Maserati Levante VS BMW X4
- 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
- Bold, in-your-face styling
- M40i is a little beast
- Good ride
- Limited room in the back seat
- Boot practicality reduced by sloping rear window
- Steering feels a bit numb
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|
Love it or hate it you can’t say the X4 hasn’t been a hit for BMW, just like the bigger X6. Now the completely new version is here – the sequel to the original, the second-generation X4. But is it better?
This one is bigger – but does that solve the practicality issues of the previous one? The outside is completely restyled, but has the ageing interior of the past been turfed? And now that this is not just a rebodied X3 like the previous car was – does it feel like it has its own identity? And then there’s the wilder M40i - could this be the X4's ultimate form?
I found out this week at the new X4's Australian launch.
|Engine Type||3.0L 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.
This is the X4 I wish BMW started with in 2014 – it feels a far more complete SUV and looks confident in its identity, with a thoroughly modern and cool interior. The M40i feels almost like a completely different car to the xDrive20i in the way it drives. Which reminds me, the X4 M will be here soon – now that is going to be a little monster.
As far as value goes the sweet spot in the range is the xDrive30i – a good price, a great engine, plenty or equipment.
Is this car this or that? 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 X4 is all about the design, well maybe not all but a large part of the appeal of this SUV is its styling, which can polarise opinion more than a dinner party conversation that turns to politics. These opinions don't matter anyway, because it seems the reason some people don’t like it is exactly why some do.
Like the X6, the X4 is an in-your-face SUV with fastback styling. The X4 does look like a ‘Mini Me’ version of the X6, but it’s actually the X3’s twin under the skin, sharing the same platform and engines. But unlike the first generation this new X4 was built in conjunction with the X3 and not just a rebodied afterthought version of the X3.
While this second-generation X4 shape may appear to look a lot like the original X4 from 2014, there have been some big changes.
Let’s start with dimensions, because this SUV is now slightly bigger. At 4752mm end-to-end the length (4733mm for the M40i) has grown by 81mm and it’s 37mm wider at 1918mm (1938mm for the M40i), but 3mm shorter in height at 1621mm tall.
Its profile is less humpy and more sleek, too. Edges have been smoothed especially around the tailgate which now looks more minimalistic, while the big taillights have been replaced by thin blade-like units.
The headlights have been redesigned and the kidney grille is now enormous – and possibly too large, with structural supports behind it being clearly visible. Have a look at the video above – when the SUV is driving towards the camera they are hard not to see, and once you notice, it’s hard to unsee.
You can tell the sporty top-of-the-range M40i by its grey grille treatment and side vents, plus a trapezoidal dual exhaust. The front bumper is more aggressive than the lower grades, but there’s not much in the way of a tough body kit – even the roof spoiler is low key.
The changes to the X4’s cabin are just as significant. See, there’s only so much cosmetic surgery a car company can do to slow the aging of a cabin before a new generation is needed to start fresh.
The previous X4’s cockpit was starting to date with its small-ish touch screen, analogue instrument dials and older styling, but the new X4’s cabin is impressive with a large dash-top display, a fully digital instrument cluster and modern styling. BMW owners will still find it familiar, with the layout of controls almost identical to every car in the BMW line-up.
Have the interior dimensions grown as well? Is there more legroom? And how does that roofline affect anybody with a head in the back seats? Skip forward to practicality or keep reading to find out what you get for your money.
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.
I was afraid you were going to ask this. Even though the X4 shares so much of the X3’s engineering the body itself limits space inside – which is just the price you pay for the coupe roofline.
So, while the boot capacity may sound good at 535 litres (and that’s only 25 litres less than the X3) the sloped rear window and roof will limit you from carrying taller items. With the rear seats folded down you have 1430 litres at your disposal.
Legroom in the second row of the previous X4 was pretty good, but it’s been improved further now that the wheelbase of has been increased in this second generation. At 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with 30mm to spare, thanks also to the cleverly designed front seatbacks, too.
Headroom is where it starts to get ‘iffy’. If you’re as tall as me, you’ll be ok, just, but that roofline drops towards the back so quickly that anybody taller is going to be uncomfortable, especially if there’s a sunroof, which lowers ceiling further.
Up front there are no space issues. BMW says it’s a driver-orientated car which I have a feeling is a diplomatic way of saying only the driver will have the plenty of space and comfort, that and all the dials and control are angled in the pilot’s direction. I was the front passenger for a couple of hours and can report that leg, head and shoulder room was fine for me during my time riding shotgun.
Cabin storage isn’t bad, but could be better. There are large bottle holders in all of the doors, and there are two cup holders up front, but there aren’t cupholders in the back and the bin under the front centre armrest isn’t huge.
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.
How much does an X4 cost? It depends which one you get – there are four grades in the line-up. The range starts with the petrol xDrive20i with a list price of $76,900 and there’s its diesel twin, the xDrive20d for $79,900.
Both come standard with a 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, digital radio, six-speaker stereo, cloth-leather seats, auto parking, a head-up display, adaptive suspension, LED headlights, M leather steering wheel and 19-inch alloy wheels. If you want Apple CarPlay you’ll have to option it for $623. Like all BMW's, there's no Android Auto available.
