Maserati Levante VS Jaguar E-Pace
- 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
- Exterior design
- Steering feel
- Affordability (for a Jag)
- Cheap interior touches
- Jiggly ride
- No CarPlay
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 E-Pace is a new Jaguar, or is it? Jaguars used to be something your boss drove, cars with a whiff of snob about them, as well as subtle scents of cigar, whisky, mahogany and Old Spice.
They were also loud, powerful and proud machines, and as British as referring to Australians as “colonials”.
The E-Pace, on the other hand, is a small SUV that smells, sounds and seems like a lot of other cars in what Jaguar refers to as, “the hottest segment in the car world; premium soft-roaders". If that sentence alone, coming out of a Jaguar spokeshead’s mouth, doesn’t sum up the way the company has changed, I don’t know what does.
Making your brand more affordable while still making it look desirable is a hell of a profitable trick, if you can get away with it.
What does set it apart, however, aside from that tempting price point, is its looks. Jaguar’s genius designer, Ian Callum, has done it again, creating a simply sexy vehicle that’s so instantly desirable that Australians have piled in with pre-orders, so many of them that the company is already certain the E-Pace will be its biggest-selling model.
Those customers who’ve slapped down deposits without even sitting in one, let alone driving it, might be in for a few surprises.
The E-Pace might not be the full Jaguar, but is it a cute enough cub to cut it? We drove as many variants as we could at the Australian launch to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L 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.
There is absolutely no question the Jaguar E-Pace will be a huge success for the company, and will increase the number of Jags you see on the road exponentially. Much as the German brands have done, since way back when Mercedes launched its A-Class, the British brand has now made itself attainable to the masses.
There’s plenty to love about the way the E-Pace looks, particularly from the outside, and about how it drives. There are, however, some niggles that suggest you might want to test drive one before slapping down your hard earned, and the cheap-feeling plastics in the interior, even in up-spec models, will disappoint some people. Overall, though, Jaguar has built an absolute banker.
Check out Peter Anderson's E-Pace video from its international launch earlier this year.
Could the E-Pace be your first Jaguar? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Levante looks exactly how a Maserati SUV should, with the long bonnet flanked by curvaceous wheel arches with their vents, leading towards a grille that looks ready to eat up slower cars. The heavily raked windscreen and cab-back profile is also very Maserati, as are haunches that muscle over the rear wheels.
If only its bottom was less Maserati. It’s a personal thing, but I find Maserati rear ends lack the drama of their faces and the Levante’s tailgate is no different in that it borders on plain.
Inside, the Levante looks to be a premium, well-crafted place, although closer inspection reveals there are certain items which appear to be shared with other brands which, like Maserati, are owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
The window and headlight switches, the ignition button, the air-conditioning controls, even the display screen all can be found in Jeeps and other FCA cars.
There are no functionality issues here, but from a design and style perspective they look a little basic and lack the refinement a buyer may expect from a Maserati.
There’s a lack of technological pizazz inside as well. For example, there’s no head-up display or large virtual instrument cluster as you’ll find in the Levante’s competitors.
Despite the Jeep-looking bits the Levante is truly Italian. The chief designer Giovanni Ribotta is Italian and the Levante is made at FCA's Mirafiori plant in Turin.
What are the Levante’s dimensions? The Levante is 5.0m long, 2.0m wide and 1.7m tall. So that means space inside is enormous right? Um… let’s talk about that in the next section, shall we?
Frankly, design might just be the E-Pace’s most important feature. It manages to make a small SUV look genuinely desirable by being sexily shapely and perfectly proportioned. This is a seriously difficult trick to pull off, but it’s one that Jaguar has done before, with the hugely successful F-Pace, so this is a case of giving people slightly less of the same.
There really isn’t an angle from which the E-Pace doesn’t look good, but the more money you throw at your car, the better it looks, as the wheels grow from the standard 17-inch ones to very tough looking optional 21-inch units.
