Maserati Levante S – A Fun Crossover That Gets No Love

It appears the cool thing to do in 2018, or really ever since the Maserati Ghibli and Levante hit showrooms, is to find a way to critique or bash the vehicles for interior and overall design quality. While I have reviewed a 2014 Ghibli in the past and was disappointed after years of building an expectation that never met reality, I can honestly say that is not the case for the Maserati Levante. In fact, I’m going to argue that it’s the complete opposite, especially for the 2018 model year. I can already see the eye rolls, but the Levante is one vehicle that you have to test drive and experience for yourself, rather than just parroting what a car reviewer is spewing on YouTube.

When the Levante hit the market back in 2016, there were a few flaws that would later be corrected. One being for the base model that front and rear parking sensors did not come standard, which was one major complaint especially when you’re paying more than $70k for a luxury crossover. Next would be that if you wanted to shift into reverse, the Levante would refuse to do so, and instead would shift into drive or park. This is something I didn’t encounter during my time with the 2018 model, and speaking of the current model year, front and rear parking sensors do come standard for all trims of the Levante.

Having read and watched many reviews prior to spending time with the sports crossover, there was a level of low expectations, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking this might turn out to be the Ghibli all over again. The minute I stepped inside and put the Levante in sport mode, that’s when everything changed. To drive a crossover that not only sounded like a sports car, but handled and drove like a luxury crossover immediately put a smile on my face. Where critics do give the Levante favorable ratings is the driving experience, and for good reason as your time behind the wheel isn’t boring and mundane like other vehicles in this segment.

The Levante I was testing was a fully specced $106k S GranLusso that came with Zegna silk and leather seats. They were some of the most comfortable bucket seats I’ve ever sat in, which certainly helped make the drive memorable. For a larger crossover, the Levante handled impressively well, and in tighter corners felt glued to the roads with very little, if any body roll. The gear shifts were almost instantaneous when using the paddle shifters, and for the first time, a test drive in a crossover was actually fun.

Obviously being an FCA product, the same infotainment system that can be found in a Chrysler was in the Levante. What I’ve never really understood was why this was that big of a problem, as Apple Car Play and Android Auto are offered, you get navigation, and you’ll also receive Sirius XM Radio and Travel Link. The one valid critique is that to access the heated and ventilated front seats there’s no button in the center console and instead to turn that feature on and off you have to use the touchscreen.

The smaller touches that can be seen in Dodge products is another problem most people have with the vehicle, but it’s something you begin to overlook when getting behind the wheel. That’s where Maserati may have the edge on competitors. The driving experience is nothing like other luxury crossovers from German automakers because you feel more engaged, and when the valves open in sport mode it will be irresistible to just drop a gear and leave the car that’s in the rearview mirror far behind you. The V6 engine that comes with 424 hp is going to surprise a few of your fellow commuters, and whether you want to have fun or go for a leisurely cruise on backroads, the different driving modes are suitable for either style of driving.

Pricing is one of the larger issues consumers have with the Levante, which is certainly a valid point. As a certified pre-owned crossover after the initial hit of the depreciation, the Levante then becomes a potential sought after vehicle that could be the better option for buyers in this segment.

Overall, Maserati’s first crossover isn’t a bad vehicle. Does it have flaws? Absolutely, but it’s nowhere near disappointing and if you can deal with the FCA infotainment system, you’re going to have one of the best sounding crossovers on the road today.

Here’s the full review for the 2018 Maserati Levante S GranLusso. Is it worth the price and a vehicle that should garner more respect in the automotive community? That’s up to the consumer and the individual.

2017 – The Year of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Jaguar: Alfa Romeo Giulia

We’re nearing the end of 2016 which can only mean one thing; new car unveilings! Car shows start touring across the United States and consumers from Massachusetts to California can take a close look at new cars that will be on dealerships’ lots this upcoming year, and for some models, hitting the showroom before the new year. 2017 is shaping up to be the year of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, and Jaguar, as all three manufacturers have extended their product lines to compete in markets that were once considered foolish to enter. These models include the Alfa Romeo Giulia, Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Maserati Levente, Jaguar XE, and Jaguar F-Pace.

