Maserati Levante VS Lexus RX
- 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
- Plush Luxury and Sports Luxury models
- Now with touchscreen and smartphone mirroring
- Good value and equipment
- F Sport ride compromised
- Not as dynamic as rivals
- Cabin could have seen more changes
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 Lexus RX is a big seller for the Japanese brand - in fact, it’s the most popular model in the range in Australia, accounting for more than one-in-four new Lexus models sold, and its the third most popular luxury SUV in Australia, too.
So when an updated version of the RX arrives, you can expect there to be some innovations worthy of attention. That’s certainly the case for the 2020 Lexus RX.
You might be able to pick the facelifted model by its styling changes, but only if you’re a trainspotter - the luxury large SUV hasn’t changed a whole lot since in launched in Australia in 2015.
Read on to find out what has changed, and whether the updated RX argues a strong case against its high-end, high-riding rivals.
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 updated Lexus RX 2020 model brings some attractive additions and offers a number of compelling arguments against the German rivals it chiefly competes against.
The hybrid versions are truly efficient and impressive, but it’s the entry-level RX 300 Luxury that stands out as the potential value winner of this range.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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?
While a number of luxury SUVs play it relatively safe when it comes to styling, the Lexus RX plays from a different angle in the segment. Angles. Yes, there are plenty.
The styling changes are subtle unless your eye is tuned to the finer details. Things like the different shaped inlays for the spindle grille, the slightly reshaped bumper bar with integrated cornering lights, the new headlight internals… but at a glance, it looks pretty similar to before, albeit a little broader looking due to the horizontal emphasis on the front-end design.
How does that translate to interior dimensions? The interior photos should give you an idea, but there’s been a bit of work done for the three-row models to improve the back seat space.
The rear has seen small changes too, with L-shape tail-light inlays, and revised lower bumper design to again broaden the look of the car.
There’s not much to tell the difference in profile, other than new wheel designs (18s on the entry car, 20s on the high grade versions). The profile gives away the difference in dimensions when you compare the five- and seven-seat models. The five-seater is 4890mm long, while the L model is 5000mm from tip to tail. Both models size up at 1895mm wide, and the five-seater is 1690mm tall - the same height as the 350 L model. The 450h is 1685mm tall, and the L models are 1700mm high.
One thing is for sure - the smaller RX model pulls off its sharp-edged sheetmetal look a bit better than the L versions. But what about interior dimensions? The interior photos should give you an idea, but there’s been a bit of work done for the three-row models to improve the back seat space.
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 biggest news here is that the media unit is now a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Rejoice! You don’t need to use the horrible trackpad controller anymore… but you can if you want to. It has capability for both. And it now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is also new to Lexus.
Of course it works a lot easier than the old one, plus there are four additional USB ports added to the cabin for all variants - making a total of six! - and all models also get paddle shifters on the steering wheel now, too.
Other elements of the cabin are pretty untouched - there are still plenty of buttons below the screen, plus decent storage consisting of cup holders between the front seats (and in a fold-down arm rest in the rear), plus there are cup holders in the third row for those models, too. There are bottle holders in the doors, and a few loose item storage bins (including a wireless phone charger in front of the shifter).
The seats are very comfortable (more so in the Luxury and Sports Luxury versions - the F Sport has firmer seats that aren’t as cushy) and offer good adjustment for taller occupants. The electric steering column adjustment is a nice touch, too.
Rear seat space is fine for adults and good for little ones. There’s decent headroom in models without the panoramic roof (the big glass ceiling does eat into space a bit), while knee-room is good across the board. Toe room is tight.
The second row can be slid fore and aft to improve space in the boot, or allow more space for those in the third row (if equipped). The rearmost seats now have a bit of adjustment as well, though still are best considered bonus seats for kids.
The luggage capacity varies depending on the model. The five-seat versions of the RX have a claimed storage space of 506 litres to the top of the back seat (or 453 litres to the cargo blind, as previously stated), while the seven seat model has 176 litres behind the third row seats, and 591L when the rearmost seats are folded down. You might want to consider a roof rack system for the roof rails if that boot space isn’t big enough.
The storage space includes a cargo cover (or retractable tonneau cover), and you can option a liner if you so choose.
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 the Lexus RX cost? Well, that varies depending on the model in the range, as there’s an extensive price list to consider, here.
There are three grades of Lexus RX - the entry-level Luxury, the athletically-intent F Sport, and the plush Sports Luxury flagship.
And then there’s the question of how many seats - because depending on the grade, you can go for a seven-seat version of the RX with a now-adjustable third row seat setup.
