Maserati Levante VS Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
- 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
- Good comfort
- Improved interior
- New engines
- Changes a little sedate
- Not overly involving to drive
- Some drivetrain gremlins on test
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|
Believe it or not, the Mercedes-Benz GLC is the brand’s best-selling model. It was in 2018, and it will be again in 2019.
That’s not just for Australia - it’s a global trend, with mid-sized SUVs hitting the sweet spot for buyers of all shapes and sizes in different markets all over the planet.
It’s important, then, that the facelifted GLC range brings something more to the table than its predecessor, which went on sale back in 2015. And it does - by way of additional tech and features, and revised powertrains. It competes with the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, the Volvo XC60, and the Range Rover Velar among others.
Yes, you can still get it in the form of an SUV or a Coupe - the latter of which appeals to one in six buyers enough to buy one. Why? I’ll never know. The Coupe model goes toe to toe with the BMW X4.
Let’s take a closer look at the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC range in a bit more detail. We got to drive it in Germany before it arrives in Australia late in 2019.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The entry-grade Levante is the best choice in the current line-up (Levante, Levante Turbo Diesel and Levante S) because it’s almost identical in performance and features to the pricier S.
I’d give the GranLusso and GranSport packs a miss on this base Levante, but would consider them on the S where they are possibly worth the extra $10,000 rather than the $35K asking price on the entry car.
The Levante does a lot right – the sound, the safety and the exterior styling. But the quality of the interior, with its FCA shared parts, lowers what should be a prestige feel.
And back seat comfort could be better, Maseratis are grand tourers and an SUV from this brand should be able to accommodate at least four adults in superb comfort – something this one can’t do.
Given the choice and about $130K would you choose a Porsche Cayenne or a Maserati Levante? Tells us what you think in the comments below.
The facelifted Mercedes-Benz GLC will undoubtedly help keep it at the top of the pack when it comes to sales.
It remains a competitive and competent luxury SUV, and we’re excited to see how the company approaches the model range when it launches in Australia later in 2019 as a 2020 model.
Would you take a GLC over a BMW X3 or Audi Q5? Let us know in the comments.
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 redesign of the Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV and Coupe models is modest - this isn’t an exaggerated mid-life cycle change, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the GLC has forged a reputation both on its substance, and its style.
It still looks pretty good to me… well, the SUV does. The Coupe-SUV is a concept I’ve never really grasped, but I can’t deny the popularity of the more expensive, less practical, less attractive versions of the GLC.
Mercedes says the regular SUV models adopt a “sportier” appearance as part of the update, with new LED daytime running lights to frame the new standard full-LED headlights, and there’s a revised grille and bumper, depending on the model. Versions with the AMG trim line will have the “diamond” grille which now has more of an ‘A’ shape rather than a ‘V’ design.
The standard versions get new grille designs and new bumpers too, both front and rear. At the back there are also redesigned LED tail-lights and additional chrome, which you’ll find a common theme on the outside of the revised model.
The GLC Coupe models see similar design changes - a redesigned front bumper (with the diamond look as standard), redesigned headlights and tail-lights and a subtler rear bumper with a new diffuser and exhaust garnish.
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 revised cabin of the GLC doesn’t set any new standards, but the updates will help it compete a little better with the plusher, newer BMW X3.
New additions to the GLC interior include MBUX and multimedia system, consisting of two high-resolution digital screens: the first being a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the second a tablet on top of the middle of the dash that manages major controls and media.
The 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system (expected to be standard in Australia) has the "Hey Mercedes" voice control system. The brand has made a big deal about this system, which also has an Artificial Intelligence element to it, meaning it’ll learn your habits, and aim to please you more and more over time.
It’d want to get better the longer you spend with it, because it takes a bit of learning, as there’s a lot of complexity to the way the menus and sub-menus are laid out. Sure, you’re probably supposed to use voice control a lot, but there is some lag time to contend with, not to mention inconsistency.
The screen and controls can also be managed by a central touchpad between the front seats, the screen itself, or the tiny little touchpad on the steering wheel. And yes, it looks a bit classier now - and the displays are crisp - but it feels a bit like new paint applied to an old door.
If you dig practicality as much me (high five!) there are big cup holders up front and in the back, bottle holders in all four doors, and good storage for loose items. You can expect rear vents.
I’m 182cm, or six-feet tall, and in the SUV model I was able to slot behind the driver’s seat with it set in my own position, and I had good headroom, legroom and toeroom. It’s an airy and broad feeling back seat, but there is a large transmission tunnel to contend with, and the door sills themselves are quite intrusive, with a narrow section at the base of the door meaning people with big feet like me (size 12) might feel a bit clumsy getting in and out.
Because of the raked roof line of the Coupe, it is better suited to smaller adults or children, because you need to watch your head getting in and out, and headroom is limited if you’re taller and sitting up straight.
Boot space is cut down for the Coupe at 500 litres, where the regular version has 550L, and the latter is easily enough for a family of four’s luggage for a weekend away.
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.
Mercedes-Benz Australia hasn’t yet announced full pricing and spec details for the updated GLC range, and we won’t know what is included, what is optional and what we miss out on until later this year.
But we can offer up some estimates of where the models might sit when they arrive, based on the existing models, and how they’ll be equipped when they get here, too.
If Australia gets the line-up that CarsGuide believes is likely, the entry-level model will be the GLC 200, listing at about $65,000 for the SUV model. All prices here are estimates only - educated guesses, you might say.
The next model up could be the GLC 300, in both SUV ($72,000) and Coupe ($77,000) guises.
