Maserati Levante Launch – Bet the Farm

On the whole; when you think of farm vehicles images of rusted out tractors, harvesters or hay balers come to mind. These are workhorses that get up before the crack of dawn and work until the early hours – not exactly glamorous but definitely get the job done. When you think of farms themselves, they tend to be dirty, fruity smelling places with livestock that need to be fed and milked, and seeming endless amounts of fields that require ploughing. Anyway; Maserati invited us to a farm in Sydney to try out their new vehicle – thankfully, it wasn’t that type of farm and it most certainly wasn’t that type of vehicle.

We have already learned a lot about the beautifully crafted new Maserati Levante SUV. You may very well know that it comfortably crosses the bridge between luxury sports and capable SUV. You’re probably aware that it has a 3L V6 engine that produces 202kW and 600Nm of torque that will move the 2,205 kg’s of its well concealed kerb weight from 0-100kph in 6.9 seconds and up to a top speed of 230kph. But you may not know that the name follows in the Maserati’s ‘wind’ theme (Ghibli – Libyan wind, Bora – Greek for North Wind, Karif – Somalian, Mistral – wind over the Northwest coast of the Med, Khamsin – North Africa/Arabia, Shamal – Iraq/Persian Gulf) Viento de ‘Levante’ is an easterly wind that blows in the Western Mediterranean, it’s also refers to the street name that the Maserati brothers worked on, Oh and I certainly didn’t know that it would be an ideal farm vehicle, mind you; when I say farm…

There is a rural facility somewhere in Australia that caters perfectly to trying out vehicles on a closed road but ‘real world’ driving experience. I can’t tell you where it is or what it is exactly as it’s a secret (think area 51 – without the aliens) but I can tell you that it has a taxing run of tarmac and plenty of bush surrounding it – so evidently it’s a perfect place to let the Levante blow off some steam.

We had three Levante variants to play with, Driver Assist, Sports and Luxury and as it was ‘track’ first we jumped into the Luxury. The track (that we can not be specific about) is loaded with undulations. On and off cambers, tight bends, steep gradients, longish straights, slight curves and unforgiving grass verges – like I said, it’s very real world. I started up the well appointed SUV with Grigio exterior and took to the road, immediately trying to get a handle on the layout (it’s pretty complex). The Levante sits well on the road, even in ‘norm’, it has 50/50 weight distribution and in Sport mode has the lowest centre of gravity in the category (610mm). (In fact it has 5 ride heights through 4 drive modes). The Luxury’s 20” rims with plenty of rubber meant that the ride was smooth but exciting. It gets off the mark well and handles the speed in the corners with ease (I think I had a fair amount of behind the scenes technical help). Even when I overcooked a couple of the corners, the Levante’s ESP was there to take me round safely and with limited tyre squeal. In saying that, the assist is not over powering or over protective, you still feel in control (even if you’re not).

Next up was the off-road component. We opted for the standard Maserati (whatever – it’s really well decked out with radica wood trim and leather, lots and lots of it) in Rosso Rubino and it sat on 19” feet which meant more rubber between us and the Australian undergrowth. A push on the ‘Offroad’ button had the suspension raise up 25mm then another push of the manual button had it raise further still (to +40mm). If this all seems a little labour intensive (it really isn’t) then you can leave the Levante to its own devices – clever electronic wizardry will sense the terrain you are on and will adjust itself accordingly. I also flicked through the instrument cluster screen to show the 4 wheel drive percentage distribution – again the clever tech will give the right amount of power required to the wheels that need it most – from the initial 100% on the rear to front loaded power – it’s great to watch but could be a little distracting.

The course had us go through ruts and divots, over fallen branches and of course whatever creatures lay in wait in the Aussie wilderness. I kid you not, we saw a wallaby and a very large Eagle (don’t worry we didn’t run over either of them). The auto Downhill descent button guided us judderingly down to a small flowing stream where the Levante showed off its large approach and departure angles. There was also the opportunity to lift the rear wheel off the ground and the SUV teetered and balanced like a gymnast.

Last up was the Sports Pack on 21” rims and low low profile rubber, time to wind the Levante up. Down the straight the Diesel engine gives off an impressive V6 note, it’s been achieved through more clever electronics and exhaust tuning but the result is smile inducing. The wheel and tyre change really does make a difference, the cornering is stiffer and the turn in is quicker (even with my limited driving skills). Large Active Shift Paddles are there behind the wheel should you need them but it truth; the 8 speed box did just fine all by itself. I have to tell you that the braking system is tremendous, pulling the big SUV to a manageable speed from 160/170kph is no mean feat and it had already been punished by other journalists by the time I’d slipped behind the wheel – it’s reassuring let me tell you!

With a full day of farmyard track and field exercises under my belt it was time to head back to the city. I was suitably satisfied and feel that I now get the appeal of ‘working’ on a farm. The Maserati Levante handled all terrains with style and pizzazz. It was quick and agile on the asphalt and lorded well over the rugged rural muck – of course it was perfectly at home on the city streets. With its ‘exclusivity’ appeal and pure bred Italian styling the Levante is a desirable SUV. I have no doubt you’ll be seeing a fair amount grace our roads very soon and that is something you can bet the farm on.

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