So yes, it’s a bit complicated, but the table below should help you figure out the model comparison for yourself:
Price (RRP - before on-road costs)
RX 300 Luxury
RX 300 F Sport
RX 300 Sports Luxury
RX 350 Luxury
RX 350 F Sport
RX 350 Sports Luxury
RX 450h Luxury
RX 450h F Sport
RX 450h Sports Luxury
RX 350L Luxury
RX 350L Sports Luxury
RX 450hL Luxury
RX 450hL Sports Luxury
Wondering if you should compare the Luxury vs the F Sport for your needs? Here’s a rundown of the trim levels and standard features in each.
The Luxury grade gets 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights (with auto on/off function and auto high-beam), front cornering lamps, rains sensing wipers, and a power tailgate with kick-to-open function.
Inside, Luxury models have the new 12.3-inch touch screen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a GPS navigation system (sat nav), DAB digital radio (as well as CD player and AM/FM radio), Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a 12-speaker sound system, six USB ports (four front, two rear), wireless phone charging, smart key entry and push-button start, power adjustable steering column, climate control air-con and rear privacy glass (tinted windows). It runs a fake leather trim standard, and yes, there is a sunglass holder.
The step up to F Sport and Sports Luxury grades now sees adaptive LED high-beam headlights using “blade scan” technology fitted - they don’t shine the light at the road, rather at a mirror that spins at up to 12,000rpm and, according to the brand, boosts brightness and reach compared to conventional LED units. These variants run on 20-inch wheels, too.
F Sport and Sports Luxury models also gain adaptive variable suspension, plus they get leather interior trim (with sports seats in the F Sport) with heating and cooling for the front seats. The rear seats have retractable sunshades.
Being the sport edition, the F Sport features additional bracing front and rear for “an even more dynamic character”, with sports suspension, a Mark Levinson sound system with 15 speakers, and a 360-degree camera display.
Top-spec Sports Luxury versions further add power-adjustable rear seats, second-row seat heating and semi-aniline leather upholstery. No heated steering wheel or rear seat entertainment system, though.
Want more? There is a premium package - or Enhancement Pack, in Lexus speak - for Luxury variants which adds a panoramic sunroof on five-seat models or a smaller moonroof on seven-seaters, among other niceties. The cost and additional equipment varies depending on the model. You might need to shop around for rough-and-tumble accessories like a nudge bar, bull bar, rubber floor mats or less shiny rims.
Colour choices (or colors, as your autocorrect may insist) across the RX range include black, white, red, blue, silver, gold, grey and brown (bronze), plus there’s now a lovely green hue, too. You can choose between four different interior colour combos, as well.
Safety levels are up across the board - read the section below for more.
Across the board there is good value here, but that’s especially the case in the entry-grade RX 300 Luxury.
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.
If engine specs are your thing, prepare yourself! We’ve got the outputs and ratings for each of the powertrains here.
The entry-level RX 300 models run a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with 175kW of power (at 4800rpm) and 350Nm of torque (at 1650-4000rpm). It is front wheel drive only, and comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. There is no manual transmission available.
Stepping up in engine size and horsepower is the RX 350, which has a 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine producing 221kW (at 6300rpm) and 370Nm (at 1650-4000rpm) in five-seat guise, while the seven-seater has slightly less power due to packaging constraints on the exhaust system - it has 216kW and 358Nm. RX 350 models have an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (a clever AWD system that mainly drives the front wheels but can add rear wheel drive when necessary - it’s not a serious 4WD / 4x4 system aimed at off road capability).
The RX 450h adds an electric motor and battery pack to the mix, with the 3.5-litre V6 engine and nickel-metal hydride battery back teaming with a 50kW electric drive rear motor. The combined power output of the hybrid is 230kW, but Lexus doesn’t specify a combined torque figure. It is AWD and uses a CVT with six-step ratios.
The kerb weight varies depending on the model, with RX 300 variants between 1890-1995kg, the RX 350 five-seater models between 1980-2090kg and seven-seaters between 2090-2150kg, while the RX 450h’s extra powertrain hardware means it weighs between 2105-2210kg (five-seat) and between 2220-2275kg (seven-seat).
The gross vehicle weight (GVW) ranges from 2500kg for the RX 300, 2575kg for the RX 350 five-seater (2720kg - seven-seater), and 2715kg (2840kg - seven-seater). So, be wary if you have a heavy family.
Planning on having a tow bar or tow hitch receiver fitted? The braked towing capacity for the RX 300 is just 1000kg, while the RX 350 can cope with 1500kg and so can the 450h… but the 450hL model is unable to tow.
Want a diesel RX? What about a plug in hybrid or LPG model? None of those are available at the time of writing.
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.
Fuel economy is yet another consideration, and while there is a hybrid model, there are no fuel-sipping hybrids… plus Lexus’s turbo petrol doesn’t claim as low a figure as some of its rivals. There is an eco mode in each of the models.
