Maserati Levante VS Jaguar F-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
- Supermodel looks
- Even more super engine
- More practical than you might think
- Suspension can feel harsh
- Lacks rich exhaust note
- Options as far as the eye can see
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|
New cars are all about sacrifice, right? If you want something sporty, then be prepared to suffer through storage space limited to your internal organs. If you want something practical, then you can kiss the idea of driving something stylish goodbye. And if you want something that can move lots of people, then you might as well head on down to your closest Crocs retailer now, as you clearly value practicality above all else.
But what if you want all three of those things, and all at once? Enter, then, the Jaguar F-Pace.
That Jaguar’s sexy SUV is easy on the eye is a given (I mean, just look at it), but with a supercharged V6 lurking under that shapely bonnet, this S 35t version is not short on performance either. And with oodles of room in both rows of seats, and a boot big enough to swallow an Ikea catalogue’s worth of flat-packed nonsense, it’s pretty damn practical, too.
So what’s the catch?
|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.
Stylish, practical and a hoot to drive fast, the F-Pace S 35t fills so many briefs it could be an underwear model. It could be louder and more comfortable, though, and the options list can be terrifying.
Jaguar F-Pace or Range Rover Velar; what's your pick? Tell us 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?
No doubt about it, the F-Pace was the best-looking SUV on sale (in fact, our very own Richard Berry declared it as such). But that was until the arrival of its Range Rover sibling, the drop-dead gorgeous Velar.
But even now, it would have to be battling it out for second position. Viewed front on, its wide and 3D-effect grille is framed by J-shaped DRLs and this domed bonnet that hints at the F-Pace’s performance potential.
Side-on, massive 20-inch alloys are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber, while the view from the back captures the dual exhaust tips, roof-mounted spoiler and a sharply raked rear window.
In the cabin, the materials aren't quite up to the standards of newer JLR product (we’re looking at you, Velar), but it’s a very clean, very modern feeling space. The single screen in the centre of the cabin is big, bright and easy to use. Soft touch materials (though they feel a touch old-fashioned ) cover the dash, and the steering wheel is wrapped in lovely leather.
There’s some nice design flourishes, too, like the polished silver elements in the door panels, but it’s not as tech-laden as some of its competitors.
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.
Something this good looking shouldn't be this practical. It'd be like flipping Brad Pitt's head open to reveal two cupholders, or discovering Angelina Jolie comes with 745 litres of luggage space. The F-Pace might not be the most practical offering in the segment, but it can carry more stuff and people in more comfort than anything this pretty probably has any right to.
Up front, the cabin is airy and spacious. There are two cupholders hidden beneath a sliding cover, plus another secondary (though quite small) storage bin that separates the front seats, home to the F-Pace’s USB and HDMI inputs, as well as a 12-volt power source. There’s room in each of the front doors for bottles, and quite a large glove box, too.
Climb into the back seat, and there is plenty of room to stretch your legs. Sitting behind my own (178cm) driving position, there’s about 15cm of clear air between my knees and the seat in front. Likewise, there’s plenty of headroom, despite the (optional) sunroof eating into the space a bit.
There's plenty of room across the back of the car for three passengers, but legroom is going to be an issue for the middle rider, with a double whammy of a raised floor section combining with jutting out climate controls, both of which will impact legroom.
Backseat riders can make use of their own climate controls, as well as two 12-volt power sources. A pull-down divider separates the back seat, and is also home to two cupholders. There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
The auto-opening boot reveals a 508-litre storage space (down from 650 litres in other markets, thanks to inclusion of a space saver spare here), but dropping the 40/20/40 split-fold back seat from the easy-reach controls in the boot will approximately triple that volume.
There’s a 12-volt power source in the boot, as well as luggage hooks. The speed-limited space-saver spare is hidden under a flat load shelf in the boot.
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.
As always, the devil is in the detail here, with the F-Pace S 35t's $104,827 list price dwarfed by a monstrous options list that shot our test car's as-tested figure up by almost 50 per cent, to $149,717.
Resist the list, however, and you won't be going home empty handed. Outside, you'll find 20-inch alloys, a sport-flavoured bodykit, LED headlights with J-shaped DRLs, red brake calipers and a powered boot all as standard.
Inside, you'll find leather and suede seats, dual-zone climate and a soft-grain leather steering wheel. Tech is covered by an 8.0-inch, navigation-equipped touchscreen that pairs with an 11-speaker Meridian stereo - but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A second, 5.0-inch colour screen is housed in the driver's binnacle.
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 headline act here is the thumping supercharged V6 that helps give this performance-focused F-Pace its smile-inducing personality.
The 3.0-litre engine produces 280kW at 6500rpm and 450Nm at 4500rpm, sending its power to all four wheels via a slick eight-speed auto transmission. Those numbers translate to a 0-100km/h sprint of 5.5secs (not bad for a 1.8-tonne SUV), and will push the F-Pace on to a 250km/h top speed.
That engine pairs with a torque vectoring system borrowed from the F-Type, which can apply gentle braking to the inside wheel when cornering, helping the F-Pace stay glued to the driving line. A 'Configurable Dynamics' system (which isn't the sexiest name) also allows you to cycle through driving modes, adding weight to the steering, sharpening throttle response and tuning the gearing to its sportiest setting.
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.
Well, there's always a flip-side to prodigious power, and that is inevitable pain at the bowser. That said, Jaguar claims this go-fast F-Pace will sip 8.9L/100km on the combined cycle, which isn't too bad (though if you drive it the way you will definitely drive it, you can expect that number to climb considerably).
Emissions are a claimed 209g/km of C02, and the F-Pace is home to a 63-litre tank.
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 mark of a genuinely sporty SUV is that you can forget you’re driving an SUV at all, and even the lightest touch of the F-Pace’s super-sensitive accelerator teleports you into a low-slung sports car.
The power on offer from that thumping V6 is so ample that, in day-to-day driving, you’re only feathering the throttle, with the the tiniest of inputs enough to get you up and moving, while a millimetre more unlocks enough punch to overtake with ease.
But flatten the pedal and the F-Pace lunges forward with startling pace, accompanied by this strange soundtrack (less a guttural grumble, more an orchestral hum) from under the bonnet, both of which serve to whisk you away from the boring world of practical SUVs, at least while you keep the pedal pinned.
The suspension isn’t perfect. In its harshest setting, you can really feel the bad bits of road enter the cabin, and even in its softest settings it can be caught out by badly broken surfaces. It is not as comfortable or as cosseting as some luxury SUVs can be, and the sporty, figure hugging seats are less comfortable on longer drives. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
The flip-side, though, is that the F-Pace feels always dynamic. There’s very little roll in the body, the steering is sharp and direct, and it feels far more low-slug than it actually is.
Sportiness is only part of the story, and at city speeds the F-Pace is an easy drive. The vision out of every window is fabulous, there’s ample room in the back seat, and it's really more fun - and more dynamic - than something this practical deserves to be.
One downside, though, is that it’s easy to catch the attention of the traction control. If you’re turning while going over a speed bump, for example, or accelerating too hard from a standing-start corner, the nanny will step in, sucking power away from your right foot for a couple of noticeable seconds before letting you get back on your way.
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 F-Pace S arrives with front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) as standard, all of which joins more advanced safety equipment like AEB, 'Lane Departure Warning' and cruise control with a speed limiter.
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 F-Pace S is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 26,000km. Jaguar also allows you to prepay your service costs for up to five years or 130,000km, with a service plan currently priced at $1800.