Alfieri Maserati might be spinning in his grave at news that the sports car firm he co-founded in 1914 has started making SUVs. Luckily the Maserati Levante, launched last year, more than does justice to the marque in terms of appearance, performance and comfort. However, until now UK buyers have had to settle for the diesel-engined option, which, while undeniably swift and surprisingly frugal, rather lacks the outright thrust and mellifluous exhaust note that Trident fans have come to expect.
This September sees the arrival in Britain of the decidedly exciting petrol-powered S model (from £70,755, available to order now), which packs a three-litre Ferrari engine producing a useful 430 horsepower and putting the Levante into the same territory occupied by existing high-performance SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and the Range Rover Sport SVR.
The Levante also has the lowest centre of gravity in its class, Maserati says, and, unusually for an SUV, almost perfect 50-50 weight distribution between front and rear – which should enable the considerable extra power of the 164mph petrol-engined S model to be exploited to the full on tarmac. Its Q4 all-wheel-drive Active Air Suspension, meanwhile, with five ride-height options, means it can also handle light-to-medium off-roading.
On that note, the marque makes no claim to the Levante being designed for crossing deserts or penetrating jungles. Instead it calls it the “Maserati of SUVs”, ie a good-looking, luxuriously appointed load-lugger that’s as at home in the city as it is on the motorway or travelling between pegs and lunch on a game shoot.
And if your Levante is more likely to be used for transporting people who dress to impress, rather than those sporting rain-soaked shooting kit, the standard leather interior can be enhanced with Mulberry Silk upholstery supplied by Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna.