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
- Cabin is super practical
- Proper third-row seats
- Strong diesel engine
- A little expensive compared to rivals
- Updated model due soon
- Not exciting to drive
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 Audi Q7 disappeared from sale for a while. You mightn’t have noticed it, but the brand certainly did, with sales slumping over a 12-month period because the regular Q7 models were unavailable to purchase.
The company pulled all of its non-SQ7 variants from sale in October 2018, and they only arrived back on sale locally in August 2019. That meant a sales slide of about 40 per cent. And what a time to have a slide, too…
There have been new versions of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Lexus RX and VW Touareg all released in the past year or so, and that has rubbed a bit of salt into the sales wound for the Audi Q7. Not even the all-new Audi Q8 has helped out that much in terms of sales.
The reason for the stop-sale was because of emissions. Or, more correctly, emissions management. The AdBlue system required an overhaul because it didn’t meet requirements, and that lead Audi Australia to remove the Q7 from sale for the best part of a year. If you’re not sure what AdBlue is, it’s a urea-based solution that breaks down harmful nitrous-oxide exhaust gas into nitrogen and oxygen.
Audi Australia has moved to correct the sales slide now, with the Q7 45 TDI and 50 TDI models back in the line-up. These versions have been reintroduced before a facelifted model arrives in the first half of 2020, but we thought we’d see how this version stacks up.
|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 current version of the Audi Q7 proves to still be a comfortable and practical luxury SUV for those who value space and versatility.
The heavily updated version coming mid-2020 will no doubt be even better and potentially offer significant spec and safety upgrades, but buyers after a good deal could find attractive prices on the pre-facelift model up until the newer-look version arrives - and they could do a lot worse than to go for it.
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 Audi Q7 first went on sale in this shape in 2015, so the design isn’t exactly fresh. In fact, there’s a heavily facelifted model coming in the second quarter of 2020, and it looks a lot more modern and aggressive, with a few harder edges and more off-road inspiration to its look.
But the current one has aged well, with nice lines running front to rear, and the seemingly ever-present S line sporty styling bits to help it have some appeal compared with newer, flashier rivals. This 50 TDI version stepped up to a 20-inch wheel instead of 19s, too.
Its a pretty big thing - dimensions are 5052mm long (on a 2994mm wheelbase), 1968mm wide and 1741mm high - but it carries off its size well. One mum I spoke with said “it doesn’t look big enough to be a seven seater”… How very deceptive, because it’s one of the roomier sever-seat SUVs on the market.
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.
You won’t be disappointed if you’re buying an Audi Q7 for its practicality.
It has one of the roomiest seven-seat SUV cabins in this part of the market. Sure, if you go up to a BMW X7 or Mercedes GLS you’ll have a little more room available to you, but in terms of packaging smarts, the Q7 is a bit of a genius.
All Q7 models have electric folding third row seats, which take about ten times longer to raise and lower than conventional pull-tab or handle-operated rear seats, but the room in the rearmost row is excellent.
The second row features 40:20:40 split folding seats with individual sliders, meaning you can tailor the space in the second and third row to suit the size of the occupants you’re carrying. At 182cm I was able to comfortably sit in the third row behind Richard Berry (191cm), with a little bit of second-row slide adjustment. We both had enough head, knee and toe space to be comfortable.
The boot is still big enough with seven seats up that it will fit a pram or two suitcases (if you're into the figures, there's 295 litres of space in this configuration), while if you lower the third row and run the Q7 as a five-seater, there's enough room for a full set of luggage, plus a pram, plus even more (total: 770L).
And the great thing about the Q7 - an element plenty of its rivals can’t match - is that there are so many child seat anchor points! It has five ISOFIX child seat anchor points and top tether points, meaning it’s possible to fit a child seat or baby seat in any of the rear seats. Yep, you could theoretically fit five child seats in here. It might a hassle in practice, but it’s possible.
There are nice comfort and convenience features as well, with plenty of cup holders and bottle holders through the cabin, and air vents to all three rows. There’s even quad-zone air-conditioning to allow different temperatures in different parts of the car.
Up front the Q7 feels pleasant. It doesn’t have the same ‘wow-factor’ as the GLE, nor as clinical as a Touareg. But there’s a nice amount of usable storage space, and the design of the dashboard is nice, even if that pop-up media screen looks a bit dated, especially the sat nav graphics.
The system itself is decent, though the lack of touchscreen capability means phone mirroring tech like CarPlay and Android Auto largely hampered. You have to use the rotary dial to control the screen, which isn’t the way it was designed to be used. If you can overlook that, or if you just prefer to use the in-built media system, then it’s fine.
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.
The Q7 line-up starts with the 45 TDI at $102,990 plus on-road costs, while this 50 TDI version is listed at $111,950 plus on-roads.
That puts the Q7 in an interesting spot compared to some rivals. The five-seat-only VW Touareg - which shares a lot with this Audi - is considerably more affordable, starting from $79,490. The BMW X5 range starts at $99,900, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE line-up kicks off at $99,900.
So it’s not the most affordable SUV in this space. But here’s what you get for your money.
The standard equipment list consists of 20-inch wheels, tyre pressure monitoring, a tyre repair kit (no spare), and the standard lighting system is xenon with LED daytime running lights and LED rear lights. It has auto headlights and wipers.
