Maserati Levante VS Porsche Cayenne
- 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
- Looks cool
- Beautifully engineered
- Fast yet comfy
- Modest warranty
- Upper model $$$
Maserati. What do you reckon that name means to most people? Fast? Loud? Italian? Expensive? SUVs?
And that may happen even faster with the arrival of the most affordable Levante ever - the new entry-grade, simply called Levante.
So, if this new cheaper Levante isn’t expensive (in Maserati terms) does that mean it’s not fast, loud or even Italian, now?
We drove this new, most affordable, Levante at its Australian launch to find out.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
It was only a matter of time. More than a decade ago BMW kicked off the German luxury SUV coupe 'thing' with the X6, followed by the smaller X4.
Mercedes-Benz returned serve with its GLE and GLC Coupes, and more recently Audi has joined the party with the Q8. Now the domino effect has reached Porsche, with the Australian introduction of this car – the Cayenne Coupe.
Question is, does its carefully sculpted form compromise its intended SUV function? Happily, Porsche invited us to the local launch drive program, so we can find out.
|Engine Type||4.0L 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 Cayenne Coupe is a logical extension of Porsche's determined push into the world of SUVs, yet logic isn't the key driver here.
Not cheap at any level, it's an emotional choice that's all about the optics. A swoopy, beautifully proportioned beast that'll poke your adrenal gland as effectively as it'll carry your kids and groceries.
Our pick is the twin-turbo V6 S. Massive performance and plenty of fruit without the top-shelf price tag.
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?
Porsche describes the Cayenne Coupe as a "more progressive, athletic and emotional" version of the third-generation Cayenne, and it's hard to disagree with that assertion.
The Cayenne Coupe's nose and front doors are unchanged from its more upright sibling, but the car is in fact fractionally longer, lower and wider (at the rear). LED headlights are standard across the board with the Porsche Dynamic Light System fitted to all but the entry-level car. That brings swivelling main beams and static cornering lights.
The windscreen angle is shallower and the front roof edge has been lowered 20mm. And the steeper roofline falls gently to the rear, and you start to see the impact of an extra 18mm of width back there.
Other tweaks include repositioning of the rear numberplate into the bumper and an adaptive rear spoiler which extends by 135mm at speeds of 90km/h and above.
The cabin will be familiar to current Cayenne owners, the front section essentially unchanged with a broad centre console and configurable media and instrument displays. The biggest changes inside are in the back.
Standard fit is effectively a two-seat rear, although the 'comfort' three-seater rear bench from the Cayenne is available as a no-cost option.
A huge panoramic fixed glass roof is standard but if you want to go full racer spec a carbon turret is optional.
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.
At just under 5.0m long, a little under 2.2m wide and close to 1.7m tall the Cayenne Coupe is a sizeable machine, and those in the front, divided by that wide, tapered centre console, are provided with plenty of space.
In terms of storage, there are two cupholders in that console as well as a small oddments tray, a lidded armrest/storage box between the seats, a decent glove box, and big bins in the doors with room for large bottles.
There are two 12-volt outlets, but be prepared if you're a USB-A user (Luddite?), there are two outlets in that centre storage box, and they're both USB-C.
Rear passengers sit 30mm lower than in the standard Cayenne and sitting behind the driver's seat set for my 183cm height, I enjoyed plenty of head and legroom. So here, the coupe roofline factor, isn't much of a factor at all. And the backrest angle is adjustable, which is a nice touch.
There are two cupholders in the fold down centre armrest, map pockets on the back of the front seats as well as individual ventilation outlets and two more USB (C) jacks.
The boot is where the rubber hits the road in terms of practicality, and despite the sloping rear end boot capacity is still generous in the first three models – 625 litres with the rear seat upright, for the Coupe and S Coupe, expanding to more than 1540 litres with the 40/20/40 split-folding backrest lowered.
The Turbo shrinks slightly to 600/1510L, and the addition of the Turbo S E-Hybrid's Lithium-Ion battery pack, electric motor and associated componentry means its cargo capacity is reduced by around 17 per cent to 500/1440L.
There are tie-down anchors at each corner of the floor, a 12-volt outlet, good lighting, and the spare is a collapsible space saver.
Maximum towing capacity for the non-hybrid models is 3.5 tonnes for a braked trailer (Turbo S E-Hybrid 3.0 tonnes) and 750kg unbraked. Porsche's 'Trailer Stability Management' system is standard.
Price and features
Guessing you want to know just how much more affordable this Levante is compared to the other grades in the range? Okay, the entry-level Levante lists for $125,000, before on-road costs.
That may sound expensive but look at it like this: the entry Levante has the same Maserati-designed and Ferrari-made 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 as the $179,990 Levante S and an almost identical standard features list.
So how on this planet is it possible there could be a $55K price difference and yet the cars be almost the same? What’s missing?
Horsepower is missing – the base grade Levante may have the same V6 as the Levante S but it doesn’t have as much grunt. But we’ll get to that in the engine section.