At the bottom end of the spec chart, on that sub-$50,000 version that almost no one will actually buy, you don’t even get exhaust tips, and indeed at first glance it looks like the car doesn’t have pipes at all (a weedy little pipe is tucked away underneath), and this does look a bit ordinary.
More chrome and shiny bits are thrown at the car as you move up the price points, and the R-Dynamic spec is obviously the sexiest version of all.
What’s interesting is how different the design feels once you get inside. Imagine being given the famous blue box from jewellers Tiffany and finding a plastic cereal-box ring inside and you’re somewhere near the E-Pace experience.
There is some really quite nasty cheap plastic around the gear lever, in the doors, and right around the window switches in an area you’ll touch every day. The shabby grey plastic surround of the shifter is made of the kind of nasty stuff Hyundai no longer uses.
Not only can you see that it will mark up and wear quite badly, but if you tap on it it makes the kind of noise you’d expect from a kids’ lunch box.
Fortunately, the steering wheel still feels premium, the touchscreen is large and top quality and there’s plenty about the E-Pace that reflects Jaguar design, but it’s hard to get past the feeling that the corners that have been cut to save money are showing so clearly you could cut yourself on them.
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.
While the interior might feel cheap in places, it’s certainly spacious, with excellent headroom front and rear, and a sense of light and airiness that’s much helped by optioning the panoramic glass roof (for a hefty $2160).
Jaguar claims its rear seats are so large customers will shop the E-Pace against bigger vehicles, like BMW’s X3, rather than just direct competitors like the X2. This might be a stretch, but I certainly found it comfortable enough to sit behind my own seating position (I’m 175cm/5'9") without my knees touching the seat back. Shoulder room is also good and four adults could certainly ride in this car in comfort.
Sadly, the seats aren’t quite as comfortable as you might hope, being slightly flat and unsupportive, particularly in the cheaper models.
There’s a cheap-feeling oddments tray that covers two differently sized cupholders between the seats, which can be lifted off and stowed in a good-sized storage big under your left elbow. Another oddment storage tray, made of a quite ugly plastic, sits underneath the head unit and there are large storage pockets in the doors, front and rear, as well as storage for large bottles. Boot space is also reasonably capacious at 484 litres.
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.
There’s no doubting the perceived value of offering a vehicle with a Jaguar badge that starts under $50,000, an idea that would have seemed unimaginable not so long ago.
And if we all bought cars by the kilogram, the E-Pace would certainly be a bargain, because it’s a heavy beast of a thing, far outweighing any of its competitors at not far off two tonnes.
And there’s certainly an astonishing amount of choice in the range, with no less than 38 variants, thanks to what Jaguar calls its 'Ultimate Customer Choice', which allows you to build any kind of E-Pace you fancy.
In Australia, the company says it will be competing aggressively in the $50,000-$70,000 price range and pin points its $62,430, D180 SE model as where its volume, and its conquest sales, will come from.
Early adopters, though, might be tempted by the First Edition, which will only be available for the first model year and comes with all sorts of temping goodies at a price of $80,952 for the D180 or $84,370 for the P250 version.
The First Edition gets spiffy 'Caldera Red' paint, 20-inch 'Satin Grey Diamond Turned' finish alloy wheels, a 'Black Pack' exterior and the fixed panoramic roof, which really does improved the interior ambiance.
Inside you get special mats, branded tread plates, 'Ebony Windsor' leather and a head-up display (which really should be standard across the range, for safety’s sake, but is largely optional).
Other gimmicks include configurable ambient interior lighting, extra power sockets, the sexy 'Jaguar Activity Key' and the gesture tailgate. Overall, this does look like strikingly good value, if you’re willing to spend that much on a small SUV (it's more than 300mm shorter than an F-Pace, at 4411mm long).
In terms of standard features across all models, the list is reasonable, with classy-looking 17-inch wheels, LED lights, space saver steel spare wheel, air vents for the back seats (an absolute must for those with kids), eight-way adjustable seats, which are cloth at the bottom end, 'All Surface Progress Control' - which sounds Land Rover-like but doesn’t mean you can climb boulders - push-button start, a 10-inch 'Touch Pro' screen, which is lovely but does not offer Apple CarPlay, even as an option, and plenty of safety kit, including lane-keep assist, 'Driver Condition Monitor', Front and Rear Parking Aid and Emergency Brake Assist.
