2019 Maserati Levante GTS AWD Review

Ferrari power and Fiat cheapness live in semi-harmony


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Mad amounts of power and torque, scintillating engine note, excellent steering and handling, real carbon fiber trim
Negatives: Cheap exterior trim bits, awkward and cheap interior, seriously heavy, the money is in the engine, real carbon fiber trim seems fake.
Bottom Line: If you want a Ferrari-powered V8 monster without the Ferrari price, this is the only way to go. The new V8 in the GTS trim is beastly and will frighten most owners. It's also a hoot to drive. Too bad the interior seems cheap for such a pricey vehicle and some of the trim seems ill-fitted. This is an SUV for those who want to be noticed and are prepared to be arrested.
2019 marks the year Maserati decided to shoehorn in a monster of an engine into their top two Levante trims, the GTS and the Trofeo. In the GTS, it's good for 550 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque, which is 25 less than the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR, but the result here is a vehicle that's 0.3 seconds faster to 60 than the British steed. But these two don't stand alone. There are less expensive high-powered performance SUVs from the likes of BMW and Mercedes, as well as ones from Jeep and Dodge. But there are only three with Italian flavor: the $80K Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, the $200K Lambo Urus, and the Levante. The real questions are, how much coin do you have, how much do you want to stand out, and how fast do you want to be? We drove the Levante in GTS trim for a week to see how special it is in this growing field. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

9.2

 

Nothing that weighs close to 5,000 pounds should be this fast. The Levante's engine drives home the power in a positively authoritative way, and it handles way better than something this size ever should.

Ride Quality: Though the ride is on the firm side, the air suspension keeps things composed regardless of the surface on which you're driving.

Acceleration: 0-60 comes in 4.0 seconds, which is a little slower than the Stelvio Quadrifoglio (3.6 seconds), but your butt won't be able to tell the difference. This thing is a rocket, and both throttle response and transmission downshifts are quick.

Braking: The big Brembo brakes (with blazing yellow calipers) bring the GTS to a stop quickly, and pedal feel/progression are excellent.

Steering: The steering is quick and has plenty of effort. There's a modicum of feedback, as well.

Handling: The suspension has six settings that adjust aerodynamic depending on driving style, and sport mode automatically lowers the vehicle by about half an inch. The RWD-biased AWD system also provides excellent handling.

Technology

6.9

 

It's hard to imagine a performance SUV that costs more than most family incomes with technology that's far from commensurate. Sure, the performance-related tech is great, but the in-car tech is essentially a dressed up Dodge Uconnect system with Maserati graphics. It works fine but needs to feel more special like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi. This is how FCA saves money, and it does show.

Infotainment System: Though we really do enoy using Uconnect in the Dodge/Ram/Jeep vehicles, we're not huge fans of a gussied up version in the Levante. It works fine, but it lacks panache, a bigger screen, and the system just doesn't look particularly special.

Controls: Overall controls are decent, but there's room for improvement. The ignition button is down and left of the steering wheel, making it tough to see and reach. The climate controls are clean an easy to use, as is the infotainment control knob(s) located on the center console.

Styling

8.3

 

No one will say the Levante GTS looks like anything else out there. Though it has a similar shape to the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, the styling elements set it apart. It has a handsome luxury-performance crossover.

Front: The Levante GTS's fascia is menacingly sophisticated with a dose of chrome, the big Trident grille, huge intakes, and angry (and optional) LED headlights. Fog lights are mounted high on face, and they look great.

Rear: The rear looks like it didn't get as much attention as the front. Big round quad pipes are a sporty touch, but the taillights are pulled from the Granturismo, and they're just ok here.

Profile: The side view isn't the Levante's strong suit since it looks a big too chunky in the worng places. The thick C-pillar and the big rear haunch crease don't converge well together, and the non-functional front fender vents are cheap. One fell off when the car was delivered to us. At least the curvature of the hood and the 22" wheels cap things off decently.

Cabin: The interior has some nice touches like a sporty steering wheel and Trident stitched headrests, but it just lacks the luxury of less expensive vehicles like the X5 M and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR. The real carbon fiber, sadly, looks and feels fake. There's also way too much cheap plastic in car that costs more than some condos.

Comfort

7.7

 

The cabin is great for the front seat occupants, but overall comfort for occupants gets compromised by the fact that legroom in the back isn't great. Italian brands, even the pricer ones, still struggle with putting together a truly great interior. The Levante GTS is no exception here.

Front Seats: Big, supportive, and comfortable, the two front occupants get solid creature comforts. We're still amazed there are no cooled seats at this price, though.

Rear Seats: Only the two outboard positions are comfortable since the middle passenger has to sit on a big hump. Legroom is good for most adults, but 6-foot passengers can't sit comfortable behind equally tall front occupants.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The cabin seems solidly built, and we didn't notice any rattles. The predominant noise, thankfully, is the roar of the twin turbo V8. Intoxicating.

Visibility: Visibility out the front and sides is good, but the thick C-pillars ruin things out the back. Thankfully, the rearview camera is there.

Climate: The climate control system is just ok. We wish it blew more cold air during the hot days we had the vehicle. Again, the absence of ventilated seats is very disappointing, especially on black leather.

Safety

5.5

 

The Levante hasn't been tested by either crash-testing entity, but it does come with some safety features. Unfortunately, there's no accident avoidance tech like Automatic Emergency Braking or Lane Keep Assist.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: Rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and a rear parking aid come standard.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

6

 

Don't look to haul a lot of luggage or golf bags in the Levante since it's really about the performance and not the space. Only three golf bags fit in the back, and the cabin is limiting in terms of small item storage.

Storage Space: The armrest is shallow, and there are only a couple of additonal locations to stash your stuff including retractable door cupholders and a small binnacle at the base of the center stack. These were also hard to get open due to poor fitting covers.

Cargo Room: Cargo Volume to with the seats folded flat amounts to 57.4 cubic feet, and with the seats in place, you get a mere 20.5 cubic feet. It's about the same as an Audi SQ5.

Fuel Economy

4.4

 

The twin-turbo V8 is a thirsty sucker, and we expected nothing less. You don't buy this thing for fuel economy or overall practicality, so when you get a 550 hp milll, get ready to pay at the pump. We drove it "enthusiastically", which essentially means "fast all the time".

Observed: 12.8 mpg.

Distance Driven: 48 miles.

Audio

9

 

Our tester was upgraded with the nearly $2K Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system, which was great. It spits out plenty of loud, clear sound with ample bass. It's a system that's worth the upgrade, but only if you don't like the sound of the engine even more (unlikely).



Final Thoughts

It's hard to stomach an almost $140K premium luxury-performance SUV since the only really great thing about it is the engine and the overall performance. Sure, those are great to have, but they can't be the only thing. The Levante GTS looks handsome enough but won't win any beauty pageants. The Stelvio Quad looks better, and even the BMW X5 M is more attractive. Step inside the GTS, and the specialness is even less present with an okay interior that belies the brand. Take away the awesome Ferrari-sourced V8, and you're not left with much. Our money would be on the German steeds that are just as good to drive, look better, and have far better interiors and infotainment.
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