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See If You Can Keep Up With Steve In This Maserati SUV

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Urus, Cullinan, Bentayga; SUVs have never been more in fashion and brands you thought would never go there are cashing-in with 6-figure price tags. Even Ferrari is readying their first in what they’re calling an FUV.  If you want one of these luxe utility vehicles but need the price to come down just a bit, Maserati offers up this; its first-ever SUV, the Levante.

It’s been nearly 3 years since the Levante made its American debut, fleshing out Maserati’s range of 2 sedans and 2 sports cars.

The 105-year old automaker is part of Fiat Chrysler’s Italian car portfolio which also includes Alfa Romeo and until a few years ago, Ferrari.  Named for a warm wind that blows across the Mediterranean, the Levante has a German rival in its sights; the Porsche Cayenne.  Though the Levante is about 3” longer, the two share a similar spot on the market in terms of price, power and prestige residing at the intersection of track-ready performance and off-road capability.  Though the Levante’s big news for 2019 is the introduction of 2 new V8 models pushing up to 590 horsepower, I’m in one of the more reasonably priced V6 trims.

When you go to build your Levante there are a number of models from which to choose with a starting price of under $80,000. This here is the step-up model, the Levante S that adds twin-turbos to the V6 for 424 horsepower.  And within the S model range there are three specifications, this one being the mid-trim GranLusso starting in the low $90ks.  It features a gorgeous Gildo Zegna Silk interior.  It also comes with 12-way memory comfort seats, Harman Kardon Premium Sound, power adjustable steering wheel and pedals, illuminated door sills, parking sensors, navigation system and Soft Close doors.  This one adds a full assortment of luxury upgrades for an as-tested price of about $105,000.

Sure, the base twin-turbo V6 gives you 345 horsepower, but this one has had its output significantly raised and includes an overboost function when in Sport mode that produces a hard hitting 428 pound-feet of torque. It removes 8/10th of a second from its 0-to-60mph sprint which happens here in an ear-popping 5.0-seconds flat. Top speed is 164 mph.  Both of those numbers are nearly identical to the Porsche Cayenne S.

And let’s face it; if you’re into procuring a Levante then you probably crave 2 things: performance and exclusivity and this Maserati delivers both in spades. The smart 8-speed automatic transmission comes with huge, fixed paddle shifters capable of rapid, on-demand gears changes but beware; the Levante S is thirsty, returning only 17 mpg on premium, if you’re lucky.  Combined with a smallish 21-gallon tank, you’ll be on a first name basis with the gas station attendant.

By TestDriveNow Auto Critic Steve Hammes for SouthFloridaReporter.com, Jan. 24, 2019

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