Maserati has introduced a Ferrari-built 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine to the Levante range, though it won't be available in right-hand-drive models until at least next year. It has also introduced a new 3.0-litre 346hp V6 petrol unit (also built by Ferrari), which sits beneath the 424hp version released last year. However, this new entry-level V6 petrol model isn't due until September so for now we've had to 'make do' with a test drive in the 424hp version of the MY19 Levante.
In the metal
The Levante was always a good-looking SUV and Maserati hasn't done much to alter the exterior save for a few cosmetic updates. Base V6 models see no changes, but tweaks have been made to differentiate the GranLusso and GranSport variants.
GranLusso cars now get chrome inserts in the grille, chrome front and rear skid plates, a body-colour rear spoiler and black brake calipers behind 19-inch alloys. GranSport trim now gets piano black inserts in the grille, a sportier looking lower front fascia and rear bumper and red brake calipers behind 20-inch alloys.
Inside, the dashboard is designed around an 8.4-inch touchscreen that features upgraded graphics. Unfortunately, these graphics haven't been upgraded enough and they aren't as glossy as those found in rival cars. The camera resolution isn't as high as one would expect in a such a premium car either. Fortunately, the infotainment system is easy to use and there is Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, alongside Bluetooth and voice control options.
The leather seats are available in black, red, beige and tan, with specific stitching extended to the dashboard. The red leather is surprisingly tasteful and adds some much-needed pizzazz. Without the splash of colour however, the cabin feels a little plain and missing that Italian flair. But, it does have some lovely soft touch, good quality materials.
For me though, the cabin is let down by the switchgear. Sure, those leather seats are beautifully sculpted and comfortable, but the switchgear and infotainment system surround cheapen the place, a little. While it doesn't have an up-market feel that you might expect from luxury Italian goods, it's still a pleasant cabin.
First off, the electrically adjustable seats and steering wheel make it every easy to find a comfortable driving position and visibility is good all around.
The major change for this Levante update is the addition of a redesigned gearshift lever for the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. The driver can now just change from automatic to manual mode by shifting the lever from left to right. And you'll want to select manual a lot more thanks to some lovely-to-use aluminium gearshift paddles at the back of the leather steering wheel. The gearbox is smooth shifting and never seems to miss a beat. It is a lovely thing.
The tweaked gear selector means the drive mode buttons on the centre console have been rearranged to be more intuitive to use. There is an Off-Road button, an I.C.E. (Increased Control and Efficiency) button and a Sport button, as well as a new button that allows the driver to select the Skyhook suspension setting independently of the Sport mode.
The Sport setting quickens the gearshifts and increases throttle response. The Skyhook button stiffens the suspension. This makes it easier to create a personalised balance between comfort and performance, which is needed, as the Levante isn't tuned for comfort.
The chassis is poised and body control is rather decent for such a big machine, but it does bounce about a bit over larger bumps. However, lowering the ride height makes this less noticeable. Selecting Sport mode also lessens the bounce, but the trade-off is a more jittery ride. The steering is nicely weighted though, accurate too, and there is a decent amount of feedback and response overall. Traction is also great thanks to an all-wheel-drive system that uses a mechanical limited-slip differential at the back and torque vectoring.
The V6 engine is smooth and refined when cruising, but put the foot down and it gloriously gurgles and growls. It provides strong performance and never left lacking. Refinement overall is rather good, with wind and tyre noise kept at bay.
What you get for your money
The Levante comes well specced as standard but, as there is no Maserati dealership in the Republic of Ireland, the price skyrockets when imported. With an estimated imported price of €142,000, this is placing it in direct competition with the likes of the Porsche Macan Turbo and Mercedes-AMG GLC, both of which are significantly cheaper to buy and also over €1,000 a year cheaper to tax.
With a powerful Ferrari-built engine and peachy automatic gearbox, the updated Maserati Levante is good to drive and handles well. However, the high cost of importing one, coupled with the high annual tax, means the Levante just doesn't offer as good value for money as most of its rival high-performance SUVs.