From fashion to autos, the Italians have a gift for creating products that ooze style and quality and sit at the top of our lust-lists. And when we talk about aspirational Italian brands, Maserati is up there with the best of them. With the likes of Chiara Ferragni, Amanda Shadforth, Cameron Diaz and Kylie Minogue all fans of the powerful motors, when I was asked to road test the Levante S on a drive through the NSW Central Coast, I couldn't grab my driver's license fast enough.
Adding fuel to the red-hot SUV market, the Levante S maintains the unmistakable and unique style of a Maserati. Its overall shape is that of a sports car and on first impression it looks powerful, agile and muscular, with coupe-like windows and sleek roof lines that keep it looking light and athletic.
Inside, the interior is luxurious. Standard features on the S include heated and power adjustable front seats, an 8.4-inch touch screen with surround view camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, dual-zone climate control, panoramic sun roof, power tailgate, bi-xenon headlights and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Dig deeper beneath the interior's layers of silk and hand stitched leather and there's an abundance of clever storage, electric power steering with highway and lane-keeping assist, active blind-spot assistance and traffic-sign recognition, as well as a switchable steering set-up.
Frameless doors with a soft-close function are a luxe extra touch, and it has all the essential elements you'd want in an SUV; a spacious boot (580-litre capacity), 60/40 seat split that fold down quickly and easily, attachments for child seats, hooks to hang shopping on and power points in the boot, plus a large chilled compartment in the centre console which easily fits two large water bottles inside, roof rails and even — a first for a Maserati — a tow bar. To say this car has everything a family would need is an understatement.
Sitting in the driver's seat feels like being cocooned in a sports car cockpit, surrounded by the controls. I can't wait to get on the road.
The car is responsive and drives beautifully — it's the kind of car that quickens your pulse and turns heads wherever you take it. Car junkies will know that the Levante S is powered by a 3.0 litre petrol twin-turbo charged V6 engine built by Ferrari in Maranello, and so it's fast, but so easy to handle.
Thanks to its four-wheel drive system and six-level air suspension (which made for a smooth ride on the steep and bumpy driveway up to Pretty Beach House, where we stopped for lunch) it is designed to be a sports car on the road as well as off road, delivering sports car handling along with superb levels of road holding, whether in the city or on the open road.
The Levante S lives up to the heritage the brand is known for, and what makes this SUV a standout is Maserati's exclusivity, which is key for a car in this class: think top-end sports exec meets family friendly SUV. At $169,990 plus on roads, it's a low starting price, at least for a Maserati. If you're looking for an SUV that drives more like a sports car, climb in.