The next grade up is the xDrive30i and it looks to be the best value in the range with a list price of $83,900. It adds full leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster, proximity keys, adaptive LED headlights and 20-inch alloys.
At the top of the range is the M40i at $109,900, and it brings adaptive M suspension and an M Sport differential. There’s a 16-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo, panoramic sunroof, wood trim, heated front seats, ambient lighting and 21-inch M alloy wheels.
The optional Innovations package adds wireless charging, proximity keys and the 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster for $2200 on the 20i and 20d.
There’s also the $2800 Comfort package which brings heated seats with lumbar support, ambient lighting and wood trim.
As for colours only Alpine White is free – the rest you’ll pay for. Carbon Black, Glacier Silver, Sophisto Grey, Flamenco Red and Phytonic Blue cost $1950, while Sunstone Metallic is $2300.
How does the X4’s price compare to rivals? As a model comparison there’s the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe which starts at about $70,000 and heads north to a bit more than $100,000; also check out Jaguar’s F Pace which lives in the same price range and Porsche’s Macan is more expensive at $80-147,000 but did you consider you can step into a Porsche for $10,000 more than the base X4?
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.
There are four grades in the X4 line-up, a different engine for each and the most affordable is the least powerful.
The xDrive30i is also a 2.0-litre petrol four but makes 185kW and 350Nm, which should be enough for most people but if it isn’t then there’s the six-cylinder turbo petrol xDriveM40i which puts out 265kW and 500Nm.
While the X4 is all-wheel drive, dirt and gravel roads are as adventurous as you should probably get in this SUV. Ground clearance is 204mm which is better than most regular cars.
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.
According to official combined figures, the four-cylinder diesel engine in the xDrive20d uses the least fuel of all X4s at 5.8L/100km. The most fuel-efficient petrol engine is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the xDrive20i and the xDrive30i, with both rated at 7.8L/100km. The six-cylinder petrol in the M40i is the thirstiest at 9.2L/100km.
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.
My main takeaway from the original X4 launch in 2014 was that the suspension seemed to be over sprung, which resulted in a jittery, pogo stick-like ride.
This has been fixed for the new X4. The ride is outstanding, even on the giant 21-inch wheels of the M40i.
Helping achieve this is the M40i’s M Sport adaptive suspension – you can either lock it in Comfort or Sport, but adaptive will adjust the dampers on the fly by ‘reading’ your driving style.
I only had the chance to drive the M40i and the xDrive20i – so the top and bottom of the range. The pick for me is surprise, surprise, the M40i. While it’s not a hardcore M car, it comes under BMW’s M Performance banner, or somewhere in between mild and wild.
Its straight six is a beautiful engine. The sound, the grunt, and the power delivery through the eight-speed auto is wonderful, with great acceleration. BMW claims it will do 0-100km/h in just 4.8 seconds.
Don’t get me wrong, the 2.0-litre four cylinder in the xDrive20i isn't flawed, but to me it just doesn’t have the bark or power to match those fighting-dog looks. Or the handling. The M40i feels taut, planted and confident in the corners despite it being an SUV with a high centre of gravity. That M Sport differential is there to reduce under and oversteer, too. The xDrive20i handles well, but more body roll reminds you that you’re not in a Z4.
What didn’t I like, about the driving experience? Visibility out the slim rear window from my driving positition is terrible, but the auto parking system and reversing camera partially solves that problem. Also, the steering in the xDrive20i feels a little numb – it’s accurate and well weighted but I like more feedback. The M40i has the same issue, but to a lesser degree.
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 new-generation X4 is based on the X3 which was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating in 2017. Coming standard across the range is AEB, but in the xDrive20i and xDrive20d it’s a city version which only operates at lower speeds. Step up to the xDrive30i and you’ll get the full AEB which also operates at highway speeds and brings adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistance. All grades come with LED headlights, lane departure warning and auto parking.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts in the second row and three top tether anchor points.
All grades come with run-flat tyres rather than a spare.
I gave the X4 a better score here than the first-generation car I reviewed earlier in 2018 because of the increase in advanced safety technology. That said, the new X4 did not score an even higher mark because the AEB offered on the 20i and 20d is limited to city speeds. They also miss out on blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance. Also, considering the poor rearward visibility, all X4s should be equipped with reverse AEB and rear cross traffic alert.
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.
The X4 is covered by BMW’s three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is in line with its German luxury competition but lags behind the five-year status quo among mainstream brands.
Servicing is condition-based but you can pre-purchase a variety of service packages to add a bit of certainty to the maintenance bills. Terms range from three years or 60,000km to 10 year or 200,000km, and are available in Basic or Plus levels, with the Plus adding brake pad and disc, clutch and wiper blade replacement.
As an example, the Basic pack costs $1495 for five years/80,0000km, while the Plus package costs $2680 for the same terms.
I'm giving the X4 a fairly low mark here based on the short warranty and the need to pre-purchase the service packages.