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Maserati Levante: Tried. Tested. Delivered.

Maserati Levante: Tried. Tested. Delivered.
By: null

Maserati’s Design Engineers are so incredibly serious and conscientious about model development, that they subjected their Levante models to a long and rigorous programme of reliability tests across five continents, which included environments where no other Maserati had ever been before. No fewer than thirty-four Levante mule prototypes were driven in an exhaustive testing programme covering millions of kilometres. Extreme hot climate tests were carried out in South Africa and in the deserts of UAE and Morocco, where daytime temperatures soared to as high as 50°C. More recently, about a dozen V8 prototypes were tested in similar conditions.

Extreme cold-climate tests were executed in Lapland and in New Zealand, while specific quality checks were carried out from Death Valley in the USA to China to the deserts of UAE. High mileage reliability tests were carried out in Nevada and in Russia. In such regional testing cycles, the cars were put to the test by local drivers.

 

Each component of the Maserati Levante was tested for endurance and its ability to satisfy the high standards of the luxury SUV segment. Subsequently, every single car coming off the production line is test driven on the road for a total of 50 kilometres, following the standardised Maserati procedure.

The development of the new V8 Levante versions had started as a skunkworks project by the Maserati technical centre in Modena long before the official launch of the SUV project. Engineers built a V8 prototype intended to test the performance limits of the Levante platform. That unbranded V8 “mule” was an inspiration for the top management to proceed with the development of a super Levante built around a Twin Turbo V8 engine.

With the development phase officially launched in summer 2016. Maserati’s engineers were given a challenging timeframe and they were immediately focused, in association with their counterparts in Ferrari, on mating the V8 engine with the Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system as well as on reaching the high performance targets of the project.

In May 2017, Maserati engineers and testers were sent around the world to test a dozen of V8 prototypes in diverse road and extreme weather conditions, from the proving grounds of Balocco, Nardò and Barcelona to the twisty, desert or icy roads of Sierra Nevada, South Africa, Arizona and Lapland. The long-term testing activities covered extreme environments and climates ranging from -35°C to well over 40°C.

Even now, before delivery to the customer, each car undergoes an additional 30-minute quality check which includes bodywork and assembly, as well as electrics checks, dynamometer bench testing, and a water test.

Having quickly proven to be a popular model with the motoring public, the Maserati Design Centre in Turin proposed a restyling for the V8 versions, which has also now an option of GranSport trim to offer a sportier, more dynamic appearance. The design concept of the Levante combines coupé lines with interior space for five people and exceptional aerodynamic efficiency. The Maserati of SUVs is instantly recognisable from a distance, thanks to its imposing grille, which was inspired by the sensational Alfieri concept, but also pays homage to historic Maserati cars like the Tipo 60 Birdcage. The silhouette flows along the side of the car from the feline headlights to the characteristic Maserati rear pillar, creating a coupé look that is enhanced by frameless doors – a characteristic feature of modern Maserati cars. The muscular shape of the rear haunches underscores the car’s genuinely Italian style.

His unmistakable Levante design has reached new levels of sportiness in the new top of the range GTS and Trofeo versions, which have also been a source of inspiration for the restyling of the GranSport exterior. The elegant, sport-oriented restyling is focused on the lower front fascia and the rear bumper.

While the exterior of the baseline V6 versions remains the same, the characteristic features of the GranLusso trim are elegant chrome inserts in the front fascia, chrome front/rear skid plates, body colour rear spoiler, black-painted brake calipers, 19-inch Zefiro alloy wheels and GranLusso badges on the fenders.

The range topping new V8 versions feature a specific front grille with double vertical bars, respectively in specific chrome and black piano finish on GTS and Trofeo. Characteristic features are also the honeycomb mesh fascia, the body coloured door handles and the red painted brake calipers.

The Trofeo easily stands out for its polished racing look featuring ultralight high-gloss carbon fibre exterior elements on the front splitter, the side blades, the side skirt inserts and the rear extractor – as well as for the optional 22-inch Orione forged aluminium wheels, the largest ever fitted in a Maserati.

In addition to the newly-introduced V8 models which boast a re-engineered 3.8-litre Twin Turbo V8 powertrain which is currently the most powerful Maserati engine, this season’s revised Levante models feature a number of other features which Maserati has introduced into its ranges: Adaptive full LED Matrix headlights; an updated Nerissimo package; a redesigned gearshift lever with shorter travel and improved operation; Pieno Fiore natural leather which widens choice of exclusive interiors; a retuned, sport-oriented chassis for V8 versions; Standard IVC on all versions; “Corsa” Driving mode with Launch Control for Trofeo; New colour and wheel options; Handling Packs with performance brakes for Levante 350hp and Diesel; GranSport styling inspired by new GTS and Trofeo; and specific exterior features for GranLusso trim.
Aerodynamic efficiency

Meticulous virtual environment simulations and extensive tests in the Turin wind tunnel have resulted in a class-leading drag coefficient Cx of 0.31 for the V6 and 0.33 for the new V8 versions that boast wider wheels.