As for the other differences – there aren’t many, almost none. The Levante S comes with a sunroof as standard and front seats that adjust to more positions than the Levante, but both grades come with an 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, leather upholstery (the S does get more premium leather), a proximity key and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Those standard features are also identical to those in the Turbo-Diesel which sits above the Levante at $159,990.
Apart from less horsepower, no standard sunroof (as on the S) and upholstery which isn’t quite as nice as the S’s another downside to the base grade Levante is that optioning the GranLusso and GranSport packs is expensive… really expensive.
The GranLusso adds luxurious touches to the exterior in the form of metallic trim to the roof rails, the window frames and protection plates to the front bumper, while in the cabin thee front seats come in a choice of Ermenegildo Zegna silk upholstery, Pieno Fiore (full-grain) leather or premium Italian hide.
The GranSport toughens up the exterior with a more aggressive body kit with black elements and adds 12-way power adjustable sports seats, brushed-chrome shifting paddles and aluminium-face sports pedals.
The features those packages offer are nice – those silk and leather seats are sumptuous for example, but each pack costs $35,000. That’s almost 30 per cent of the list price of the entire vehicle, extra. The same packages on the Levante S costs just $10,000.
While the Levante is the most affordable Levante, and also the cheapest Maserati you can buy, it’s more expensive than its Porsche Cayenne (entry V6 petrol) rival which lists for $116,000, while the Range Rover Sport 3.0 SC HSE is $130,000 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 43 is $135,529.
Is the new entry-grade Levante good value, then? Yes, for a Maserati, if you don’t option the packages, and yes compared to most of its rivals.
The Cayenne Coupe launches with four models with prices ranging from close to $130,000 to just over $290,000, before on-road costs, a slight price premium over the existing Cayenne line-up. Key competitors are the usual German suspects in the shape of the Audi A8, BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
Entry point is the Cayenne Coupe at $128,000, followed by the S at $166,200, then the Turbo steps up to $253,600, with the flagship Turbo S E-Hybrid weighing in at $292,700.
Above and beyond the safety tech covered separately in the Safety section, standard features on the Cayenne Coupe include: the Sport Chrono system, 20-inch alloy rims, 'Porsche Active Aerodynamics' (with adaptive rear spoiler), LED headlights, 'four-point' daytime running lights and tail-lights, auto rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, panoramic roof, privacy glass, eight-way electrically adjustable sports front seats with driver memory package (14-way 'Comfort' front seats are a no-cost option), partial leather interior, multi-function sports steering wheel with manual shift paddles, gloss black interior elements, stainless steel sill guards, 10-speaker hi-fi audio (with digital radio), auto tailgate, cruise control, 12.0-inch touchscreen display managing navigation, audio and car systems, plus twin scrollable digital screens in the instrument display.
The S adds: air suspension, 21-inch alloy rims, metallic paint, twin dual-tube tailpipes, the 'Porsche Dynamic Light System', front seat heating, stainless steel pedal covers, and Bose 14-speaker/710W Surround Sound audio.
On top of that the Turbo lands: 'Porsche Dynamic Chassis Control', 22-inch wheels, the rear apron in the exterior colour, ambient lighting, four-zone climate control, 18-way electric 'Adaptive Sports' front seats with memory package, seat heating (front and rear), front seat ventilation, 'Comfort Access', a 'smooth-finish' leather interior, steering wheel heating, interior trim package in brushed aluminium, and floor mats.
Then, aside from ridiculous performance, the Turbo S E-Hybrid tips in with: 'Porsche Torque Vectoring Plus', recuperative braking, 22-inch 'RS Spyder' design wheels (including wheel arch extensions in the exterior colour), and 'Parking pre-climatisation'.
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.
All Porsche Cayenne Coupe engines feature an all-alloy construction, and direct-injection, with the cylinders arranged in a vee - the Coupe and S featuring six, the Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid, eight. Outputs range from properly powerful to utterly outrageous
The Cayenne Coupe is powered by a 3.0-litre (single, twin-scroll) turbo V6 featuring 'VarioCam Plus' (variable valve timing and lift on the inlet side) to produce 250kW/450Nm.
The Big Kahuna Turbo S E-Hybrid precisely doubles the base car's peak numbers. Yep, 500kW (670hp!) and 900Nm.
Central location of the V8's twin-scroll counter-rotating turbos in the inner 'hot V' (between the cylinder banks) optimises packaging and improves throttle response by shortening shortens the length of the exhaust plumbing to the turbos and the distance compressed air travels back to the intake side of the engine.
Iron coating of the cylinder linings and a chrome nitrite finish on the piston rings is claimed to improve durability and reduce oil consumption by up to 50 per cent compared to Porsche's previous 4.8-litre naturally aspirated V8.
All models feature Porsche's eight-speed 'Tiptronic' 'Shift-by-Wire' auto transmission, with drive going to all four wheels via an active AWD system built around an electronically variable, map-controlled, multi-plate clutch.
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.
At this stage, Porsche is quoting combined cycle (urban, extra-urban) fuel economy figures in line with Euro 5 standards, ranging from 4.4L/100km for the Turbo S E-Hybrid, through 9.9L/100km for the 'base' V6, through 10.0L/100km for the S, to the thirstiest model, the Turbo, at 12.3L/100km.