Over the next few days, we will go over each model that these three manufacturers have already added or are adding to their lineups. So let’s start off this series with the all new Alfa Romeo Giulia.

giulia-ca-1

Car enthusiasts are excited and anxious for Alfa Romeo to officially mark their return to the United States with the arrival of the Giulia. With the 4C introducing consumers to the Alfa brand, the Giulia is what will put the Italian automaker on the map in the American car market. Their answer for the BMW 3 Series and M3, Alfa Romeo is putting a lot of pressure on themselves to hit a home run with the Giulia Quadrifoglio, not only in terms of reliability, but performance as well.

Car and Driver’s review seems to echo most journalists, and also enthusiasts, who are well aware of the Italian’s electrical and mechanical issues.

The car is impressive. Well, mostly. We did find a surprising number of electrical idiosyncrasies in the cars we drove in Italy, from freezing display screens to a check-engine light. We also found the interior trim did little to dismiss stereotypes about Italian build quality, with some cheap-feeling switchgear and a center console that deflected under gentle pressure. We’ll wait to reserve our final judgments until we have more time behind the wheel, but the Giulia Quadrifoglio seems well prepared to battle the competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac. It outguns all but Mercedes’ C63 S by a fair margin and—based on our limited first exposure—delivers more emotional appeal, too. This is one comparison test that we’re really, really looking forward to.

The most appealing aspect of the Giulia is the Ferrari powered V6 engine that puts out 505 hp. Unfortunately Alfa Romeo recently said that a manual transmission will not be offered in the United States, which has already disappointed many. On the bright side, the Giulia is not sharing the same platform as the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 and instead is built on an Alfa Romeo designed RWD platform making this car unique to the Fiat-Chrysler brand. In terms of performance, it appears that BMW and Cadillac have some serious competition with the Italian’s arrival to the market, and now Mercedes Benz might have a legitimate contender for the C63 S.

Despite the paranoia that the Giulia might end up like many Alfa Romeos that have proceeded it in the past, there’s a lot of hope and excitement for the future. The Italian automaker is hitting the right chord among consumers. They’ll be offering a base model with the price still to be determined, but early estimates are around $40,000, which is within the range of the BMW 3 series, Audi A4, and Mercedes Benz C-Class. A 280 hp 2.0L 4 cylinder engine paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission, and RWD and AWD drivetrains as options, Alfa will have a cornerstone to build from, giving them a good chance of capturing market share rather quickly once it arrives in showrooms in November.

Take it which ever way you want, but Alfa Romeo built the Giulia with absolutely no parts from the Chrysler brand. Completely Italian inspired, Alfa has the chance to distance itself from being considered a product of the Fiat-Chrysler brand, which would be an ideal perception they want from consumers as Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep have had many issues in it’s history since the acquisition by Fiat.

160510_alfa-romeo_giulia_30

Alfa can start off fresh and hit the ground running once the Giulia enters the US market. The Italians are hoping for a successful launch as the their sedan will set the stage for phase two, when the crossover SUV known as the Stelvio, joins the Giulia in Alfa Romeo dealerships’ showrooms in 2017. This is now their time to shine, and as car enthusiasts, we can only watch and wait to see if this return to America is a success.

Maserati and Jaguar Are Ready To Take The Stage

The perennial powerhouses, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz could be on the verge of a luxury market share war with the British and Italians very soon. For far too long, the big three German automakers have gone untouched, growing their lineups by adding vehicles that reach every market sector in the automotive industry. With models consisting of bigger or smaller versions of their siblings, the Audi A3, A4, A5, A6, and A8, Mercedes Benz C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class, and BMW’s 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series, all have similar, or downright lazy styling in terms of exterior. The time has come for a fresh design from other automakers, and ones that aren’t based in Germany.

It’s Jaguar and Maserati’s time to shine, and with new models ready to hit the market this year for both automakers, the British and Italians are ready to make a huge splash. Maserati unveiled their new and first ever SUV, the Levante, which starts at $72,000 and we should expect to see Maserati’s newest addition to the lineup in September. Jaguar is only months away from offering the new XE and first ever SUV, the F-Pace, in showrooms across the United States, which is expected to be in June. It seems as though the pieces are coming together for Jaguar and Maserati, and once they’re in place, they’ll be off an running to take on much larger companies.

The new Jaguar XE will be priced starting at $34,900, which will immediately take on the Audi A3, Mercedes Benz CLA, and BMW 320i, which are all in the same price range. Since the XE can exceed a $50,000 price tag, it will also be a direct competitor to the A4, C-Class, and 3-Series. In terms of power, the XE will get a 240 hp 4 cylinder turbo engine and also a 340 hp supercharged V6 on the higher trims. This will put them right in line with their German counterparts, as the new Mercedes Benz C450 AMG will top the list with a 362 hp bi-turbo V8.

