Bentley Bentayga VS Maserati Levante
- Ultra-plush appointments
- Silky-smooth powertrain
- Practical interior space
- Expensive options list
- Rear-seat materials
- Spare tyre not standard
- More affordable entry into Levante range
- Great engine note
- Almost identical standard features to the Levante S
- GranLusso and GranSport packs are expensive
- Limited room in the rear seats
- Steering is overly sharp and quick
What’s cheap and what’s expensive is all relative, right? For example, the new Bentley Bentayga V8 now starts at $364,800 before on-road costs, but is still the ultra-luxe brand’s most affordable vehicle.
The brief for the Bentayga is also somewhat contradictory, needing to be comfortable, premium and practical, but also fast, agile and fun-to-drive.
But do all these elements coalesce into the ultimate all-rounder, or will owners of the 2021 Bentley Bentayga be left wanting?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Maserati. What do you reckon that name means to most people? Fast? Loud? Italian? Expensive? SUVs?
And that may happen even faster with the arrival of the most affordable Levante ever - the new entry-grade, simply called Levante.
So, if this new cheaper Levante isn’t expensive (in Maserati terms) does that mean it’s not fast, loud or even Italian, now?
We drove this new, most affordable, Levante at its Australian launch to find out.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
There is an argument that no matter which way you slice it, buying a Bentley Bentayga doesn’t stack up. The price tag is high, the options list is long, and the level of comfort and refinement you get, while excellent, isn’t exactly life changing.
But the value of a Bentayga doesn’t lie in how it drives, or rides, or even looks. It’s in its Bentley badge. Because with that badge, the Bentayga transcends its ultra-premium large SUV visage, and is elevated to a statement about your wealth, or status. Maybe it's more a fashion accessory. And, really, only you can answer how much that level of prestige and clout is worth.
The entry-grade Levante is the best choice in the current line-up (Levante, Levante Turbo Diesel and Levante S) because it’s almost identical in performance and features to the pricier S.
I’d give the GranLusso and GranSport packs a miss on this base Levante, but would consider them on the S where they are possibly worth the extra $10,000 rather than the $35K asking price on the entry car.
The Levante does a lot right – the sound, the safety and the exterior styling. But the quality of the interior, with its FCA shared parts, lowers what should be a prestige feel.
And back seat comfort could be better, Maseratis are grand tourers and an SUV from this brand should be able to accommodate at least four adults in superb comfort – something this one can’t do.
Given the choice and about $130K would you choose a Porsche Cayenne or a Maserati Levante? Tells us what you think in the comments below.
The Bentley Bentayga was first introduced to the world in 2016, but in 2021, it has been given a slight nip and tuck to keep it fresh against ultra-luxurious SUV rivals.
New this year is a wider front grille, flanked by quad LED headlights and a sculpted bumper.
The rear features an extended roof-mounted rear spoiler, new tail-lights and quad-exhaust outlets, as well as the repositioning of the number plate to the lower bumper.
But like any car in this class, the devil is in the details.
All exterior lighting elements feature a cut crystal design, which catches the light and sort of sparkles even while the Bentayga is stationary, and in person, it’s as baller and bougie as it sounds.
Also new in the updated Bentayga are front fenders strakes and new-look 21-inch wheels with a wider rear track to better fill out the arches for a more aggressive stance.
As a large SUV, the Bentayga is certainly attention-grabbing, though whether it looks good is up to you.
I think the grille looks a little too big and the headlights a little too small, but for some, the Bentley badge will be enough.
Step inside and, whereas mainstream and even premium cars would opt for just leather to adorn main surfaces, the Bentayga kicks it up a notch with supple and soft-touch leather, and plush appointments throughout.
What stands out most, though, isn’t the handcrafted contrasting stitching or Bentley embroidered seats, but the shape and styling of the air vents and centre stack.
Sitting front and centre of the cabin is a fancy-looking analogue clock, flanked by exquisitely crafted vents.
Like all Bentley models, opening and closing of the vents isn’t as basic as wiggling flap in the vent, it’s done by pushing and pulling on unique plungers littered throughout the cabin.
Underneath the multimedia system, the switchgear is laid out in an easy-to-use fashion, but finished with high-quality materials that give a good amount of feedback with every push and turn.
The gearshift and drive-mode selector are oversized, chunky, and finished with a nice chrome sheen.
But the steering wheel is my favourite part of the interior, as it features no stitching on the outer rim to disrupt the touch of soft leather in your hands.
No doubt the inside of a Bentayga is a pleasant place to be, one where you could happily spend hours out on the open road.
