Maserati Levante VS Bentley Bentayga
- 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
- Magnificent twin-turbo petrol V8
- Superbly comfortable
- Surprisingly dynamic for its size
- A little awkward looking
- Low on standard advanced safety equipment
- Boot is smaller compared to rivals
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|
When Bentley revealed its Bentayga in 2015 the British brand called it “the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious, and most exclusive SUV in the world."
See, that first Bentayga packed a W12 engine, but the SUV we have here was introduced in 2018 with a twin-turbo petrol V8 and a reduced price tag.
So how does this more affordable and less powerful Bentayga stack up to Bentley's lofty ambitions?
Well you’ve come to the right place, because along with speed, power, luxury and exclusivity I can also talk about the Bentayga V8’s other attributes, such as what it’s like to park, drop children off at school in, do the shopping in and even go through a 'drive thru' in.
Yes, the Bentley Bentayga V8 came to live with my family for a week and as with any house guest you quickly find out what’s great about them… and then there are those times you walk in on them not looking their best.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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 Bentayga is Bentley’s first attempt at an SUV and the Bentayga V8 is a more recent addition to the line-up that provides an alternative to the W12, hybrid and diesel models.
There’s no doubt the Bentayga V8 delivers an exceptionally good driving experience from its power and athleticism to the serene cabin and comfortable ride.
Where the Bentley Bentayga V8 appears to be lacking is in cabin technology which compared to other luxury SUVs is becoming outdated, and in standard advanced safety equipment. We’d expect this to be addressed in future revisions of the SUV.
Does the Bentayga fit the ultra-luxury SUV bill? Tell us what you think in the comments section 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 Bentayga is unmistakably a Bentley, but I have my doubts whether this first attempt by the British brand to build an SUV has been a design success.
To me, the rear three-quarter view is its best angle with those trademark rear haunches, but front-on reveals an overbite I can’t ‘unsee’.
But then again perhaps I’m the one with bad taste, I mean I think Lamborghini's Urus SUV, which uses the same MLB Evo platform, is a work of art in its design, staying faithful to the sports cars in the family, while acquiring a brave look of its own.
I also found the interior of the Bentayga V8 disappointing. Not in terms of overall craftsmanship but rather its outdated technology and plain styling.
The 8.0-inch screen is almost identical to the one used in the Volkswagen Golf in 2016. But the Golf received its Mk 7.5 update in 2017 and with it a stunning touchscreen which hasn't made it into the Bentayga yet.
The steering wheel, too, has identical switchgear to the $42K Audi A3 I reviewed two weeks ago and you can add the indicator and wiper stalks into that mix as well.
While the fit and finish of the upholstery was outstanding, there was a lack of interior refinement in some places. For example, the cupholders, had rough and sharp plastic edges, the gear shifter was also plastic and felt flimsy, while the fold-down armrest in the back seats also lacked refinement in the way it was constructed and lowered without damping.
At just over 5.1m long, 2.2m wide (including the wing mirrors) and a little over 1.7m tall the Bentayga is big but it’s the same length and width as the Urus, and a bit taller. The Bentayga’s wheelbase is only 7.0mm shorter than the Urus’s at 2995mm.
The Bentayga isn’t the longest of the Bentleys, that’s for sure. The Mulsanne is 5.6m end-to- end and the Flying Spur is 5.3m in length. So, the Bentayga V8 is almost ‘fun-size’ in Bentley terms, even though it’s large.
The Bentayga is made in the United Kingdom at Bentley’s home (since 1946) in Crewe.
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.
The Bentayga V8 may be an SUV, but that doesn’t immediately make it a god of practicality. While roomy up front for the driver and co-pilot, the rear seating is not exactly limo-like, although at 191cm tall I can sit with about 100mm of space. Headroom is slightly limited by the edges of the panoramic sunroof for rear riders, too.
Storage in the cabin is adequate with two cupholders and small door pockets in the back, and another two cupholders and larger door pockets in the front. There’s also a shallow centre console storage bin and two wells for loose items in front of it.
The Bentayga V8’s boot with the rear seats in place has a cargo capacity of 484 litres – that’s measured to the cargo cover, but to the roof its 589 litres.
That boot space is still smaller than the Lamborghini Urus’s 616 litres and there’s much less boot space than the Audi Q7 and Cayenne which both have 770 litres measured to the roof, too.
Making life easier is the load-height lowering system which is operated with a button located in the boot.
The tailgate is powered, but the kick-open function (standard on say an Audi Q5) is an option you’ll have to pay for on the Bentayga.
As for power outlets and charging, the Bentayga’s falling out-of-date here, too. There is no wireless charger for phones, but there are two USB ports up front and three 12-volt outlets (one in the front and two in the rear row) on-board.
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.
That’s the question those who can’t afford a Bentley Bentayga V8 want to know the answer to, and the one that those who can don’t ask.
I’m in the first group, so I can tell you the Bentley Bentayga V8 has a list price of $334,700. Our car had $87,412 in options which we’ll take a look at, but all up including the on-road costs, our test car had a price of $454,918.
Standard features inside include leather upholstery in a choice of five colours, 'Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus' veneer trim, a three-spoke leather clad steering wheel, ‘B’ foot pedals, Bentley embossed treadplates, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, a 10-speaker stereo, CD player, digital radio, four-zone climate control and shifting paddles.
Exterior standard features include 21-inch wheels, black painted brake calipers, air suspension with four height settings, a choice of seven paint colours, gloss black radiator grille, black lower bumper grille, LED headlights and LED tail-lights, twin quad-exhaust and a panoramic sun roof.
