2017 Maserati Levante S first drive: Exotic, exciting and expensive

Let’s get something out of the way, here. Yes, it’s a Maserati, and yes it’s an SUV. And yes, that feels uncomfortable in a ‘that’s unexpected’ kind of way; the same way that seeing Joanna Lumley slouching in an armchair with a can of Stella and a packet of Wotsits would be a bit weird and unexpected. But it’s still Joanna Lumley, and that’s still cool. 

More to the point, buyers want SUVs, and the Levante already accounts for some 70 percent of Maserati’s sales. And 90 percent of those buyers are new to the brand. We’d make an SUV if we ran Maserati, and so would you.

So enough of the snobbishness. People want posh SUVs, and posh car brands will provide them. 

But is this a good one? Well, it was launched first in 2016 with a V6 diesel engine as the only engine option, but now the Levante has been facelifted for the 2018 model year (which is on sale now in the UK), and the Ferrari-sourced, twin-turbo V6, 424bhp Levante S is the headline news for this range update.

2017 Maserati Levante S
2017 Maserati Levante S

First impressions

This refresh isn’t just about the new Levante S joining the diesel model in the UK. There are also two new trim lines dubbed GranLusso and GranSport, which both cost the same at some £6k more than the entry-level Levante. On top of that, the hydraulic steering has been dropped in favour of an electrically-assisted system, which is news that enthusiasts are sure to receive with all the good grace of a toddler being handed broccoli for tea. More on that in a bit. 

In the meantime, let’s dwell on...