We all know that BMW’s famous X5 is facing more competition than ever before, as new competitors seem to pop up over night and are from brands that have tremendous desirability. The most recent high-end luxury brand to develop an SUV to take on the Germans is Maserati. The all-new Maserati Levante is the Italian firm’s first attempt and a family hauler and it’s more impressive than we thought it would be. So should the BMW X5 be worried?
Maybe. The new Levante is a dangerous competitor and could be something that steals sales away from the BMW X5 xDrive50i. While the Maserati Levante is priced a bit higher than the xDrive50i, people buying in that price range can afford a bit extra to have something a bit more exclusive. And for a customer that has no strong ties to any brand and is shopping in that segment, the ability to get a Maserati, a brand that’s always held tremendous prestige, over a BMW could certainly be a big draw. If I were a customer in that segment, even with my strong love for BMW, the idea of buying a Maserati would admittedly be tempting. But aside from brand prestige, is the Levante actually any good? Auto Express has gone and found out.
In terms of looks, the Levante is sort of an acquired taste. While it hasn’t exactly smitten the likes of us just yet, it’s a handsome enough SUV and does have some very attractive bits. For instance, the swollen rear wheel arches just below the D-pillar look really good and give it a sense of power. The front end, in isolation, also looks very good. The whole thing doesn’t really work as a cohesive package to these eyes, but it’s fine looking. The BMW X5, to us at least, is the better looking SUV, but it is quite common so many customers may take the Levante instead, so as to stand out among the sea of German metal.
On the inside, it’s typical Maserati. The cabin is gorgeous and filled with lovely leather and materials. However, there are some cost cutting bits as, if you look closely, you can see some switchgear pulled from RAM trucks, being that Maserati is now owned bit Fiat/Chrysler. But cheap Chrysler parts aside, the cabin quite attractive and, most importantly, very different from the typical BMW X5 or Audi Q7.
Unfortunately, this video only features the 3.0 liter twin-turbo V6 diesel engine, as that’s the only engine to be offered in the UK. However, other markets, including the North America market, will be getting a choice of two 3.0 liter twin-turbo V6 gasoline engines that are built by Ferrari, one with 345 hp and the other with 424. Both of those engines sound fantastic and are incredibly powerful. So the excitement factor, in a market with the gas engines, will be a bit higher than the BMW X5’s. The gearbox is the familiar ZF-sourced eight-speed unit and works brilliantly, as usual, and has massive paddle shifters to keep the big Maserati engaging.
In terms of handling and dynamics, the Levante offers quite an exciting drive for an SUV. According to this video, the Levante has excellent dynamics and a suspension that’s both planted and communicative while also being supple and comfortable. Sort of reminds us of what people would say about the first-gen X5. But the Levante’s main party trick for the segment is its use of hydraulic steering. In this day and age of electric power steering, hearing the words “hydraulic” and “steering” together, for us gearheads, is like a hipster hearing the words “vinyl” and “Starbucks”. It gets us all giddy. And apparently, the steering is excellent.
So the new Maserati Levante offers an exciting SUV package, with interesting looks, a great cabin, incredible engines built by Ferrari, fantastic dynamics and almost unbeatable brand prestige. The fact that the Levante doesn’t cost much more than the X5 xDrive50i means that many customers who don’t have strong brand ties could certainly be pulled towards it. Tell a customer they can either buy an X5, like all of their neighbors, or a Maserati and which do you think they’re going to choose? So is the the Maserati Levante a dangerous BMW X5 competitor? I think so.