The Levante looks exactly how a Maserati SUV should, with the long bonnet flanked by curvaceous wheel arches with their vents, leading towards a grille that looks ready to eat up slower cars. The heavily raked windscreen and cab-back profile is also very Maserati, as are haunches that muscle over the rear wheels.
If only its bottom was less Maserati. It’s a personal thing, but I find Maserati rear ends lack the drama of their faces and the Levante’s tailgate is no different in that it borders on plain.
Inside, the Levante looks to be a premium, well-crafted place, although closer inspection reveals there are certain items which appear to be shared with other brands which, like Maserati, are owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
The window and headlight switches, the ignition button, the air-conditioning controls, even the display screen all can be found in Jeeps and other FCA cars.
There are no functionality issues here, but from a design and style perspective they look a little basic and lack the refinement a buyer may expect from a Maserati.
There’s a lack of technological pizazz inside as well. For example, there’s no head-up display or large virtual instrument cluster as you’ll find in the Levante’s competitors.
Despite the Jeep-looking bits the Levante is truly Italian. The chief designer Giovanni Ribotta is Italian and the Levante is made at FCA's Mirafiori plant in Turin.
What are the Levante’s dimensions? The Levante is 5.0m long, 2.0m wide and 1.7m tall. So that means space inside is enormous right? Um… let’s talk about that in the next section, shall we?
Measuring 5125mm long, 2222mm wide, and 1742mm tall, with a 2995mm wheelbase, the Bentley Bentayga definitely cuts an imposing figure on the road.
It's actually larger than a Honda Odyssey people mover in all dimensions, and because of its girthy measurements, interior space is positively palatial.
Front passengers have ample room to get comfortable thanks to the supportive, electronically adjustable seats, with storage options extending to door bins, a centre storage cubby, two cupholders and a wireless smartphone-charging tray.
Step into the second-row, though, and the Bentayga offers more than enough room for even the burliest of adults.
Bentley has increased the legroom in the rear by as much as 100mm, depending on whether you get the four-, five-, or seven-seat version, which makes for a great place to sit.
Our test example was equipped with five seats, which can be reclined to get into a comfier position, with storage options including door bins, jacket hooks, map pockets and a fold-down armrest with two cupholders.
Opening the boot reveals a cavity offering 484 litres of volume, extending to 1774L with the rear seats folded. But it's worth noting the rear seats don’t quite fold flat due to the backrest's heavy bolstering, although the middle seat can be stowed independently to use as a ski pass-through.
You know the Tardis from Dr Who? The time machine police phone box that is much bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside? The Levante’s cabin is a reverse Tardis (a Sidrat?) in that even at five metres long and two metres wide, legroom in the second row is tight and at 191cm tall I can only just sit behind my driving position.
Headroom is also getting tight back there because of the swooping roofline. These aren’t major issues, but If you were thinking of using the Levante as a SUV limousine of sorts then the limited room back there just won’t be enough to let your taller passengers stretch out comfortably.
Also ruling it out as a chauffeur car in my view is the ride experience in the second row. I’ll cover this in the driving section below.
Cabin storage is pretty good, with a giant centre console bin up front with two cupholders inside. There are another two cupholders near the shifter and two more in the fold-down armrest in the rear. Door pockets are on the smaller side, however.
Price and features
Priced at $364,800 before on-road costs, the entry-level Bentayga V8 isn’t exactly cheap, but it is the most affordable in the Bentley SUV family.
Sitting above the V8 is the Bentayga Speed, which is priced at $501,800, and makes use of a 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 petrol engine, as well as other models in the Bentley stable such as the Flying Spur (from $428,800) and Continental GT (from $408,900).
Standard equipment includes 21-inch wheels, air suspension, Matrix LED headlights, head-up display, leather interior and steering wheel, heated and cooled front and rear seats, reclining rear seats, a wireless smartphone charger, and all-digital instrumentation.
Handling multimedia duties is a massive 10.9-inch touchscreen, which sports satellite navigation with real-time traffic data, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, digital radio and 4G connected services, outputting to a 12-speaker sound system.
If you’ve read this far and thought that nothing in the spec sheet justifies the Bentayga V8’s price tag, it’s the attention to detail that adds to the car’s value.
For example, the climate control system is split into four zones, meaning the optimal temperature can be set for the driver, front passenger and rear outboard seats.
The second-row occupants also have access to a detachable 5.0-inch tablet that can control multimedia and vehicle functions, as well as set the interior ambient lighting colour. Fun fact: changing the ambient lighting hue will also change the colour of the main multimedia display. See, attention to detail.
