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Maserati Levante: Italian style makes SUV standout in crowded field

There is little doubt the 2017 Maserati Levante has the potential to elicit immediate responses. The SUV, the first for Maserati, delivers a distinctive exterior statement that offers all the exotic Italian cues you might expect – and the performance you might demand.

The Levante is Maserati’s inaugural effort to break into the incredibly popular crossover segment. In a day when Porsche and BMW bask in the success of their SUV offerings, it only makes sense Maserati might stay with the program and make the leap.

First and foremost, Levante delivers all the confidence and commitment to style balanced with power that the rest of its line of cars accomplishes so well. If you have the price of admission, a base of $72,600, you can own a powerhouse crossover with the authentic panache of an Italian exotic.

Under the hood

Levante offers two great choices in Ferrari-built V6 engines, both supplying the power with the expected signature exhaust expression that let’s everyone know there’s something special in the neighborhood.

Base model Levantes offer a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that provides an impressive 345 horsepower. Move up to the Levante S model and you get a V6 that delivers 424 horsepower. An all-wheel-drive system and advanced 8-speed automatic transmission are standard equipment that make the Levante equal or better to everyone playing in this segment.

The Levante is quick. Take the 0 to 60 mph jump in just 5.8 seconds as a sample taste of what’s in store for the base Levante – and if you opt for the S model you get there in just 5 seconds flat. All this fun allows a top speed of 164 mph. That will help getting to the store and back in time for dinner.

The drive

Maserati has won its millions of fans by creating beautiful vehicles that also handle and perform with impeccable balance and responsiveness. An adaptive suspension keeps the Levante’s ride balanced during hard cornering, a feature of every coupe or sedan in its lineup.

According to Maserati, the goal was for Levante to offer the handling of a sports car, despite being an SUV. Part of that confidence is due to its all-wheel-drive system. Under standard operating conditions, Levante sends all its power to the rear wheels, but with the detection of wheel slip, the system sends as much as half its power to the front wheels. The Levante is capable of administering braking to any wheel using a technique known as torque vectoring, which can further reduce slip and enhance cornering ability. Takeaway: Planted to the pavement.

The same all-wheel-drive and torque vectoring systems that provide on-road perfection can provide off-road ability. The adaptive suspension features two off-road modes, which increase ground clearance for off-road terrain.

The 2017 Levante is special and it’s is priced that way. With a towing capacity of 5,900 pounds, it does provide some utility distinction with its beauty. Whether you like the Italian look or not – there’s no doubt this SUV is all Maserati.