During the lengthy aerodynamic testing programme, which included a second phase for the development of the new GTS and Trofeo versions, Maserati engineers concentrated on optimising the air flow around and inside the car, particularly in the areas of the concave grille and the wheel-arches.

Complementing the technical sophistication and inspired aerodynamic design is an electric Air Shutter in the front grille. Located between the front air vents and the engine’s radiator, the shutter controls the air flow to the engine compartment through the continuous, electronically-controlled movement of the blades.

This provides multiple benefits, both for the engine (by optimising engine temperature) and in terms of efficiency by reducing the car’s aerodynamic drag and therefore fuel consumption and emissions.

The Levante is fitted with a new gearshift lever for the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox used on all Levante versions. The redesigned component features an intuitive, dual lane shift pattern providing shorter travel and improved functionality. The driver has the option to use the gearbox in either automatic (RND) or manual mode (M) simply by shifting the lever from right to left, while a new ‘P’ button on top sets the transmission in parking mode.

With the new gearshift lever, the driving modes cluster on the center console is even more user-friendly. The M button has been eliminated and the Off-Road mode button has taken its place leaving space for two separate buttons – instead of one – for the selection of the Sport driving mode and the Skyhook suspension sport setting. The selectable modes are Off-Road, I.C.E. (Increased Control & Efficiency) and Sport. In the Levante Trofeo, the cluster is slightly different featuring a Sport/Corsa button.

The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox ensures exceptional comfort, low fuel consumption and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). By default, the car is set to Auto Normal mode, which offers the right balance between ride comfort, reduced consumption and sportiness, performing smooth gear changes at low engine speeds.

In Off-Road mode, when the driver selects a chosen speed the car continues at this pace, even when climbing. This is extremely useful on a challenging climb, as the car will effectively drive itself, with the driver only having to manage the steering wheel. In Auto Off-Road mode the transmission recognises the different types of terrain, interacts with the ESP and alters its shifting response accordingly. In I.C.E. mode, gearshifts are almost unnoticeable, providing unrivalled driving comfort.

Thanks to a remarkable weight / power ratio ranging from 3.9 kg/hp for the Levante GTS to just 3.6 kg/hp for the Trofeo, performance figures have skyrocketed to the higher end of the SUV class and are comparable to those of modern-day supercars: it takes 4.3 seconds (Europe) and 4.2 seconds (other markets) for the Levante GTS to accelerate from 0-100 km/h while the mighty Levante Trofeo needs only 4.1 seconds (Europe) and 3.9 seconds (other markets) for the same sprint. Top speed is respectively 292 km/h and 304 km/h.

A Levante is fitted with a new gearshift lever for the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox used on all Levante versions. The redesigned component features an intuitive, dual lane shift pattern providing shorter travel and improved functionality. The driver has the option to use the gearbox in either automatic (RND) or manual mode (M) simply by shifting the lever from right to left, while a new ‘P’ button on top sets the transmission in parking mode.

With the new gearshift lever, the driving modes cluster on the center console is even more user-friendly. The M button has been eliminated and the Off-Road mode button has taken its place leaving space for two separate buttons – instead of one – for the selection of the Sport driving mode and the Skyhook suspension sport setting. The selectable modes are Off-Road, I.C.E. (Increased Control & Efficiency) and Sport. In the Levante Trofeo, the cluster is slightly different featuring a Sport/Corsa button.

The eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox ensures exceptional comfort, low fuel consumption and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). By default, the car is set to Auto Normal mode, which offers the right balance between ride comfort, reduced consumption and sportiness, performing smooth gear changes at low engine speeds.

In Off-Road mode, when the driver selects a chosen speed the car continues at this pace, even when climbing. This is extremely useful on a challenging climb, as the car will effectively drive itself, with the driver only having to manage the steering wheel. In Auto Off-Road mode the transmission recognises the different types of terrain, interacts with the ESP and alters its shifting response accordingly. In I.C.E. mode, gearshifts are almost unnoticeable, providing unrivalled driving comfort.

For an awesome driving experience, the Maserati Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) function has been incorporated in the Maserati Stability Program control for the first time in the Levante range, while the optional active Advanced Driver Assistance Systems provide Level 2 autonomous driving technology.

The new V8 versions have introduced the Integrated Vehicle Control (IVC) function as a standard feature in the entire Levante range. Developed in collaboration with Bosch, the IVC is capable to prevent rather than simply correct loss of control, providing enhanced active safety and better dynamics.

IVC uses a smart, feed-forward controller that predicts driving situations and adapts the engine speed and brakes accordingly. The system helps drivers maintain control of their vehicle, instead of simply correcting driver mistakes as traditional ESP systems do.

In its Levante Trofeo guise, IVC is specifically tuned to decrease understeer tendencies, typical to SUV cars. An understeer / oversteer function inside the Electric Power Steering control cooperates with the IVC system, resulting in a more natural and predictable driving feeling. The system instantly controls the steering torque on the steering wheel providing the driver with optimum feedback, especially in sporty driving.

It’s been tried. It’s been tested. And the Maserati Levante delivers by the bucketload.

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