Maserati Levante VS BMW X5
- 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
- Great new interior
- No price rise on 30d
- Loaded with tech
- Pricey seven seat option
- Warranty starting to look short
- No spare tyre
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|
It took decades to catch on, but Range Rover eventually inspired German carmakers to look outside big sedans to satisfy luxury car buyers. When BMW introduced its first SAV - Sports Activity Vehicle - the X5, the outrage was palpable. Nearly two decades later, the X5 is as indispensable to the BMW oeuvre as the 3 series.
The X5's sales statistics have been impressive, with 55,000 sold in Australia since 2001, and each generation outselling the previous one.
The fourth-generation X5 has arrived in Australia, with two diesels now and a petrol arriving early in 2019 before four-cylinder, plug-in hybrid and the head-butting X5 M arrive over the next year or two.
The G05 X5 is bigger, better-looking and loaded with new technology.
|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 M50d is the more dynamic drive, but the 30d is an excellent all-round package, especially if you have the M Sport option pack onboard. The G05 X5 might be bigger but it hasn't lost its sense of driving fun. In fact, I'd say it's more fun than the F15 - it feels lighter on its feet.
What the G05 also has over the F15 is better value - BMW reckons there's an easy $11,000 of extra stuff in the 30d for no extra money and about $15,000 in the M50d for a price rise of about $5000. It feels a lot more luxurious, looks better inside and out and feels super techie.
It's not cheap and out of the two, I'd probably go for the 30d - it's not that much slower and you can spend a few bucks on the extensive options list.
Does the new X5 shape up against the fancy Porsche or the attractive Mercedes?
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 X5, while bigger in most dimensions, hides its extra bulk well. The extra wheelbase length has improved its proportions slightly and BMW's new design language inside and out has delivered a fine-looking machine. The huge (sometimes chrome) grille is at first a bit hard to take but with time the car grows around it.
The new exterior design features a strong front end, classic X5 profile with a stronger, wavier character line along the flanks. The rear features a new-look set of LED tail-lights and satin finish rather than chrome exhaust tips.
You can tell the 30d from the M50d by the wheel arch extensions (among other things). The M50d's M Sport body kit features a different rear diffuser, side skirts and deeper front spoiler.
Inside is a new cabin that's high on quality with a choice of leather, wood and aluminium trim, including a very nice leather dashboard option. The base leather trim is known as Valcona and you can specify Merino, which is arguably better than the Nappa leather of some rivals. The cars I drove had a very premium feel, the materials a serious cut above the older F15 X5.
One interesting addition is the "Crafted Clarity" glass that comes in the Indulgence package. Obviously going for a very exclusive feel, the start stop button, shifter, volume control and rotary controller have a funky glass application. It could have looked awful but somehow it looks lifted from a Rolls-Royce and works really well.
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 X5 is a big car and delivers plenty of interior space. Interior images show an expansive cabin, with room for five in comfort. Front and rear passengers score two cupholders in each row, with plenty of storage bins and pockets throughout, including bottle holders and pockets in the doors. The rear armrest's clever folding cupholders liberate space for a phone-stowing tray.
Front passengers have plenty of room in all directions. Rear legroom is improved with the car's longer wheelbase - rear passengers are very well looked after.
The interior dimensions mean larger loads fit easily and if you have the air suspension you can drop the car to the weeds to make loading easier. An electrically retractable cargo cover will reduce the boot space dimensions but hide all your goodies and a set of rubber rails rise 3mm when the car is in motion to secure the load.
Luggage capacity is unchanged with the seats up at 650 litres, almost tripling to 1870L with the seats down.
The third row seat option must be combined with the air suspension, meaning you'll be paying around $7000 for the privilege of occasionally carrying people safely in the boot.
Gross vehicle weight ranges from 3010kg for the 40i to 3160kg for M50d. Turning circle is 12.6 metres and wading depth is 500mm.
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 price list is in RRP and reflects either no change (30d) or a small percentage increase (M50d). A BMW dealer might offer you a drive away price, but how much that will cost you will depend on your taste for options. Our range guide takes in the first three variants of the G05 X5 - the 30d, 40i and M50d. Unlike its British rivals, there is no launch edition.
The 30d ($112,900 plus on-road costs) and 40i ($115,900 plus on-roads) models comparison reveals they're basically the same apart from the motor. If gadgets are your thing, the X5 certainly delivers, even in its unadorned entry-level spec.
