Maserati Levante VS Audi Q7
- 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
- Sleek design.
- Great cabin.
- Still strong engine.
- Not much cheaper than the 200kW.
- Some options are ludicrously priced.
- No CarPlay or Android.
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|
Audi’s big banger Q7 relaunched late last year with a slimmer-hipped, lower slung replacement for the old bruiser.
There are a few bits missing that are standard on the more highly powered version, so with a relatively narrow price difference, is it a good fit for options-box tickers?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
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 200kW Q7 is a brilliant car and the 160kW is little different. It’s hard to make the economic case for spending less, though, as options will quickly land you in 200kW price territory unless, of course, you’ve stretched yourself for the $96,300 in the first place.
If you have stretched, you’re getting an even better overall car than the excellent BMW X5. The fundamentals of the Q7 are such that you could almost whack the 2.0 TFSI from the A3 in it and it would still be just fine.
Does the Audi Q7's new styling sway you or is the options list too pricey? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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?
The new Q7 is, thankfully, a lot less imposing than the first generation. That car really did loom and as time went by it became ever more covered in bling. The restraint of the new car is admirable (and good business sense – there’s bound to be a bigger Q8 before long) and looks more like a jacked-up wagon than a full-on SUV.
As is Audi’s wont, there’s lots of aluminium, particularly in the MQB Evo chassis itself (shared with some pretty posh things like the Bentley Bentayga) as well as doors and bonnet.
Despite being smaller, there are still seven seats in the Q7, with a reasonably accessible pair of rear pews providing you’re at least four years old and in possession of two working legs. That third row gets its own air-conditioning vents, cupholders (there are six in total) and somewhere to store your ration of Smarties.
The middle row of seats can be slid fore and aft through about 15cm to liberate or rob the third row of space. The middle rear seat passenger does have to contend with a fairly solid transmission tunnel, however.
Storage is well scattered around the cabin, with four bottle holders, a shallow bin under the centre armrest and a few cubby holes here and there to supplement the good-sized glove box. Audi says the minimum boot volume is 770L with the third row of seats down and 1955 with both rows folded away. With the third row up, an educated guess says somewhere in the region of 300L is still available. There's also ISOFIX child seat mounts for all five rear seats.
The driver gets a clean, clear dashboard with two big dials flanking the central info screen and, as usual, everything is spot-on ergonomically. The dash is considerably less visually weighty than the old car, with full width air-con vents, the middle section blowing diffuse air so you’re not in a windtunnel from a 1980s music video clip.
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
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.
With a price just a few thousand down on the original 200kW version, it almost seems like Audi doesn’t really want you to buy the base model. The price difference is “only” $7600. Remember that bit.
Despite the lower sticker, there is a generous equipment list, particularly on the safety front. Standard are a 10-speaker stereo with DAB+, Bluetooth and dual USB ports, 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, blind spot sensor, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors and park assist, cruise control, electric front seats with driver’s seat memory, satnav, bi-xenon headlights with level adjustment, auto headlights and wipers, leather trim (some real, some not), electric tailgate and tyre-pressure monitoring.
Our car had the optional Audi Connect wifi hotspot feature ($750), metallic paint (at a hefty $2400), Assistance Package - which adds adaptive cruise, active lane assist, pre-sense front, traffic jam assist, collision assist and turn assist ($4075), LED headlights ($2800!), Parking Assistance Package, which adds auto-parking and 360-degree cameras ($1300), full body paint finish ($1300) and interior inlays of high gloss black and oak (an even more mystifying $1690). This brought the total to an eye-watering $110,615.
That’s only $5000 less than a similarly optioned 200kW, which has a few more standard additions, more power obviously, bigger wheels and the full digital “virtual dashboard” from the lovely TT. Of course, neither Q7 is particularly cheap. If you’re willing to lose all-wheel drive, you can have a BMW X5 starting at $86,200 for the rear-wheel drive 170kW 2.0 diesel (but only with five seats).
Audi’s MMI system controls the operation of the retractable 8.3-inch screen that rises majestically from the centre of the dash. MMI looks after the entertainment, satnav and various settings of the car and does a fine job of it, supplemented by a generous touchpad for you to write out your destination with your finger, or choose your radio station.
You can also speak in reasonably normal terms to the nav via voice activation and it will take you to the nearest public toilet, or a petrol station or a nearby Italian restaurant.
Engine & trans
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.
The 160kW is the same basic unit as the 200kW, just with the lower power figure and 500Nm of torque (down from 600Nm) to push its 2135kg frame to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds.
Fuel economy, courtesy of the ZF eight speed automatic and stop-start, is a claimed 5.8L/100km and, it must be said, a fairly unlikely figure to achieve. We saw 9.2L/100km on the dash display, which is still pretty impressive for such a large vehicle.
The Q7 is also rated to tow 3500kg with trailer brakes.
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.
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.
It might be down 40kW and 100Nm of torque, but the Q7 still feels pretty nimble for what is a very heavy car, despite its average weight loss of 325kg. The mid-range is very strong, meaning effortless overtaking from rarely more than a toe on the throttle pedal. When your car is this big, the last thing you want to be worrying about is whether it will trip over itself when you’re in the cut and thrust of the school pick up or daily commute.
This is the first Q7 I’ve driven without the air suspension and it was a pleasant surprise. It rode and handled almost as well and you’d have to wonder whether it’s worth the extra outlay. When a press fleet has nothing but air-suspended cars, it makes journalists suspicious; I’m pleased to say there was no need. The only real difference is more noticeable body roll when you’re getting a bit ambitious in the corners. Not really a Q7’s core business.
The steering is quite light but weights up nicely in dynamic mode. It’s tidy in the bends and excels in the wet or dry; its stay with us coincided with some truly apocalyptic rain, which the car simply shrugged off. Needless to say, the cabin is extremely quiet, with just a slight rustle around the wing mirrors and a distant growl from the engine.
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.
Eight airbags, blind-spot sensor, forward-collision mitigation, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and active safety bonnet all add up to the maximum five ANCAP safety stars.
The Assistance Package, which adds adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, pre-sense front (to keep you from crashing into the car in front), collision assist (helps you out with your braking and steering when the car thinks you’re heading into a crash) and turn assist (stops you turning into the path of an oncoming car).
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.