Named after a famed Mediterranean wind, the Maserati Levante aims itself squarely at Porche’s Cayenne sports-luxury SUV dominance

by matt Scanlon

Ever since the Maserati brothers (Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo, Ettore, and Ernesto) launched their namesake vehicle manufactury in 1914 in Bologna, Italy, its signature trident logo (based on the Fountain of Neptune in that city’s Piazza Maggiore) has graced cars famed for their racing abilities, In fact, until the grand tourer 3500 GT of 1957, Maserati was devoted almost entirely to one-off racers. The years thereafter have seen several attempts to make mainstream what was once exclusive—with road-ready models like the 5000 GT, the Sebring, the first Quattroporte in 1963, a Ghia-designed Ghibli coupe in 1967, and the infamous Biturbo of the 1980s. Few, however, saw lasting sales success, so when Fiat acquired ownership of the company in 1993, among its most pivotal missions was, at last, making the now Modena, Italy-based maker a brand as suitable for family use as it was for Formula One. The company started this expansion in earnest with the sixth-generation Quattro Porte in 2013, followed by the Ghibli, Gran Turismo, and GranCabrio—resulting in a 40% jump in sales in 2013 alone, and an incredible volume increase of 406% in 2014. The last and arguably most pivotal member of this new family of cars is the Levante, a mid-size luxury crossover SUV, based on the Kubang concept that debuted at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show. Aimed squarely at the Porsche Cayenne, the five-seater, which was released for sale in the U.S. this year, sports a 3-liter V-6 twin turbocharged engine (both 345 hp and 424 hp versions are available) mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Named for a Mediterranean wind, the Levante has stunningly responsive handling for its weight (4,649 lbs.), remarkable throttle response (0-60 in just over 5 seconds), and an interior that cleverly synergizes sportiness and sumptuousness—with its woody and leather accents and expansive tech capabilities, including an eight-inch touchscreen incorporating Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The smaller engine model starts at $73,000.

Maserati of Central New Jersey 816 US-1, Edison / 732.593.2600