2022 Maserati Levante GT Hybrid review, first drive - electrifying character
When you think of Maserati, you can't help but think of sensuous design, Italian charm and a rich heritage of characterful cars. Now the Maserati Levante has done well to bring that essence to a practical SUV shape. But how much of that stays intact when electrification and downsizing are thrown in with the Maserati Levante GT Hybrid?
2022 Maserati Levante GT Hybrid driving impressions, performance
To start with, the Levante Hybrid, unlike the name suggests is only a mild-hybrid system that assists a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol with a 48V alternator and an electric supercharger. It may be the entry point to the range but still makes a healthy 330PS and 450 Nm and is 18 per cent more efficient than the V6 you find in the Modena. The GT Hybrid is quick but not blisteringly so, the 0 to 100 kmph time is 6s and the top speed is 240 kmph.
The downsized engine feels like usual fare for these luxury SUVs in the economy-focused I.C.E and the normal modes. It's silent and refined with the ZF 8 speed being more focused on efficiency. In the I.C.E mode, the Levante GT Hybrid will even aggressively freewheel while coasting with help from the mild hybrid system to be kinder to the environment. This does make for slightly delayed responses when you want to build up speed again.
The Normal mode finds a nicer balance, making the Levante feel generally more alert and driveable while still not being too highly strung for a daily commute. With the gearbox being a bit less conservative too, the electric supercharger does its best job of shoring up the flat spots in the powerband with a mellow but consistent supply of torque. The air suspension also does quite a commendable job of ironing out bumps at this time, with only the harsh edge of these 21-inch wheels coming through.
Now the change in character between these modes is more distinct with the Levante GT Hybrid than you would usually find in a luxury SUV. Best noticed when you dial it into Sport where the Levante GT Hybrid starts doing full justice to the Maserati trident that's on the grille. The piped-in exhaust note does a great job of mimicking a V6 rumble on the inside at least. The power delivery becomes more urgent, and you can't help but keep revving out the motor to fully use that flat, electrically-assisted powerband.
But the real cherry on the cake so to speak are the large cold steel paddle shifters. They make for some pleasing shifts with their tactile clinks even though the ZF is right on the money now. It'll even do a soft shunt at every shift, paired with an intentful rumble from the exhaust, that spurs you on further.
This energetic but still soft-edged demeanour of the motor goes very well with what will truly stay with you with the Levante GT hybrid. Which is the way it goes around a twisty bit of road. Maserati has thrown a kitchen sink's worth of chassis tech at this SUV to make it feel not like one. So there is the Q4 AWD system that keeps the Levante rear-driven, only sending up to 50 per cent torque to the front axle when needed. The lighter engine up front and the battery pack placed on the rear axle make for good dynamic attributes but there is also torque vectoring and a limited-slip-differential along with adaptive air suspension which now tightens everything up.
On the move, this makes the Levante feel agile, communicative and poised. You can skip along at some fairly quick speeds despite this being at the lower end of the performance SUV power stakes. There's only a marginal hint of roll in the Sport damper setting so the Levante GT Hybrid feels balanced and light on its feet and takes on a confident rhythm. The brakes are also competent in this situation, doing away with the inconsistent feel that creeps in with the regen in the lesser modes.
You have quite a car-like driving position to go with this where you are seated low in the cabin, the big wheel is at a great position and you have the full view of the bonnet out the windscreen.
This sense of connection is enhanced significantly with the feeling coming through the steering wheel. In the lesser modes, the wheel is light and easy, making driving in traffic or long trips effortless. But in Sport, there's not just added heft but real feedback coming through. You can feel the car's movements through the wheel and from under the seat, making the Levante feels quite unlike most SUVs and much more like the GT that's in its name.
2022 Maserati Levante GT Hybrid Interiors, features, space
You have the usual luxury SUV trimmings inside the Maserati Levante GT Hybrid. So every surface is soft and swathes of leather and wood cover the dash, centre stack and doors. A great touch is a small chronograph on the dash top which forms this cabin's centrepiece. The fairly large windows and the widely adjustable seats will also keep you comfortable inside the Levante while the frameless doors are always a great first impression.
But there is no hiding the fact that this SUV has been around for a while. An earlier update brought with it larger screens and more features but the general layout doesn't quite live up to the crisp and techy vibe of newer rivals with their large screens and more contemporary designs. But in isolation, the Levante still comes across as a rich, elegant space to spend time in. The level of fit and finish is also fairly good for this price point, if not at par with German rivals.
A bit less forgivable is the quite apparent parts sharing with lesser Stellantis models. The touchscreen and instrument cluster is very easy to use and almost obsessively informative, you know exactly what the mild-hybrid and AWD systems are doing as well as details like transmission temperature and the oil pressure, but they could have had a more distinct Maserati theme to them. It's the same with all the buttons and switchgear which could have felt more substantial. Happily, you still get hard buttons for most controls, a luxury in itself these days.
The Maserati Levante GT Hybrid also doesn't skimp on features with highlights being soft-close doors, heated and cooled front seats, powered steering adjustment, an access mode for the air suspension, powered seats and a panoramic sunroof. Now if you've bought this car, you will invariably spend some time in the back seat. Here you get powered sun blinds, a separate climate zone, and a lot of knee and leg room. The coupe-ish shape does come at some cost to practicality. Taller adults could be left wanting for headroom and there could have been better under-thigh support too. But there is great, soft cushioning on the seatback and a nice sense of space with the sunroof.
You don't get ADAS but there are most passive safety features you could want. The Offroad mode jacks up the air suspension and changes engine responses to make negotiating light trails easy with the added help of hill-descent control.
2022 Maserati Levante GT Hybrid styling
There are some blink-and-miss styling updates to go with the first wave of these electrified models from Maserati. So the red from the Maserati trident is now gone while the distinct three side ports too now have a blue highlight to them. The taillamps have also been slightly revised to become sleeker with their LED light signature.
It's good that the visual changes are limited because the Maserati Levante continues to be a stunner. Even in this plain white shade, the front with the caved-in grille and wide lamps looks angry yet elegant. The bodywork is perfectly proportioned with its wide, low stance, smooth panels and expressive haunches. That it still looks contemporary and almost timeless is a great measure of how well this SUV was styled, to begin with.
2022 Maserati Levante GT Hybrid price, verdict
Price at Rs 1.45 crore onwards, the Maserati Levante GT Hybrid has some serious contenders to face up against. It could have done with better interiors and maybe a touch more performance but that's missing the point. Despite the downsizing and the electrification, the Levante GT Hybrid is brimming with character. It makes driving an event, even in an SUV, with the sheer connection you can build with it. And it looks stunning and keeps you comfortable while doing so. A true Maserati then.
Images by Vaibhav Dhanawade
Starts Rs 1.45 Crore