For instance, the RX 300 claims fuel consumption of 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres, while the RX 350 is said to use 9.6L/100km for the five-seater and 10.2L/100km for the seven-seater.
The hybrid RX 450h five-seater claims fuel use of 5.7L/100km, and the seven-seat RX 450hL is said to use 6.0L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity is 72 litres for the RX 300 and RX 350, while the RX450h variants have a smaller 65-litre tank - that shouldn’t affect your potential mileage per tank though, because it uses less fuel.
Note: you need to use 95RON premium unleaded, no matter the model.
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 company claims it has made a lot of changes to what’s under the metalwork of the RX, and I can tell you the results are a bit varied.
The revisions to the chassis - thicker stabiliser bars and softer suspension, revised bearings, retuned electric power steering, a new torque vectoring by braking system - generally make for a more enjoyable and comfortable drive experience. But that wasn’t really the case in one of the grades I drove.
It has to be said, though, that my time at launch was spent in the RX 450h Sports Luxury, which gets a plush adaptive suspension tune on the 20-inch wheel package, and also the RX 300 F Sport, which likewise runs 20s but has a firmer suspension setup with extra body stiffening.
What it meant was the two felt vastly different - the F Sport felt overly thumpy and fiddly over rippled or lumpy sections of road where the front suspension felt flummoxed. We didn’t do an off road review, but there was a long, patchy driveway on the road loop where the RX 300 F Sport didn’t feel at home at all. Ground clearance is 200mm for most models, while the 450h is 195mm.
That said, the RX 300 F Sport was perfectly fine on the freeway back to Sydney, and decent on slow-moving city streets, too.
On the other hand, the RX 450h was generally more composed, sedate in its actions, more measured in the way it handled bumps. Even without air suspension (as many rivals offer), the Sports Luxury model was a more Lexus-like experience - even if there is more noticeable road noise because the powertrain is so quiet.
The retuned steering offers a lightness that makes it feel easy to drive, and the turning radius (aka turning circle) is 11.8m, which is decent for a car of this size (no matter whether you get the smaller alloy wheels or the larger chrome wheels). Oddly, though, the lock-to-lock movement feels very hard to judge.
When it comes to performance figures, the hybrid versions have the edge. The 0-100 time for the five-seat RX 450h version is 7.7 seconds, while the five seater RX 350 claims 8.0sec and the RX 300 is said to do the sprint in 9.2sec. The L models are slower (RX 450hL - 8.0sec; RX 350L - 8.2sec).
The RX 450h felt effortless to drive - admittedly relaxed, and not exactly fun, but sorted and comfortable and predictable enough.
The overall impression for the drive experience in the updated RX range at launch was somewhat limited, as we didn’t get a chance to drive the biggest-selling RX 350 model, which accounts for about half of all RX sales here. A shame, too, because we get the feeling it’d be the sweet spot for a lot of people.
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 safety rating of the Lexus RX range hasn’t changed since it was tested back in 2015, when it scored the maximum five-star ANCAP score. The criteria for achieving that score has shifted over the years, but the brand has improved safety equipment on all models in the RX range.
Features on all models include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that works at high and low speeds with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, plus every model has adaptive cruise control, lane trace assist (an evolution of lane keeping assist and lane departure warning that aims to keep you centred in your lane). Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a new “parking support braking system” incorporates rear AEB for static and moving objects into the mix, too.
There’s also traffic sign recognition, and every Lexus RX has 10 airbags (dual front, front side, driver and passenger knee, rear side and full length curtain).
There are dual ISOFIX baby car seat anchor points and three top-tether restraints in all RX models, while models with a third row also get an additional top tether.
The entry-level Luxury model gets a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, while the F Sport and Sports Luxury variants add a 360-degree camera. No model has semi-autonomous parking assist.
Where is the Lexus RX built? Japan is the answer.
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.
Lexus continues to resist offering a capped price servicing plan in Australia, and still doesn’t have a pre-pay service plan like all of its rival luxury brands. It’s a shame you can’t include a maintenance cost in your car finance, as that’s one of the big advantages of a pre-pay plan.
That might factor into your ownership decision, but indicative costs for servicing are about what you’d expect for a large luxury SUV. Read our Lexus service cost story here.
Service intervals for RX models are every 12 months/15,000km - and you when it’s time for a service you can either get a free loan car, or have your car collected and returned to your home or office when a service is required.
While the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo are all still running a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, Lexus has a four-year/100,000km plan. Hey, you could consider that an extended warranty based on the status quo! There’s the same cover for roadside assist, too.
If you’ve got concerns over common problems, complaints or issues, whether there have been transmission problems or issues with the engine or suspension - or if you just want to know our reliability ratings and resale value projections, you can head to our Lexus RX problems page.