The base E-Pace, with no bling spec at all, starts at $47,750 for the showroom-bait D150 diesel, and rises to $50,150 for the D180 (you get an extra 22kW, up to just 132kW) or the same price for the P250 petrol (with 174kW).
Step up to S spec - which includes 18-inch wheels, approach lights on your door mirrors, leather seats, and 'Navigation Pro' and 'Park Assist', plus a Wi-Fi hot spot - and prices range from $55,200 for the D150 through $57,600 for the D180, $64,020 for the D240 (yet another version of the diesel) and then $57,600 for the P250 and finally the same $64,020 pricing sweet spot will get you an S spec P300, the full-fat petrol model with 221kW.
The SE - stepping up to 19-inch wheels, a powered tailgate, 14-way adjustable seats rather than just 10-way and a Meridian sound system and Adaptive Cruise Control - ranges from $60,020 to $70,265 across the same models, while the (almost) top-line HSE (with lashings of leather and colourful stitching, plus 20-inch wheels and a 12.3-inch Driver Display) starts at $65,590 for the D150 (and honestly, who’s going to go for the top spec with the least-wondrous engine, honestly?) up to $77,493 for the P300.
The final choice, for extra icing on your icing, comes with the R-Dynamic pack, which you can add to your base model, or your S, SE or HSE, for around $4500 a throw, offering a range of $52,550 to $83,733.
In proper European gouge style, there are plenty of options as well, including heated and cooled seats that can cost up to $1870, and leather packages that can cost north of $8000, red brake callipers for $660 and a whopping $430 for a DAB radio, or the panoramic roof for $2160. Even keyless entry can set you back $950.
Not offering CarPlay is a mysterious and annoying omission in a brand-new model, but overall there is value to be found in the range, or you can spend yourself silly if you still want to pay $100K plus for your Jaag, but you want a small SUV.
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.
Truly, it is amazing what feats the modern 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is capable of, and the more expensive choices out of the E-Pace’s five offerings really do perform wonders, particularly considering the weight they have to haul.
There’s slightly less excitement at the bottom end, though, as you’d expect, with the 2.0-litre Ingenium D150 diesel making 110kW at 3500rpm and 380Nm at 1750rpm, and taking a leisurely 10-seconds plus to accelerate from 0-100km/h.
The D180 gets 132kW at 4000rpm, and 420Nm at 1750rpm, and runs 0-100km/h in a still sluggish 9.3 seconds.
The two 2.0-litre Ingenium petrol turbo units offer 183kW at 5500rpm and 365Nm for the basic P250, or 221kW at 5500rpm and 400Nm, available between 1500 and 4500rpm, for the top-spec P300, the fastest thing in the range at just 6.4 seconds 0-100km/h.
All E-Paces are fitted with a slick-shifting nine-speed automatic, which makes changing gears manually annoying. Only the R-Dynamic offers shift paddles.
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.
Obviously, running such small engines is a move aimed at fuel economy, so you’d expect the figures to be good, but imagine if the E-Pace was some 400kg lighter, like an Audi Q3 is, how much better the figures could have been.
Still, a claimed 5.6 litres per 100km for the two base diesels, and 7.7 for the perkier and petrol powered P250 is pretty good going. The top diesel D240 can give you 6.2L/100km and you’d still be pretty happy with an 8.0L/100km return from the P300, if you ever managed such a figure, which we seriously doubt.
We averaged closer to double figures in all the variants we drove (albeit enthusiastically).
The CO2 outputs range from 147g/km for the bottom two diesels, stepping up to 162g/km for the D240 and 174 and 181g/km respectively for the two petrols.
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 good news is there’s plenty of genuine Jaguar in the way the car feels to drive, up to a point.
