger engine under the hood, the Levante can cover 0 to 100 kph 5.2 seconds, with a top speed of 264 kph, according to the manufacturer’s website. For a slightly more economical package, Maserati also offers a 275-hp turbo diesel engine, which generates an impressive 600 Newton-meters of torque while consuming just over seven liters of fuel per 100 kilometers.

All that power is carried to the road by an eight-speed automatic gearbox and Maserati’s intelligent Q4 all-wheel-drive system. The Levante is also equipped with a smart torque vectoring system, which maintains the vehicle’s 50-50 load distribution by directed torque to the wheels that need it most.

LAP OF LUXURY
Fine Italian leather, wood, and carbon fiber are liberally used in the Levante’s spacious, well-appointed interior, which can be ordered with an exclusive silk package by famed design house Ermenegildo Zegna, and equipped with a top-of-the-line Bowers & Wilkins sound system.

And while one might be a little hesitant to take a vehicle this luxurious off the beaten path, Maserati is rather boisterous about the Levante’s off-road capabilities, demonstrating them with great enthusiasm in a number of videos of test drives.

With looks, appointments, and performance near the top of every scale, the Maserati Levante redefines the SUV. The impressive package doesn’t come cheap, however: While up-to-date prices for the 2018 models are best obtained from the dealer, a reliable source put the price tag for the highest-end package – featuring the Zegna interior, 21-inch wheel package, Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and every other option Maserati can throw at it – at about P9.2 million.

BEN KRITZ

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