Standard features include 20-inch alloys, two-piece power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry via BMW's digital "smart key" (part of the standard comfort access system), push button start (or keyless go), LED headlights, daytime running lights, floor mats (I know!), a basic first aid kit, active cruise control, "2.5-zone" climate control air conditioning, GPS navigation system, front view camera, side view camera, limited self parking, basic tool kit, roof rails, and a front and rear parking sensor setup.
Moving up to the M50d at $149,900 plus on-road costs ($5000 more than before) adds an active M differential, laser headlights, dynamic handling package including adaptive suspension with active anti-roll system, rear-wheel steering, M Sport exhaust and brakes (blue rather than red brake calipers), 22-inch alloy wheels, aero package, M steering wheel, four-zone climate control, heated front seats, soft close doors, and heated and cooled front cupholders.
The new park assist function is particularly clever - if you have driven forward into a tight parking space or difficult garage, the system can remember the last 50 metres and back you out automatically, twiddling the electric power steering while you run the brake and accelerator.
BMW's Operating System 7.0 (the name iDrive appears to be fading) looks after the multimedia and sat nav system. The big 12.3-inch touch screen is mightily impressive. You can control it from the rotary dial controller, use air gestures or by swiping or tapping the screen. The sound system has anything from 10 to 20 speakers with an intermediate 16 speaker setup. There's a subwoofer - actually, there are two - lurking in the back. The system includes Bluetooth and DAB radio with USB connectivity. iPhone owners will be pleased to learn CarPlay is standard, while the rest of the smartphone world will be frustrated - Android Auto isn't available at all.
Colours include Alpine White, Carbon Black Metallic, Black, Mineral White, Phytonic Blue, Arctic Grey and Sunstone Metallic (gold). Curiously absent are silver, red and green and even the brown of past models seems unavailable.
On top of the basic specs, there are additional trim levels - M Sport, Indulgence, xOffroad and Performance Package.
The $4000 M Sport edition for the 30d and 40i includes M Sport brakes, adaptive M suspension, aero package and interior trim changes including an M Sport steering wheel.
The $9500 Indulgence Package adds ventilated front seats, crystal glass on some of the switchgear, heated seats front and rear, front seat massage function, merino leather and on the 30d soft-close doors and heated and cooled cup holder for each front passenger.
The $5000 Performance Package (30d and 40i only) puts you on 22-inch rims, adds an M Sport exhaust and includes metallic paint.
Finally, the $7500 xOffroad package - the first of its kind on an X5 - adds additional off road capability (sand, rocks, gravel etc.), rear diff with diff lock, extra gauges in the infotainment screen, adjustable ride height air suspension and the clever display key. That front and rear air suspension negates the need for a lift kit. Aluminium side steps are optional.
BMW also offers a range of 20 inch alloy wheels, as well as 19 inch and 22 inch rims. The 22s, it must be noted, are not run-flats so you cop a space-saver spare. The xOffroad pack does not come with off road tyres but you can purchase the right ones through BMW. Only 22-inch equipped X5's feature a spare tyre as the tyres are run flats on all other sizes.
The accessories and options list is extensive: Apple CarPlay for iPhone integration, a heated steering wheel, a roof rack setup, darker tinted windows, laser headlights and various other technological and comfort enhancements are available.
Missing from these lists are a seat belt extender, light bar, car phone, xenon, HID or projector lights (you get LED lighting as standard, range-wide!), an auxiliary heater, nudge bar, snorkel, bull bar, winch, self driving, autopilot, CD player, homelink, quad exhaust, television, digital TV tuner, DVD player, cargo barrier, boot liner, carbon fiber trim, MP3 player, a rear seat entertainment system or wifi hotspot.
Where is the BMW X5 built? Spartanburg, North Carolina.
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.
At launch, you can have any engine size you like as long as you like 3.0-litre straight-sixes. Of course, each has its own specifications to arrive at very different horsepower and torque figures.
The 30d's engine specs are a 3.0-litre turbo diesel developing 194kW of power and 620Nm of torque.
Moving on to the 40i, this is a 3.0-litre twin turbo petrol knocking out 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque. Petrol vs diesel, the latter wins on torque, hands down.
Want even more? The M50d's 3.0-litre diesel has four turbos strapped to it - that's two times two - for a huge 294kW of power and 760Nm of torque.