Through long sweeping bends of the medium to high-speed variety, it is great, fluid fun, with minimal body roll, and properly involving, muscular steering.
You can actually feel you’re in a car that’s related to the hugely enjoyable and tough-feeling F-Type. Turn-in is crisp and involving and the front-end set-up feels as sporty as Jaguar people enthusiastically suggest it will be.
And then you arrive, quite quickly, at a 35km/h-marked corner, throw it in and remember that you’re not sitting with your bum anywhere near the ground, and you are piloting a top-heavy machine that weighs nearly two tonnes.
At this point you will get a mild scare, but even then the Jaguar doesn't really misbehave, it simply puts you back in your box and reminds you that a sports car, this is not.
The E-Pace really is a surprisingly heavy vehicle, though, and while that weight can feel like solidity and premium quality while you’re cruising along, it does dull the driving experience on a twisty road.
With diesel-engined cars weighing “from” 1936kg and petrol-engined versions just slightly less, the E-Pace not only weighs in significantly heavier than competitors like Audi’s Q3 or BMW’s X2, it’s actually heavier than its big brother, the F-Pace, despite being a lot smaller (4731 mm vs 4411mm overall length).
The reason is that, while the F-Pace is made of expensive aluminium, the smaller Jag is built on a more steel-heavy platform, a revised version of the architecture Range Rover’s Evoque sits on.
Jaguar says the E-Pace platform is all-new from the firewall forward, so it can have more Jag-like handling, but the decision to share an older design rather than giving it new, lightweight underpinnings of its own is yet another case of saving on cost to get the price tag down.
As sporty as the performance of the up-spec engines is, it’s interesting to wonder just how much better this car might be if it was shaved of 200kg or even 400kg, of weight.
The fact is the E-Pace is not really about being sporty, it’s about stretching the Jag brand as far as possible. If it feels and looks like a Jaguar, and a lot more people can afford one, then genuine sportiness really won’t matter.
For all that, Jag has genuinely managed to engineer in enough Jaguar DNA, particularly in the steering department, to please customers.
On the downside, the ride is unfortunately jiggly and jarring on our rough and broken Aussie roads, particularly if you spec the larger and more attractive 19-, 20- or 21-inch wheels rather than the more sensible standard 17s. And there is quite a bit of tyre roar on coarse-chip surfaces.
The top-spec diesel is meaty and pleasant to use and manages to sound enthusiastic under strain, only becoming slightly clattery at low throttle openings in traffic.
The only time you really notice it’s an oil-burner, however, is when the start-stop system kicks the engine back into life with a cough and a splutter.
Slip down the diesel engine range, however, and the weight-versus-performance equation becomes more noticeable. The base diesel is a bit of a slug, with a 0-100km/h time on the wrong side of 10 seconds, and seems to pause and take a deep breath each time you apply the throttle, or at the base of a hill. Those using the E-Pace for the school run probably won’t mind.
The top-spec petrol engine is, not surprisingly, the pick of the bunch; willing to rev and genuinely quite remarkable when you consider that it is merely a four-cylinder 2.0-litre unit that’s being asked to haul around more than two tonnes of machine and human.
It’s fair to say that, being the hardest working four-cylinders in show business, they sound like they’re straining at high revs rather than having a good time.
It should also be noted that there is absolutely none of the traditional Jaguar growling or howling to be found in the E-Pace.
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.
It seems fair to give extra points to a car that cares about pedestrians, particularly after the autonomous Uber accident, so hats off to the E-Pace for its class-leading pedestrian airbag system, which pops out of the trailing edge of the bonnet to protect slow-moving humans.
Jaguar also combines its blind-spot monitor and its lane-keep assist to come up with something called 'Blind Spot Assist', which will help to prevent you from sideswiping motorcyclists, using flashing lights and corrective steering. Handy. Sadly it's not standard, but it can be had as part of a $1020 'Drive Pack'.
The E-Pace is yet to be crash tested by local authorities, but offers an “optimised body structure” to help it “exceed all safety standards worldwide”.
Six airbags are standard, and there are two ISOFIX points.
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.