And the diesel version - the GLC 300d - is expected to be offered in the SUV ($79,000) and Coupe ($85,000)
Standard gear on all models will include LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, 19-inch wheels, leather steering wheel, leather seat trim (300 and 300d - 200 likely to get fake leather), electric front seat adjustment, the new MBUX screens (12.3-inch instrument cluster, 10.1-inch media), sat nav, cruise control, digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and more.
It is expected that the new model will be available with optional adaptive dampers at about $1500 or the choice of air suspension ($2500).
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 GLC range includes a range of petrol and diesel engines, but for Australia, there are a few models that are likely to be offered.
The first is the GLC 200, which has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol-turbo engine with 145kW of power and 280Nm of torque. The figures are close to the existing GLC200 RWD base model (135kW/300Nm), but there's an electric boost system for the new engine.
The GLC 200 (and GLC 300 above it) feature the brand’s new 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which gives it the ability to cut the engine when coasting, while also adding up to 150Nm of extra torque at times.
The same 2.0-litre petrol engine has a beefier tune in the GLC 300 model, which pushes out a strong 190kW of power and 370Nm of torque.
And the diesel version we’re likely to get is the 300d, which has 180kW of power and 500Nm of torque. Diesel sales are down dramatically since 2015 - back then diesel accounted for 50 per cent of sales in Australia, but now that figure is closer to 20 per cent. That leads us to believe the range will be rationalised from two oil-burners in the current line-up (250d and 350d) to one.
To begin with, all models sold in Australia will be offered with 4Matic all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission. The current range includes an entry-level rear-wheel drive (GLC 200), but no replacement version has been announced as yet.
Want more performance? There’s the range-topping AMG 63 model, while an AMG 43 replacement is also expected, though not yet revealed.
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.
Claimed fuel consumption is set to be between 7.1 and 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres for the petrol models, and that’s measured at the new WLTP standard. We didn’t get a chance to monitor fuel use on the launch drive.
The diesel version we’ll likely get has claimed fuel use of 5.8L/100km.
The fuel use figures are the same across SUV and Coupe body styles.
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.
We only got the chance to spent time on the road in the new GLC 300 model, which is likely to replace the popular GLC 250 in Australia.
The road loop we sampled the car on consisted mainly of flowing freeway/autobahn sections, a little bit of urban driving, and a short stint in some corners that included surfaces that put most Australian race tracks to shame. They were that smooth.
And every GLC 300 we drove had the air suspension system fitted, so we can’t really say how it will handle Aussie-standard bumps and lumps. In this specification, the car was really quite pleasant - not too floaty, but soft enough to live up to the Comfort mode designation chosen. In Sport things were a little firmer, but still with a touch of body roll noticeable in corners. If you want a corner carving horsepower hero, it’s worth considering the GLC 63 AMG model... provided the budget allows.
The steering in the GLC 300 was light and predictable, if lacking much in the way of enjoyment - but for a family SUV that deals more with car parks and parallel manoeuvres, it will likely be a competent and confident option.
The engine itself was quiet and refined for the most part, building pace with ease and stepping away from a halt with enough eagerness to please the vast majority of customers.
While the addition of the new 48-volt system is clearly advantageous to initial pull-away power, it wasn’t necessarily seamless. On a few occasions we noticed some confusion from the powertrain, including hesitance from coasting to on-throttle. We even noted some shunting from the nine-speed auto transmission, which was quite un-Mercedes-like.
For those who want an off road review, we got a chance to put the 300d model through its paces under the instruction of advisors at the ADAC off-road park outside Frankfurt. The purpose-built course incorporated 36-degree side-angle driving, a deep rutted slalom course with plenty of articulation, a muddy creek crossing, and a log bridge crossing (where the optional 360-degree camera with active steering guidance lines was the difference between lining it up right or ending up on the roof 2.5 metres below).
The GLC 300d was surprisingly adept at each instance. Even up a 60-degree climb the AWD system was measured and managed the acceleration input I gave it very well.
The cool thing about the versions we drove off-road was the Off Road Package, which included more advanced telemetry, optional air suspension, an optional off road body kit to improve the off road specs of the GLC, and a pair of off-road modes (one for general unsealed driving, the other for more serious stuff with a speed limit of 45km/h, re-calibrated acceleration and gearing, and even headlights that offer a wider, shorter spread for low-speed driving in dark surrounds).
If you’re wondering about the off-road specs, the ground clearance (mm) is up to 245mm with the air suspension raised, while the approach angle is rated at 30.8 degrees and the departure angle at 24.9deg.
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 GLC range was awarded the highest possible five-star ANCAP crash test rating in 2015. Since then the standards have moved on, and it won’t be retested. However, that is unlikely to be a large deterrent because the range comes loaded with safety equipment and technology.
There’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane departure warning, active lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Every GLC comes with nine airbags fitted (dual front, front side, rear side, curtain and driver’s knee) and of course there are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and three top-tether points, too.
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.
Mercedes-Benz models are sold with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which includes the same duration of roadside assist. No-one is doing much better than that in the luxury segment… apart from Tesla, which offers an eight-year/160,000km warranty.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever occurs first - very generous - and the brand offers pre-pay or pay-as-you-go servicing across its model range, and pricing varies between the two. Upfront cover for three years is $2150, while PAYG is $2700. If you want to prepay for four years or five, you can - the costs are $2950 / $4650 respectively.
These costs cover the regular scheduled servicing (including brake fluid, air, cabin and fuel filters, spark plugs and coolant) but consumables like brake pads and discs and wiper blades will incur additional fees.