They're all 4x4 at this stage, fitted with ZF's always-brilliant eight-speed automatic transmission. It is pretty much the best gearbox on the planet and super-reliable. At this stage, all wheel drive is all you get. A rear wheel drive sDrive X5 is likely later down the track in combination with a smaller four-cylinder engine - 4x2 buyers don't tend to want the extra power of the bigger engines.
The oil burners are fitted with a diesel particulate filter to help reduce emissions and the 30d's twin-scroll turbocharger helps improve low-down response. Advanced technology from injector to exhaust ensure diesel engine problems such as black smoke have long since been banished from modern BMW diesels.
The 0-100km acceleration times are impressive - 6.2 seconds for the 30d, 5.5sec for the 40i and 5.2sec for the M50d. The rolling acceleration performance figures of the M50d are epic.
Towing capacity is uniform across the range - you can drag 750kg of unbraked trailer and 2700kg of braked load. Maximum down load on the tow bar is 140kg.
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 X5's fuel mileage figures are based on the new WLTP standards which better reflect real-world use.
The 30d's diesel fuel economy is the best of the three initially on offer at 7.2L/100km. If you want your fuel consumption km/L, that's around 14km per 1000mL.
The petrol consumption figure on the 40i is the highest figure of the three at 9.2L/100km (or 10.9km/L).
Moving on to the M50d, for all that extra power and torque, the increase over the 30d is just 0.3L/100km to 7.5L/100km (13.3 km/L).
Fuel tank capacity differs slightly between the models - the diesels carry 80 litres while the petrol 40i can carry 83 litres.
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.
On the launch we had the 30d and M50d available, the former with various option packs.
I started with the M50d. Big fast SUVs are pretty common these days but little prepares you for the quad-turbo thrust from the 3.0-litre straight six. The 294kW/760Nm combination means you cover ground very quickly indeed, especially in the gears. Overtaking the famously large log trucks on the roads of northern Tasmania was easy, the torque slinging me down the road with little effort or fuss.
While the road noise from the tyres is noticeable, you can shut it out with the stereo and wind noise is only apparent above the legal limit. Which I never breached, obviously.
The adaptive drive system, which you can switch for economy, comfort or sport depending on your mood, genuinely affects the M50d's demeanour. With sharper everything, the M diff and rear wheel steering, you can have a lot of fun in the corners. We didn't have variable or active steering on the car and it was just fine without it. The active roll stabilisation is very impressive.
The 30d is a very good unit too. It's really not much slower than the M50d in a straight line but is far more relaxed, of course.
The one with the air suspension was supremely comfortable and quiet, raising and lowering itself depending on speed and conditions. The 30d was very accomplished on the loose gravel surface BMW bravely sent us over once I'd pressed the adaptive switch. The standard underbody protection is clearly very good - barely a ping from the gravel.
On both cars, the steering was a standout - the X4 M40i I came home to had a less than deft setup, with the weight in sport plus set too high. Neither 30d or M50d felt too heavy.
As an xOffroad package wasn't available, we haven't done an off road review. I can, however, guarantee you won't have to get out and operate hub switches.
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 X5's significant safety features an airbag count of seven, AEB (auto emergency braking), lane departure warning, lane change warning, blind spot assist, electronic brake force distribution, reverse camera, DSC (sometimes called ESP), reverse cross traffic alert, speed limit assist and information, hill descent control, and a warning triangle (it is a BMW).
If you need to fit a baby car seat, there are two ISOFIX points and three child seat anchor points in the second row.
The X5 range scored the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in late 2018.
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.
BMW's warranty remains - resolutely - at three years/100,000km. BMW is adamant that most customers aren't that bothered. Roadside assist is part of the bargain, from a flat battery to a crash. Rust and paint coverage is also included, although I can't say I've heard any complaints or common faults when it comes to recent X5 bodywork.
Like all BMWs, servicing is condition-based, but you can pre-pay your service cost for five years on the basic package for $1995. Service intervals are then set at 12 month/24,000km maximums. You can also increase your maintenance cost coverage with further levels of cover.
BMW now offers a Genius service at its dealerships, showing you through the features if you have any problems or issues working them out. Even the central locking is a bit complex for some - you can configure different settings in the iDrive system.
Reliability issues are seemingly rare on the X5, but you can purchase an extended warranty if any defects or complaints arise after the initial warranty period expires. As the car is brand new, things like automatic transmission problems, transmission failure or other dramas are yet to rear their ugly heads.
The owners manual will no doubt explain things like oil type and capacity. Resale value for the X5 appears strong over the years although the extra value in these new ones might mean some second hand bargains.