2017 Maserati Levante Q4 First Test Review: Field of Profits


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The iconic one-liner from that sappy 1989 Kevin Costner stinker Field of Dreams is motivating nearly every major name-brand automaker to produce a high-riding two-box vehicle to satisfy the public’s as-yet apparently insatiable appetite for “utility vehicles.” For niche manufacturers, a single new entry can virtually double a brand’s annual sales rate almost overnight. To wit: Jaguar sold 14,466 vehicles in 2015; it moved 31,243 in 2016—and the F-Pace only went on sale in May of that year. Sales of Maserati’s new Levante haven’t taken off quite as quickly, but through August they’re accounting for about 40 percent of the brand’s sales. As usually happens, our first test of a sporting machine like this was of the fire-breather, and that SQ4 variant mostly impressed us. Now it’s time to circle back and assess the relative value (or cynicism) of the mainstream base Q4 model.

To refresh, this one utilizes the same Ferrari-designed and -built F160 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 (using a 60-degree block that is loosely based on Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6). For the Q4 it’s tuned to peak at 345 hp and 369 lb-ft, down from the SQ4’s 424 hp and 428 lb-ft. And in a rare case of things working out the way the math suggests it should, the 19 percent less powerful version is precisely 19 percent slower to 60 mph—5.8 seconds versus the SQ4’s 4.9. That time gap is pretty well maintained through the quarter mile, with the Q4 crossing in 14.2 seconds at 98.2 mph, 0.8 second and 5.1 mph behind the SQ4.

The funny thing is, when driving the two back to back, the power deficit seems less than it is—perhaps because both variants seem to bellow an equivalent chorus of baritone sport-mode bluster when you’re on the throttle and percussive snaps, crackles, and pops when you lift off of it. The starker difference is with the level of grip generated by the Q4’s all-season 265/45R20 Continental CrossContact LX Sport tires as compared with the SQ4’s staggered fitment 265/40 front and 295/35 rear 21-inch ContiSport Contact 5 meats. Stopping distances stretched 14 feet longer (127 versus 113 feet), and max-lateral grip dropped from 0.86 to 0.82 g.

That doesn’t look like much, but on a tight, twisting road the Q4 is all tire squeal and hyperactive stability-control intervention while the SQ4 quietly drifts through the bends at a much swifter pace. A humbling anecdote: At one point during our drive the Q4 was only just keeping pace with a lowly Subaru Crosstrek, howling its tires and brake-pulsing its various corners to keep up with the much less dramatic Subie. This issue can likely be cured by opting for the $2,980 optional 265/40R21 summer tires (plus a set of winter footwear if you don’t live in the “smile states”). Of course, doing so will further compromise the ride quality, which is actually best on the base 19-inch tires, but it’s still quite supple on the squishy 20s. One final handling note: the sublimely communicative hydraulic steering assist is an increasingly rare treat, as road test editor Chris Walton noted: “The hydraulic assist offers a glimpse of how steering feel really can inform the driver about tire/contact patch grip info with weightiness/lightness.”

So how does the Levante Q4 compare with its competitors? It should be able to outrun a similarly priced and optioned Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE with the supercharged V-6 and Dynamic package. A Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid will likely be a tad quicker to 60 mph and through the corners but a bit slower through the quarter mile. Of course, you can easily spend less and go faster in the aforementioned Jaguar F-Pace 35t, a Mercedes GLE43 AMG, or—of course—sibling Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT. And we’re in for a really serious sibling rivalry when the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio arrives.

We took the time to do some mild off-roading in the Q4 and were largely impressed at the cross-pollination of Jeep DNA that evident in this Ghibli/Quattroporte-based architecture. An Off-road mode raises the suspension and routes more torque to the front axle, there’s a hill-descent control function, and the traction control can be disabled to allow rally-style drifting while rooster-tailing sand. And although the mud-n-snow tires lacked grip on dry tarmac, they dug into the sand and dirt remarkably well.

Sure, we are a little disappointed by the amount of recognizable Chrysler switchgear we see in the cockpit, we hate the vague electronic shifter, we’re mystified by the decision to locate the ignition switch on the left side of the steering column, and we’d eagerly trade the sometimes flatulent V-6 engine note for a vintage Maserati’s naturally aspirated straight-six or V-8 roar. But by and large the Levante seems an appropriate heir to the grand touring mission for which classic Trident-bearers like the 3500GT, Mistral, and Ghibli were created. And if selling a pile of these things helps bring gorgeous coupes such as the Alfieri concept to market, then we sincerely hope “they come” in numbers similar to what Jaguar has been enjoying.

Because the test surface we used for this review is a mere month old (and still curing), our braking and handling results show longer stopping distances and less grip than we typically record and report. With that in mind, this vehicle’s numbers are not necessarily comparable with previous or future test results.

2017 Maserati Levante Q4
BASE PRICE $73,850
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/345-hp/369-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,987 lb (50/50%)
WHEELBASE 118.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 197.0 x 77.5 x 64.3-67.7 in
0-60 MPH 5.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.2 sec @ 98.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 127 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.7 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 241/169 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.20 lb/mile

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