MERCEDES GLE 350D
Recently renamed and refreshed, this is the car
formerly known as the ML-Class. Superb cabin and very
comfortable but without the handling panache of
sharper rivals like the X5 and Levante. Price: £56,280
PORSCHE CAYENNE DIESEL
The sports SUV to beat and still the Premiership
player's favourite. Its bling image isn't for all but it's
hard to fault the way the Cayenne drives, though it's
not as relaxing at a cruise as the Maserati. Price: £52,689
squaremeal.co.uk � 143
FASHION + LIFESTYLE
would likely be pleased to see the brand's timeline extending
into the 21st century, and indeed that Maserati could be on
track for its stated aim of building 75,000 cars a year.
With demand for posh SUVs showing no signs of
diminishing, it was inevitable that one of Maserati's new
models would be this type of car. � e Levante comes from
that sub-niche that's normally referred to by marketing
types as a 'crossover' - halfway between a normal car and
the sort of hulking off -roader you'd choose to actually
navigate the wilderness in. � at's refl ected by the Maserati's
styling; apart from the imposing height of the front grille,
you're basically looking at a taller version of an estate car,
with some coupe-like detailing. It's a handsome beast from
most angles with that curvaceous design doing a good job of
underplaying the car's fi ve-metre length.
Not so the cabin, which is impressively spacious. Much
of the interior is very similar to that of the Ghibli saloon -
the two cars share much of their under-body architecture.
It doesn't feel quite as upmarket as some of its German
rivals, but it's vastly better fi nished than even its recent
predecessors. It's not long since Maserati trim quality was
being compared to that of fast-food cartons.
Under the bonnet, the V6 diesel engine (initially the only
powerplant being off ered in the
UK, though Maserati have now
said a Ferrari V6 petrol will
be available) is as thoroughly
sensible as such things tend to
be - producing a competitive
275bhp and with an offi cial
economy fi gure of 39.2mpg.
However, it's noticeably
lacking in the sort of operatic
excitement that Maserati
engines are more normally
known for. It pulls strongly
and is impressively quiet at cruising velocities, but has little
enthusiasm for being worked hard.
� e chassis is more impressive. � e Levante's suspension
uses air-fi lled springs which give it a remarkable breadth of
talent and allow it to vary its ride height according to what
it's doing at the time. At motorway speeds it lowers itself
35mm to improve stability; in the more aggressive of its two
off -road modes it lifts itself by up to 40mm to reduce the
risk of grounding the underside. It rides exceptionally well
and also corners with far more panache than you'd expect
from something of this size and shape. It really is closer to
being a sports car than a conventional off -roader.
Finally, the name. Maserati (like Volkswagen) likes to
name its cars after winds, and the Levante is named after an
easterly wind that blows in the western Med. It's certainly
a breath of fresh air.
BEST BIT: Brilliant chassis, handsome design.
WORST BIT: Diesel engine is uninspiring.
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel,
0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Top speed: 140mph
BMW X5 40D
Maserati's other main target - the X5's combination
of dynamism and practicality has been its appeal since
the original was introduced 17 years ago. The 40d
variant has a brawnier 313bhp engine. Price: £52,325