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Maserati Levante – Natural Habitat

Virtually the moment that Winger Maserati handed me the keys to their new Lavante in their ultra posh showroom in Auckland the heavens opened up outside and not in a good way. Rain had been forecasted (but not to this extent) and I had no way of altering the booking date – why would I want to? Anyway, I wasn’t worried, it was summer after all and I had been given the keys for a few days –  How long would the rain last? As luck would have it (bad luck mainly) the rain lasted for the entire time I had possession of the Trident keyfob – Damn.

Was it really bad luck? On the plus side, I had already been over to Australia and put this SUV to the test both on the track and off road, I had played with the sports mode and lowered it to the ground and pushed it off the beaten track in its elevated position, so giving it a ‘real world’ natural habitat trial for a few days was going to really round out my experience with this SUV – see how much of a glass is half full type of guy I am.

As normal, the moment there is a downpour the traffic on the motorway comes to a standstill. Nose to tails, breakdowns and general crappy drivers all there to ensure that my usual twenty minute commute became an hour long stop and crawl nightmare – still, I was in a Maserati Levante how bad could it be?

Breathing in the deep scent from the saddle brown leather was an easy way to remove my mind from the hustle and bustle of the traffic however I discovered that the Levante in Sports mode does not handle this low speed, start/stop driving at all well – which in many ways I’m pleased about. My goto driving mode selection for the Levante (or any Maserati for that matter) is Sports (with all that engine note change, lower suspension ride height and increased throttle and steering response rates) it’s great for open road freedom but it shouldn’t work at low speeds – and it doesn’t, not well anyway. You spend an inordinate amount of time nodding to other drivers as the Levante rocks back and forth, it’s not pretty. So I thought about pushing the off road button and chancing my arm through the suburban gardens but quickly poo pooed this as a bad idea for countless reasons and settled for ICE mode (Increased Control and Efficiency). ICE takes all (well a lot) of the aggression out of throttle and steering inputs, it balances out the ride and increases fuel economy – all the stuff I wouldn’t normally care about – but in heavy, and I mean heavy traffic it’s a life (and sanity) saver. The commute returned to the luxurious ride as advertised and I settled back and listened to my fave tunes and soaked in the ambiance (while the exterior soaked in the rain).

The Levante beeps quite a bit around town, Okay actually the Levante beeps A LOT around town. It lets you know that there are cars in the lane beside you (so you don’t move into them), It beeps when you cross (or go near white lane lines), It beeps when you’re reversing, it beeps when vehicles cross behind you, it beeps when you’re parking – it’s obviously keen to ensure that you keep it in one piece and don’t scratch it (and in turn keeps you safe) but it does give off the feeling that it’s a bit neurotic or has severe bouts of paranoia. This whole effect is amplified further still when you decide to take it to a city carpark – the beeping goes off the scale. Evidently the walls, other cars and even the ramp are all out to ‘GET’ the sizeable SUV. It’s both terrifying and reassuring (I didn’t want to scratch it either). Of course as you get to know the Levante better (in size and spacial awareness) you can tone down some of the alerts, maybe even risk switching some off…but with everything on it’s exhausting.

It really does perform domestic duties with aplomb and real Italian style – rear luggage space (over 566 Litres) is more than enough for most things and I particularly liked the positioning of the tail gate closing button – it’s down on the side just inside the boot – no standing on tiptoes to reach the tailgate when raised – Simple things please me.

The Levante draws the neighbour’s attention when on the driveway and turns heads on and off the road. It’s different and makes now excuses for it. I do feel that the marque’s ‘exclusive’ reputation may be challenged with the Levante as people begin to discover that Value has been added to Maserati’s shopping list of positives. I would like to see the petrol engine variant though – just saying.  

Having now been behind the wheel of the Levante on the track, off road in the wilds of the Aussie bush and now around the malls and car parks of Auckland City, you could say that I really have well and truly ‘Tri-den-t-ested’ this Maserati!

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