2019 Maserati Levante GTS Review - Speedy, but Special Enough?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
2019 maserati levante gts review speedy but special enough

One of my longstanding beefs with certain luxury brands that share corporate families with mainstream nameplates is that many of them don’t do enough to differentiate their high-priced metal from what’s on offer further down the ladder.

Count Maserati among that number — at least when it comes to the Levante GTS. While it boasts Italian designer looks on the outside, its connection to “lesser” Fiat Chrysler models is apparent on the inside.

At least speed covers up a lot of sins, and thanks to a Ferrari-sourced 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 that makes 550 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque, the Levante GTS puts the sport in sport-utility.

Too bad that an SUV that costs more than some homes is all too willing to show its Chrysler bones. While even the rich usually have lowly roots, they typically don’t show them.

The driving experience does mask a lot of flaws. It may be an SUV, but it still has some Italian sport-sedan roots. For example, the noises emitted from the exhaust pipes are quite pleasing. Acceleration is properly swift – it’s a shame most of my driving was in urban traffic, and I was unable to truly stretch the Levante’s prodigious legs.

[Get new and used Maserati Levante pricing here!]

Turn into a corner, and the Levante feels planted, though with a tad bit of body roll. You do get precise steering as part of the deal. You don’t forget that the Levante GTS is an SUV, but it’s mostly well behaved on road, with only the body roll really putting a damper on things. The adjustable air suspension is generally up to the task. Some rough shifts from the 8-speed automatic do make the Levante feel a little rough around the edges at times, especially in Sport mode. Paddle shifters do allow you to take over.

All-wheel drive is the only kind of drive, but the power mostly flows to the rear (unless otherwise required).

There’s often a performance penalty to be paid, so to speak, usually in terms of ride. Which, unsurprisingly, is more than a tad on the stiff side. Twenty-two-inch rims no doubt play a part in that dynamic. If you want to look good and drive fast, this is the penalty. The air suspension can help provide comfort in the right mode, but only so much. And yes, it’s stiff in Sport mode. Perhaps too much so for daily maneuvering.

Maserati has tried to put its own stamp on the Levante with items such as an analog clock, unique switches and scripts, and other bits that differentiate it from the lesser models in the Fiat Chrysler portfolio. Still, the infotainment system and other switchgear bear a bit too much resemblance to what’s on offer in cheaper products. Despite the fact that the cabin is mostly different from less-expensive SUVs in the FCA family, there needs to be more of an upmarket feel at this rarefied price point.

Even the nearly three grand in carbon fiber trim isn’t quite enough.

That doesn’t mean comfort is sacrificed. There’s nothing punishing about the Maser’s seats or NVH levels. It’s just that it’s all too clear which parts were pulled from the bin in an attempt to cut costs.

At least the exterior styling is worthy of the storied Italian badge. Yes, the booty is a bit bulbous, but the Levante’s low-slung stance, gently sloping hood, and narrow headlights give it the proper look for a SUV that’s far more concerned about sport.

My test unit based at $120,980. A heated steering wheel, highway assist, Alcantara headliner, and traffic-sign recognition were among the standard features. Leather seats cost $1,490, while the aforementioned carbon-fiber trim cost $2,890. A Maserati logo stitched into the headrests rang another $290.

Four-zone climate control sets you back $1,090, while a kick sensor costs $100. Black DLO costs $400, while those 22’s are an eye-popping $4,000. Yellow-painted brake calipers set you back another $300, a driver-assistance package checks in at $1,590, and a soft-door close costs $590. The Bowers and Wilkins audio system runs $1,990 while the full LED headlamps cost $990. So before D and D – which wasn’t listed on my price sheet – the total is $136,890.

That princely sum snags you an SUV that’s quite fast and handles well for its size; unfortunately, for that price, there needs to be fewer reminders that Maserati is a corporate sibling of Chrysler at this moment in time.

The question is, oh ye of the trust fund, how much flack are you willing to take from your snooty friends for these low-rent parts in exchange for the sound, speed, and cornering on offer here? Does the American influence ruin the Italian heritage?

For some, the performance will make the point moot. For others, well, Maserati has some work to do.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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4 of 30 comments
  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Mar 25, 2020

    Most of Maserati in my area-cars or trucks, the well off counties around NYC exists only for parking lot parity. Most of the buyers could have a Briggs and Stratton under the hood and wouldn't care or notice, unless they didn't buy the electric starter option and had to pull the cord to start it. If all the neighbors and co workers have a Benz GLS, or an Escalade, or X5-7, you need to get this so you win the parking lot game.

    • Add Lightness Add Lightness on Mar 26, 2020

      I like to start a conversation with drivers of this sort of vehicle and ask them a fairly technical question like 'at what RPM does the variable valve timing change or is it not a step but infinitely variable?' At that point you find out if they bought it for the grill medallion or it's wonderful mechanicals.

  • 6250Claimer 6250Claimer on Mar 25, 2020

    Looks lik e Mazda3 except with eye-watering price tag and Italian reliability. What could go wrong?

  • George Who’s winning the UAW strike? Nobody.Who’s losing the UAW strike? Everybody.
  • Zznalg Now, a slam of Subaru. I own an Outback Wilderness. Subaru has capitulated to lawyers and the regulatory environment to render life with their vehicles quite unpleasant. A few cases in point: The vehicles won't allow you to drive one MPH without ALL the seatbelts fastened. You cannot pull a Subaru out of a garage or parking space with no seatbelt without the car screaming at you. First there is the annoying beeping. After a few seconds Subaru ups its game and raised the volume ridiculously. To get it to shut up, I've even had to turn off the car and open a door. It is not enough to put it into park. The beeping continues. I am Not talking about driving without a seatbelt. I'm talking about 1 MPH maneuvers in one's own driveway. Next, the car's auto-breaking is tuned to slow you down or even slam on your brakes at every possible opportunity. The other day, my Wilderness decided to do just that almost resulting in my being rear ended. For NO reason. Next, the Outback Wilderness' transmission is tuned to prevent forward motion. It does its best to NOT GIVE POWER in nearly every situation unless you keep the accelerator depressed for more than 1-3 seconds. This is actually unsafe. In fact at highway speeds, when one presses the gas, the car momentarily reduces power and slows down. The paddle shifters help. But overall, Subaru has so neutered the Outback Wilderness to make a potentially great vehicle quite a drag to own and actually unsafe, in the service seemingly of preventing lawsuits and satisfying the EPA. I know not all of this may apply to the Crosstrek Wilderness but if you test drive one, you would be advised to look for these flaws.
  • Undead Zed I'm not particularly interested in the truck, but do look forward to the puns that the marketing department may try to work into the adverts."Visit your local dealership and go for a Flash drive today."
  • Art_Vandelay UAW leadership always brings up CEO pay. Yet they never bring up that their last deal would likely have been better for membership had they not been on the take from those same CEO's. UAW members have far more beef with their own leadership than senior management of their companies.
  • IH_Fever Another day, more bloviating between the poor downtrodden union leeches and the corporate thieves. But at least pantsuit guy got a nice new shirt.