CO2 emissions start at 100g/km (Turbo S E-Hybrid), rising to 225g/km (Coupe), through 229g/km (S), and finishing at 280g/km (Turbo).
Auto start-stop, with coasting function, is standard on the non-hybrid models, minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 75 litres of it to fill the hybrid's tank, rising up to 90 litres for the other models.
Swapping through multiple models, with multiple drivers, on the media launch made it impossible to capture meaningful 'real world' figures, so we'll wait until a Cayenne Coupe hits the CarsGuide garage to record our own numbers.
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.
And as engine outputs rise, 0-100km/h acceleration times drop from an impressively rapid 6.0sec for the entry Coupe, through 5.0sec for the S, to 3.9sec for the Turbo, and 3.8sec for the Turbo S Hybrid. The Hybrid's more than 300kg heavier than the Turbo, so only a tenth faster.
Even in the base Coupe thrust is solid, urgent in the S, and brutal in the Turbo. Although it's already on sale in dealerships, the Turbo S E-Hybrid was a no-show at the media launch, but we'll be driving and reviewing one on home soil soon.
Despite turbos sitting in the way of a pure exhaust flow, the accompanying engine note and exhaust rumble is satisfyingly tough. Push hard in the Turbo and the howl emanating from the rear envelops the entire car.
All models feature Porsche's eight-speed 'Tiptronic' 'Shift-by-Wire' auto transmission, and it's just about as good as a conventional torque-convertor unit gets. Smooth yet precise, and satisfyingly quick in manual mode.
All models are equipped with 'Porsche Active Suspension Management', better known as PASM, which allows for on-the-fly suspension tuning to a firmer setting, plus air suspension on the top three models. Suspension is aluminium multi-link front and rear.
The Cayenne Coupe rides on 20-inch alloy wheels, the S on 21s, while the Turbo and Turbo S E-Hybrid roll on 22s, and the ride comfort / handling balance is amazingly good.
The Sport Chrono package is also standard on all variants enabling adjustment of chassis, engine, and transmission response through 'Normal', 'Sport', 'Sport+' and 'Individual' settings.
Select Sport or Sport+, then soften the suspension off to the Comfort setting and you have a perfect open road combination. This is a superb touring car.
Despite a bonnet, tailgate, doors, side sections, roof and front wings fabricated in aluminium, kerb weights are pretty chunky. The Coupe and S weigh just above 2.0 tonnes, the Turbo is 2.2 and the Turbo S E-Hybrid tips the scales at 2.5 big ones. But all models feel planted and well balanced on a quick B-road run.
And then there's the little Sport Response button in the centre of the Sport Chrono mode dial on the steering wheel. It's essentially a short-cut to Sport+, which tightens up responses and allows the turbos to overboost for a short period. Hit it and you have a 'push-to-pass' pick up for up to 20 seconds.
Electromechanical 'Power Steering Plus' features on all models and it's flat-out brilliant. Accurate, with great road feel and spot-on (variable) weight.
And brakes range from big to enormous, with professional grade ventilated rotors all around and four-piston front calipers on the Coupe, six-piston units on the S, and no less than 10-piston aluminium monobloc monsters on the Turbo and Hybrid. They all work in a fuss-free, confidence-inspiring way.
We covered some smooth graded dirt roads on the launch drive and Porsche is confident in the Cayenne Coupe's ability in tougher off-road terrain.
Air suspension models can be switched between 'Normal', 'Gravel', 'Mud', 'Sand', and 'Rock' modes and for the hardcore adventurers maximum clearance (between the ground and water-sensitive parts) is 500mm for the Coupe, 530mm for the S and Turbo, dropping to just 280mm for the Turbo S E-Hybrid.
Approach angle for the Coupe is 25.2 degrees (27.5 for the other models), break over is 18.7 degrees (21.3), and departure angle is 22 degrees for the Coupe, 24.2 for the S and Turbo, then 24.4 degrees for the Turbo S E-Hybrid.
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 Cayenne Coupe hasn't been assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but its outstanding dynamics go a long way towards avoiding a crash.
You'll also pick up a reversing camera, 'Parking Distance Control' (front and rear) and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
But if all that fails to prevent a crash the airbag count runs to eight (dual front, dual front side, curtain and knee bags for the driver and front passenger).
An active bonnet helps minimise pedestrian injuries and there are two top tether points and ISOFIX anchors for child seats/baby capsules in the two rear positions.
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 Australian Porsche range is covered by a three year/unlimited km warranty, which, like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz lags behind the mainstream market where the majority of players are now at five years/unlimited km, with some at seven years.
But a 12-year (unlimited km) anti-corrosion warranty is included, as is twenty-four-hour roadside assistance, renewed every time you service your car at an authorised Porsche centre.
The main service interval is 12 months/15,000km, and no capped price servicing is available, with final costs determined at the dealer level (in line with variable labour costs by state/territory).