Our car was fitted with options galore which is common in vehicles loaned to the media. Car companies often use these cars to showcase available options rather than represent a typical customer specification.
There’s the 'Artica White' paint from the bespoke Mulliner range costing $14,536; 'our' car's 22-inch wheels weigh in at $9999, as do the fixed side steps; the tow bar and brake controller (with Audi Q7 badging, see the images) is $6989; body coloured lower bodywork is $2781 and LED puddle lights are $2116.
Then there’s the acoustic glazing for $2667, front seats with the 'Comfort Specification' for $7422 and then $8080 for the 'Hot Spur' main hide and 'Beluga' secondary hide leather upholstery, the $3825 piano black veneer trim and if you want the Bentley logo embroidered into the headrests (as per our car) it costs $1387.
Does it represent good value for the price? Not by regular standards, but Bentleys are anything but regular cars, and those that buy them tend not to look at prices.
But, as I do with every car I review (whether it costs $30,000 or $300,000), I ask the manufacturer for a list of options fitted to the test car and the as-tested pricing, and I always include those options and their costs in my review.
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 scores I’ve awarded to the Bentayga V8 so far haven’t been impressive, but now we come to the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8.
Derived from the same unit found in the Audi RS6 this turbo-petrol V8 makes 404kW/770Nm. That’s enough grunt to get this 2.4 tonne beast from parked in your garage to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds, provided your driveway is at least 163.04m long, which for some owners would be entirely possible.
That’s not as quick as the Urus which can do it in 3.6 seconds, but while the Lamborghini shares the same engine it’s tuned to make 478kW/850Nm and that SUV is about 200 kilos lighter.
Shifting gears wonderfully in the Bentayga V8 is an eight-speed automatic which suits the Bentley better with its seamless but not-in-a-huge-hurry gear swaps than the same unit in the Urus.
While there are those who think a W12, as found in the first Bentayga, is more in line with Bentley’s ethos, I think this V8 is superb in its power delivery and sounds subtle but magnificent.
The braked towing capacity of the Bentley Bentayga is 3500kg.
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 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 pushing a 2.4-tonne SUV loaded up with people and possibly towing a horse float is going to want to be fed fuel – lots of fuel.
And that’s even if engine has cylinder deactivation like the one in the Bentayga V8 which can cut out four of the eight when not under load.
Officially, combined fuel consumption for the Bentayga V8 is 11.4L/100km, but after 112km of fuel testing on a combination of motorways, suburban and city roads I measured 21.1L/100km at the petrol pump.
I’m not surprised. For most of that I was in Sport mode or in the traffic, or in both at the same time.
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.
Comfortable and (believe it or not) athletic, sums it up. And the only thing stopping me from throwing in another word such as effortless is the forward visibility, which is what I noticed the moment I steered it out of the dealership and into the traffic.
But first let me give you the comfortable and athletic good news. The Bentayga felt nothing like it looked to drive – my eyes told me it should be more sumo wrestler than ninja to steer but they were wrong.
Despite the hulking dimensions and not insignificant weight, the Bentayga V8 felt surprisingly lithe with great handling for an SUV this size.
That the Urus, which I test drove a few weeks beforehand, also felt athletic seemed less a surprise in that the styling suggested it was agile and quick.
Thing is it shouldn’t be a surprise given the Urus and Bentley share the same MLB EVO platform.
Four standard drive modes let me change the character of the Bentayga V8 from 'Comfort' to 'Sport'. There’s also a ‘B’ mode which is a mix of throttle response, suspension and steering setting which Bentley nominates as the best for all-round driving conditions. Or you can ‘build-you-own’ drive mode in the 'Custom' setting.
Keeping the comfort mode on makes the ride composed and supple. Self-levelling air suspension with continuous damping is standard but flick the dial to Sport and the suspension firms, but not to the point where the ride is compromised.
I spent most of my almost 200 kilometres testing it in Sport mode which did nothing to help fuel economy but made my ears happy with the V8 burble.
Now, about that forward visibility. The design of the Bentayga’s nose is the cause of my issue here; specifically the way the wheel guards are stepped down out of view from the bonnet.
All I knew was that I was about 100mm wider that it looked from the driver’s seat – I don’t like that kind of guess work when piloting half a million dollars down a narrow street or car park. As you’ll see in the video I came up with a solution to the issue.
I’m not going to let that nose get in the way of a poor score, however. Besides owners will get used to it after a while.
Aside from that, the Bentayga was quite easy to parallel park with light steering and good rearward visibility and large wing mirrors, while multi storey shopping centre car parks were also surprisingly fuss free to steering through – this is after all not an overly long large SUV.
There was one ‘drive thru’ excursion and again I’m happy to report I emerged with hamburgers and without scratches at the other end.
So, I’m happy to throw effortless in there after all and you can add serene – that cabin felt bank vault-like insulated from the outside world. Don’t ask me how I know that.
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 Bentayga V8 has not been assessed by ANCAP testing but being based on the same platform as the five-star rated Audi Q7 I have no reason to suspect the Bentley would perform any differently and not be safe from a structural perspective.
We’re tough on budget cars that don’t come standard with AEB and likewise on high-end vehicles, and the Bentley Bentayga V8 doesn’t escape here.
AEB is not standard on the Bentayga V8 and if you want other forms of advanced safety equipment such as lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and rear cross traffic alert you’ll have to option them across two packages – the 'City Specification' for $12,042 and the 'Touring Specification' which was fitted to our car for $16,402.
The Touring specification adds adaptive cruise, lane keeping assistance, AEB, Night Vision and a head-up display.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor points across the second row.
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.