2017-jaguar-xe-s-inline5-photo-660839-s-original

The new F-Pace comes with two different engine types; A 180 hp 4 cylinder diesel, or a 340 hp turbocharged V6. Pricing starts at just over $40,000, which will take on the Audi Q5, Mercedes Benz GLE, and BMW X3. Because Jaguar is basing their SUV off the F-Type, the F-Pace is performance driven. This is not your typical soccer mom SUV, and in fact, dads can now have fun with the grocery getter, as the F-Pace is capable of going from 0-60 in 5.4 seconds. While this is not advised, it can also reach a top speed of 155 mph, so the young guy in a sports coupe might not have such an easy time leaving you in the dust. On higher trims, the F-Pace can exceed $50,000, but thankfully the V6 can be paired with any trim level.

As of right now, we don’t know the performance that the Maserati Levante will have. We can only speculate that it will receive a similar engine to the Maserati Ghibli, which would be a 345 hp twin turbo V6 on the entry level trim, and possibly the 404 hp twin turbo V6 on the higher trims, but that’s purely speculation. The Levante is set to take on the BMW X6 xDrive50i and Mercedes Benz GLE450 AMG Coupe which are beginning to roam the streets. Another automaker which hasn’t been discussed that will also get their turf impeded on by the Levante is Porsche. Still more of a niche manufacturer, Porsche and it’s compact SUV the Macan, will now have to take on a new competitor in its class. The performance SUV market is going to get real interesting by the end of this year, and it will be exciting to see who ends up on top after this is all said and done.

Jaguar and Maserati can no longer be looked at as small time players in the high-end luxury market. While Maserati will stay above $70,000 on all their models, Jaguar will now be entering new territory by offering a model within the $35,000 – $40,000 price range. Soon, consumers will be able to choose from other countries besides Germany to find the best the luxury market has to offer. As it turns out, Porsche’s decision to introduce an SUV to sports car only lineup, set the stage for other manufacturers to do the same. Now Jaguar and Maserati can compete on bigger scale and begin to take market share away from the German powerhouses.

Maserati is Launching the “Cheaper” Ghibli Starting at $68,000

Maserati Ghibli en México DF
Daniel Palestino / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With Maserati’s sales up 357% from last year, the Italian automaker is looking to enter a new market; luxury sedans in the price range starting close to $68,000. It is no secret that Italian cars are slowly becoming more prevalent as they’re becoming cheaper and more models are storming the American shores every year. The Ghibli will be competing with the likes of the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera, giving consumers a dilemma whether to go German or Italian.

If you still prefer German engineering, maybe a Ferrari engine and a chassis and suspension of the more expensive Maserati Quattroporte will persuade you to at least consider buying the Italian sedan. However, even with the lower price, the Ghibli still doesn’t offer the more powerful twin-turbo V6 that supplies 404 hp that can be found on higher end trims of the Ghibli that are no doubt more expensive.

This is really where the problem lies. To get performance and luxury you must pay more to get it. While owning a Maserati puts you in a more exclusive club, there are other options out there that won’t completely drain your bank account.

Now of course you’re not going to get the same ambiance and perception that you will in a Maserati, but the Audi S4 and BMW 535i X-drive do offer a relatively cheaper alternative and you’re not sacrificing much horsepower with the “cheaper” German sedans. As an added plus, fuel consumption is much better with the Audi or BMW as opposed to the gas guzzling Maserati Ghibli.

The engine in the base model Ghibli supplies 345 hp, while the Audi S4 receives 333 hp, and the BMW 535i X-drive gets 300 hp. We’re not talking about a major loss in power, as both the Audi and BMW offer the same luxury and sports car appeal the Maserati does; the name however does make all the difference.

It really comes down to preference, but with the looks of things, maybe waiting a bit longer to buy an Italian car might pay off. Slowly buy surely prices are receding and if you do want a Maserati, the price tag is entering the realm of possibility.

Audi S4

• MSRP Starts at $48,100
• HP 333
• MPG 17 in the city – 26 on the highway

BMW 535i X-drive

• MSRP $60,000
• HP 300
• MPG 26 in the city – 37 on the highway

Maserati Ghibli

• MSRP $68,000
• HP 345
• MPG 15 in the city – 25 on the highway