A look at the lexicon reveals: The "Levante" is a warm east wind that presses west through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Atlantic and quickly loses its strength there. With the new success model of the same name from Maserati almost everything is the other way around. The pretty SUV is said to score very far to the east, in distant China, where car buyers' money is particularly easy. And in contrast to the former good weather models of the brand, the Italian Levante also copes excellently with icy drafts, in the deep snow high up in the mountains, on smooth ice and, if necessary, off the beaten track. Unlike its windy namesake, thanks to its powerful six-cylinder engines, it never fails.
Cervinia is located at the foot of the almost 4.500 meter high Matterhorn, on the Italian side of the stone giant. From here, the first climbers ventured into the steep face. Today, many empires from all over the world come here to ski. So people whose account easily copes with the at least 70.500 euros that such a Maserati Levante costs. No wonder that the fine Fiat subsidiary from Modena has chosen the exclusive holiday paradise for winter test drives. Here, the cold season still has everything under control, countless small mountain roads still shine in virgin white. Without snow chains, if they fit over the thick slippers, earlier Maserati models such as the legendary 3500 GT, the first Ghibli or Quattroporte were lost without a chance.
All-wheel drive makes it possible today. A new technology for Maserati, because the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans have only been running on all fours since 2013; The trio relies on the same system, weighing only 60 kilograms: if the wheels have enough traction, all the power goes to the rear wheels. If the sensors register that a wheel is about to spin, up to 50 percent can be transferred to the front axle in just 100 milliseconds. This applies to quickly crossed curves as well as smooth terrain, mud or natural roads.
The driver can also select three driving programs at the push of a button. “Normal” and “Sport” are also available on the rear-wheel drive sedans. The "Ice" mode is new. The racing cars get rolling even on bare frozen water. Careful, but at least. The engine power is limited more sensitively than the most sensitive human gas pedal can. Quite impressive when a 302 kW / 410 hp Ghibli starts where pedestrians can hardly stay on their feet.
The Levante can also live up to its claim as an off-roader. A fourth button between the front seats activates an additional program that is only available to him. The ground clearance is increased, and the power is not only distributed from front to back, but also from left to right or vice versa. The Italian is not suitable for difficult terrain, but high snow, ice or even crawling over smaller hills are no obstacles for the handsome boy. Development chief Roberto Corradi: “I drove a high dune with deep sand in Dubai and was surprised myself what our system can do. Even if most of our customers never want to experience this. But the feeling that the car could, if it had to, is great. ”
No wonder the engineer speaks like that. After all, there is a lot of fine work in the brand's four-wheel drive vehicles, especially in the Levante. The reaction of the buyers is the reward: the SUV is practically sold out for months. Meanwhile, Corradi is working behind closed doors on the next project. Another model is expected to appear in 2018. Corradi does not yet reveal what this is about. However, he gave a clear refusal to a smaller SUV than the Levante: "The Fiat group Alfa-Romeo is responsible for this with the Stevio". So only a large Maserati remains in an SUV dress. (Peter Maahn / SP-X)