Media is covered with a retractable 8.3-inch media screen with touchpad and rotary dial controller, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, DAB digital radio, a 10-speaker sound system and wireless smartphone charging. The system also has the new Audi Connect system (requires a data SIM) and sat nav with available updates.
There’s ‘Cricket’ leather seat trim, electric front seat adjustment with memory settings for the driver, heated front seats, quad-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, smart key and push-button start, smart boot opening with electric tailgate, and Audi’s Virtual Cockpit 12.3-inch fully digital instrument display for the driver.
There’s a surround view camera and a semi-autonomous self parking system fitted for ease of use, but as for the rest of the safety gear fitted, see the safety section below.
Our car was fitted with an array of packages, including the Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, active lane keeping - $3850), the S line Style Package 4 (LED headlights and dynamic LED tail-lights, privacy glass, S line exterior styling and 21-inch wheels - $4600), the Comfort Package (ambient lighting, electric steering column adjust, rear window sunblinds, brushed aluminium inlays - $3650), as well as adaptive air suspension ($4690), a panoramic sunroof ($3990), gloss black interior finishes ($1600) and metallic paint ($2250).
All told, our Q7 had an as-tested price of $136,850. Did it feel worth that much? Not quite.
Colour options include blue, grey, beige, silver and brown - all of which are optional metallic options - and there’s also two no-cost option paint finishes, which are black or white.
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 Q7 50 TDI model we’ve got is the top-spec in the standard Q7 line-up. It shares the same 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine with the lower-grade 45 TDI, but the 50 TDI has the higher-output engine tune.
This model produces 200kW of power (at 3250-4250rpm) and 600Nm of torque (from 1500-3000rpm). It uses an eight-speed automatic transmission and permanent quattro all-wheel drive. Audi claims the 0-100km/h time for this model is just 6.5 seconds. That’s quick!
If you don’t think you need that, the 45 TDI would likely be perfectly fine. It still has 160kW and 500Nm, an eight-speed auto with AWD, and a 0-100 time of 7.3 seconds.
Both Q7 grades are rated to tow a 750kg un-braked trail or a 3500kg braked trailer. The gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 2940kg, and the gross combination mass (GCM) is 6440kg.
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.
The real-world fuel consumption I saw when I took the figures at the pump was 9.9L/100km. Note - I wasn’t hauling seven people around for my test, which included highway, urban and back road driving. Your fuel economy will suffer if you fill all seven seats.
But still, less than ten litres per hundred is a good real-world return.
As mentioned, this model also has an AdBlue tank to help combat harmful exhaust emissions. The tank capacity is 24 litres, which is theoretically enough to last about 14,500km before it needs refilling. Interestingly, the pre-pay service packs for the Q7 include AdBlue top-ups, which is a nice convenience for owners.
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 Audi Q7 is a comfortable seven-seater. Is it amazing to drive? No. Is it fun? Not really. But does it hit the target for what most people buying this type of car will want? Yeah, it does, mostly.
The air suspension allows for a soft and cushy ride for the most part, though the 21-inch wheels do pick up the sharper edges in the road surface. At highway pace, in either the Comfort or Auto drive mode, the ride is really quite good, while at lower speeds over speed humps it does a fine job, though it’s not exceptionally smooth.
The body control is not quite as good as a Touareg or X5, but better than a Lexus RX or Mercedes GLE. It doesn’t wobble too around much despite being tall and heavy, but nor is it super flat through corners if you’re pushing harder than most parents would.
The steering is light and easy to judge in most situations but can be a little too heavy at lower speeds - like when you’re negotiating multi-storey car parks. Its responsive enough at pace, just not as inspiring or enthralling as some rivals.
The engine is the strongest part of the Q7’s equation. The 3.0-litre V6 has a nice, healthy wad of pulling power in the mid-range, despite a little bit of lag below 2000rpm. There’s effortless grunt for overtaking moves, and it easily has enough power in reserve to get you moving.
The transmission is hard to fault, too, proving smart, smooth shifting and during my time in the car it never made a wrong move.
But it is refined and quiet, without too much diesel clatter, not a lot of wind noise and a hushed amount of tyre rumble, too.
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.
The Audi Q7 was crash-tested in 2015 and was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP score as a result.
The Q7 line-up has ‘Audi pre-sense city’ with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian detection (but not cyclist detection, which is required to obtain five stars under 2019 criteria), blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert with acoustic warning and brake jolt when “critical”. There’s no standard-fit radar cruise control. There are dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags fitted.
There’s also Audi’s ‘Exit Warning System’ that can detect cars and cyclists and warn occupants, plus all models have hill descent control.
As mentioned, the 50 TDI gets a surround view camera, and all models have parking sensors front and rear, plus a semi-automated parking system.
The updated model due mid-2020 is expected to increase the safety gear levels even further.
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.
Audi’s ownership plans saw a boost in 2019, with new pre-pay service plan options rolled out. There is the choice of a three-year plan for the Q7, which is priced at $2310, or five-year cover that’ll set you back $3120. Servicing is due every 12 months/15,000km, and you’ll be covered for oil change, filters, brake fluid, AdBlue, remote batteries and more.
Audi backs its models with a three-year roadside assist plan as part of its warranty cover, as well as three years of map updates for the sat nav.
At the time of writing, eligible Q7 models are being sold with a nice little value enhancement - a five-year/75,000km servicing plan included at no cost, as well as five years of roadside assist.
Got concerns about issues, problems, faults, recalls or other common complaints? Check out our Audi Q7 problems page.