Range Rover VS Maserati Levante
- New tech is cool
- Supreme road feeling
- Luxurious interior
- Engine power so-so
- Cost of options
- 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
Range Rover. Straight away, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Despite a growing model line-up that now includes the Evoque, Velar and the Range Rover Sport, just about everyone on Earth pictures the brand's big bruiser whenever they hear the name.
A true motoring icon, it might have started life as a posh farmer's tool, but it is now a fixture on suburban driveways everywhere. Big and bold, it's now far more stylish than the utilitarian original, yet still manages to be super-impressive off-road. I know this because I once drove one up a river. Not across, but up. Against the current, in water almost a metre deep.
For 2018, the Range Rover's interior has scored an upgrade and, as ever, a minor tweak in the specifications. But it's still a car that has few genuine rivals.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
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|
The Range Rover is a car everyone knows - it's amazingly capable off-road, actually seats five full-size humans and casts a (huge) stylish shadow like no other. Now well into its sleeker fourth generation, it's ageing well and still holds its position as king of luxury SUVs, despite pretenders piling in from all corners.
I wasn't expecting to like the Range Rover. I knew I would respect it, but like? It turns out it's super-quiet, relaxed and, if you spend a few more bucks, has all the gadgets you need to manouevre it about and enjoy the ride, long or short.
Is the Range Rover still top of the pile? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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.
One of the extraordinary things about Land Rover and sister company Jaguar is the sheer consistency of the design teams over the past decade or so. The Range Rover is a hefty machine, and while it looks big, it does not look as overbearing as a car five metres long and over 180cm tall could.
No, it's not a lithe CX-9 approach, but it maintains the muscular Rangie look with the blacked-out pillars and floating roof and the now-signature laid-back grille and lights. And on our black car, the blacked-out gills on the front doors looked terrific - sometime the lighter-coloured versions look a bit cheap.
Inside is swathed in leather with wood or, if you prefer, metallic finishes. Everything looks and feels substantial. The new 10-inch screen looks a lot more modern than the older version, and it sits atop a redesigned centre console with the new HVAC controls. The old dials on the steering wheel have also been replaced with touch-sensitive dials with digital displays. It's a nice mix of traditional shapes with advanced tech.
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?
From the get-go, it's huge inside. There is lounging-room aplenty in the first and second rows, and rear seat occupants score their own set of climate controls.
Storage is everywhere, with two deep bins in the front and two front cupholders that slide away to reveal a space big enough for a beagle (okay, slight exaggeration). The rear also features two cupholders and each door will hold a bottle.
Boot space starts at a massive 639 litres and expands to 1943 litres with the rear seats down. There's a ton of space in the boot for things or a hefty dog.
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
The Vogue TDV6 starts at a fairly hefty $190,000. You might think that's a lot of money for a seven-seat SUV - and you'd be right.
You do alright for your money, though. The list contains 20-inch alloys, climate control, keyless entry and start, a comprehensive safety package, twin-view front screen, dynamic dampers, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, digital dash, electric heated front seats, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, acoustic heated windscreen, heated rear seats, partial leather seats, head-up display, active air suspension, heated steering wheel, powered gesture-activated tailgate and a full-size spare.
The new 'InControl' system now pairs with an all-new 10-inch touchscreen, and it looks terrific. The system is finally making some inroads (sorry) into the German competitors' in-car multimedia dominance.
Obviously it has sat nav, but it also has DAB, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a TV tuner, app connectivity (iffy, if I'm honest), and various off-road based stuff. The 13-speaker stereo is a belter, but, frustratingly, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. JLR keeps saying "watch this space", and after Mazda recently proved me wrong, it's a claim I'll take a little more seriously.
The car I had for the week also had the 'Pixel Laser' LED lights ($6490), 22-inch gloss black wheels ($5110), sliding panoramic roof ($4420), adaptive cruise ($3600!), black exterior pack ($2730), 'Vision Assist Pack' (foglights, interior ambient lighting and around-view cameras; $2040), Park Pack (rear cross-traffic alert, and side parking sensors; $1280), laminated windows ($830), 'Drive Pack' (blind-spot monitor; $820), wade sensing ($600), ebony headlining ($680), and few extra bits taking us to a grand total of $222,440.
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
Being a Range Rover, it's obviously all-wheel drive with a centre differential for the rough stuff. The TDV6 designation tells us it has a 3.0-litre turbodiesel good for 190kW and 600Nm to shift its substantial frame, weighing in at 2249kg. The dash from 0-100km/h comes up in a surprisingly spritely eight seconds dead, and towing capacity is a muscular 3500kg for a braked trailer.
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.
Land Rover's official combined cycle figure for the Vogue is listed at 6.9L/100km, but in my week with the car doing largely suburban running about, with some highway mixed in, we didn't event get close, returning 12.3L/100km.
Even so, the huge 86-litre tank will ensure you won't have to visit the servo too often.
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.
A Range Rover drives like no other car. It feels big, but with that upright driving position, it's oddly relaxing. Despite needing a little extra attention to keep the car in the lane, the view out over the flat bonnet is pretty unique.
The air suspension provides a plush ride, but can occasionally get itself into a bit of a heaving-sea movement - as it did along a particular road near where I live. The rest of the time it completely insulates you from the road.
Of course, if I'd had the bravery to tackle some serious off-roading, the air suspension can lift the car from its low-riding city stance to 22cm, meaning you can wade through 90cm of water, which is around half the car's height. The people down the road weren't keen on me testing it in their pool. Spoilsports.
You can't easily escape the fact it's exactly five metres long - it squeezes into parking spaces, and the big mirrors help, too. At least the height is rather more commonplace than it was a decade or so ago, so you're less likely to bang into low ceilings.
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 Vogue sports six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, rollover-stability control, hill-descent control, forward-collision warning, forward AEB, corner-braking control and trailer-sway control.
The Rangie scored a five star ANCAP safety rating in 2013.
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.
Range Rover offers a three-year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist for the duration, which is now starting to look a bit skinny. The website assures me that not only does it cover the usual stuff, but you'll also be rescued if you're on four-wheel-drive only tracks, too.
You can cap your service prices with a service plan of up to five years/130,000km, and servicing is required every 12 months or 26,000km.
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.