The windscreen wipers are also souped up with 22 individual jets each that can heat up for better rain- and sleet-clearing capabilities.
However, the options list is a little… overwhelming.
Some choice examples include a 20-speaker Naim sound system ($17,460), 22-inch wheels (from $8386), seating for seven ($7407), a hands-free tailgate ($1852), space-saving spare wheel ($1480) and sports pedals ($1229).
To be fair, Bentley has made things a bit easier with specific option packs that will bundle together some add-on equipment, ranging from the $4419 Sunshine Specification' all the way up to the $83,419 'First Edition Specification', that is better value for money, but some things like a spare wheel and a hands-free tailgate should really be included as standard in a car costing this much.
Guessing you want to know just how much more affordable this Levante is compared to the other grades in the range? Okay, the entry-level Levante lists for $125,000, before on-road costs.
That may sound expensive but look at it like this: the entry Levante has the same Maserati-designed and Ferrari-made 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 as the $179,990 Levante S and an almost identical standard features list.
So how on this planet is it possible there could be a $55K price difference and yet the cars be almost the same? What’s missing?
Horsepower is missing – the base grade Levante may have the same V6 as the Levante S but it doesn’t have as much grunt. But we’ll get to that in the engine section.
As for the other differences – there aren’t many, almost none. The Levante S comes with a sunroof as standard and front seats that adjust to more positions than the Levante, but both grades come with an 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, leather upholstery (the S does get more premium leather), a proximity key and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Those standard features are also identical to those in the Turbo-Diesel which sits above the Levante at $159,990.
Apart from less horsepower, no standard sunroof (as on the S) and upholstery which isn’t quite as nice as the S’s another downside to the base grade Levante is that optioning the GranLusso and GranSport packs is expensive… really expensive.
The GranLusso adds luxurious touches to the exterior in the form of metallic trim to the roof rails, the window frames and protection plates to the front bumper, while in the cabin thee front seats come in a choice of Ermenegildo Zegna silk upholstery, Pieno Fiore (full-grain) leather or premium Italian hide.
The GranSport toughens up the exterior with a more aggressive body kit with black elements and adds 12-way power adjustable sports seats, brushed-chrome shifting paddles and aluminium-face sports pedals.
The features those packages offer are nice – those silk and leather seats are sumptuous for example, but each pack costs $35,000. That’s almost 30 per cent of the list price of the entire vehicle, extra. The same packages on the Levante S costs just $10,000.
While the Levante is the most affordable Levante, and also the cheapest Maserati you can buy, it’s more expensive than its Porsche Cayenne (entry V6 petrol) rival which lists for $116,000, while the Range Rover Sport 3.0 SC HSE is $130,000 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 43 is $135,529.
Is the new entry-grade Levante good value, then? Yes, for a Maserati, if you don’t option the packages, and yes compared to most of its rivals.
Engine & trans
Powering the 2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 is a 4.0-litre, twin-turbo petrol engine, producing 404kW at 6000rpm and 770Nm from 1960-4500rpm.
Paired to the engine is an eight-speed (torque convertor) automatic transmission that drives all four wheels, which is enough to propel the ultra-lux SUV from 0-100km/h in just 4.5 seconds.
Top speed is pegged at 290km/h, making it one of the fastest SUVs in the world.
If you’ve just read the section above on price and features, you’re now probably wondering how much less powerful the Levante is compared to the Levante S.
The Levante has a 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 and it sounds magnificent. Yup, the entry-grade Levante lets loose that Maserati high-pitched scream when you open the throttle, just like the S. It may sound the same as the S but the Levante’s V6 has less horsepower. At 257kW/500Nm, the Levante makes 59kW less in power and 80Nm less in torque.
Is there a noticeable difference? Not much. Acceleration isn’t as rapid in the Levante with 0-100km/h coming in six seconds compared to 5.2 seconds in the Levante S.
Shifting gears is an eight-speed ZF-sorced automatic transmission which is super smooth, but a little slow.
Official fuel consumption for the Bentayga V8 is pegged at 13.3 litres per 100km, but we didn’t manage to drive the test car in varied enough conditions to validate the claim.
The Bentley Bentayga V8 also emits 302 grams of CO2 per kilometre and meets the latest Euro 6 emissions standards.
Fuel consumption is kept down thanks to cylinder deactivation technology, as well as an engine start/stop system.
Even if you were to drive your Levante conservatively Maserati says you can expect it to use at best 11.6L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads, the Levante S is a bit thirstier at an official 11.8L/100km.
In reality you can expect the twin-turbo petrol V6 to want more – just open road driving was seeing the trip computer report 12.3L/100km, You can bet that’ll go up in the city and climb higher if you like to keep raising the Levante's beautiful voice.
Though some Bentley owners may prefer to be driven, we’re happy to report the 2021 Bentayga V8 is also excellent behind the wheel.
First, getting into the right position is easy thanks to the electronically adjustable seats with control knobs that feel well textured and premium, unlike the plastic bits you’ll find in cheaper large SUVs.
Secondly, the steering wheel feels wonderful in hand as it has no seams on the outer rim, and adds to the Bentayga’s opulence.
The digital instrumentation is also clear and concise, and can be customised with driving data, map information, etc, but the steering wheel buttons and indicator stalks are noticeably Audi-esque (Bentley sits under the Volkswagen Group umbrella).
And this is even before things start moving.
Out on the road, the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and eight-speed auto are a delight, delivering effortless and smooth performance from anywhere in the rev range despite the car's portly 2371kg kerb weight.
In 'Comfort' mode, the Bentayga V8 is luxurious enough, soaking up bumps and other surface imperfections with ease, but some of Melbourne’s craggy country B-roads are enough to send jostles and jolts into the cabin.
Flick it over to Sport mode, and things firm up a little, but never to the point where the Bentayga V8 becomes a corner-hunting sports car slayer.
In fact, there's little variability in ride comfort between modes, but steering weight changes noticeably.
When things get a bit too fast and furious, the Bentayga’s large brakes do a great job of scrubbing off speed, and if that isn’t enough, Bentley offers carbon ceramics for an additional $30,852.
Ultimately, the Bentayga V8’s eager powertrain does make it fun to drive, and the fact that it doesn’t feel pudgy in corners is testament to the brand’s great active anti-roll technology, but don’t go in expecting this Bentley SUV to be the last word in driving dynamics.
When I reviewed the Levante S at its launch in 2017 I enjoyed its good handling and comfortable ride. But impressed as I was with performance from the engine I felt the car could be quicker.
So how then would a less powerful version of the same car feel? Not much different, actually. The base grade Levante is only 0.8s slower to 100km/h than the S at six seconds. The air suspension is the same as the S’s and returns a comfortable and compliant ride, and handling with the dampers in the firm setting is impressive for a two tonne, five-metre long vehicle.
Front brakes in the Levante base grade car are smaller (345 x 32mm) than in the S (380 x 34mm) and the tyres aren’t staggered either with 265/50 R19 all around.
The variable-ratio, electrically-assisted power steering is well weighted, but too quick. I found the car turned in too far, too quickly, with regular mid-corner corrections a tiresome necessity.
To me there’s no point going for the S based on the assumption that it’s going to be a much higher performing car. The Levante and Levante S and are both mild in their power delivery and have better dynamics than an average large SUV.
If you are after a true high-performance Maserati SUV then you might be best off waiting for the Levante GTS coming in 2020 with a 404kW V8.
The base grade Levante V6 sounds just as beautiful as the S’s, but there's one place where it isn’t very pleasant. The back seat.
At the launch of the Levante S in 2017 I didn’t have the chance to ride in the rear seats. This time around I let my co-driver steer for half-an-hour while I sat in the left rear position.
For starters it’s louder back there – the exhaust note is almost too loud to be pleasant. Plus, the seats aren’t supportive or comfortable.
There’s also a slightly claustrophobic, cave-like feeling in the second row, largely due to the roof's accentuated slope towards the rear. This, to me, rules it out almost completely as something to ferry guests around in comfort.
The Bentley Bentayga has not been crash tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, so therefore has no independent safety rating.
However, standard safety systems include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert and a surround-view monitor.
The Levante is yet to be tested by ANCAP. That said, the Levante has six airbags and is equipped with advanced safety equipment such as AEB, lane keeping assistance and lane departure warning, blind spot warning with steering assistance, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control.
A puncture repair kit is under the boot floor.
Like all new Bentley models sold in Australia, the Bentayga V8 comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is par for the course in the ultra-premium segment, but falls short of the mainstream industry standard of five years.
Scheduled service intervals for the Bentayga V8 is every 12 months or 16,000km, whichever occurs first.
Bentley has introduced new three- and five-year service plans, priced at $3950 and $7695 respectively, which is actually pretty affordable for a car costing nearly $400,000.
The Levante is covered by Maserati’s three year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at two year or 20,000km intervals. More brands are moving to longer warranties and it would be good to see Maserati offer its buyers longer coverage.