Maserati Levante Hybrid is a sporty yet sensible entry into the brand

Published Aug 30, 2022


Johannesburg: There are a handful of vehicle marques that have even non-car people sit up and take notice. Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley to name a few and, in this case, Maserati.

Not a thunderous V8 or howling twin turbo V6 but a more civilised Maserati Levante GT Hybrid.

What? A hybrid? Have they gone bonkers?

Not really. It’s more of a mild hybrid with a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 48V hybrid assistance. There’s 246kW and 450Nm on tap and it will get to 100km/h in six seconds and top out at 250km/h.

It’s a clever hybrid system that has four parts to it. A belt starter-generator (BSG), battery, eBooster and a DC/DC converter. The BSG does the job of an alternator, recovering energy during braking and deceleration and charging the battery in the boot which, in turn, powers the engine’s e-Booster. The e-Booster backs up the turbo, working in tandem with it to sustain the power at low RPM and providing an extra boost when the engine reaches peak revs in Sport mode.

Interestingly, dealer principal Nagesh Naidoo says that initially they were somewhat hesitant to bring in the hybrid because customers had always favoured a diesel engine. But, currently, demand outstrips supply and they’re selling them as fast as they can import them.

It’s not hard to see why because, according to Maserati, you get a similar performance to the V6 petrol engine but it’s more fuel efficient than a V6 oil burner.

It’s also a well-balanced car as a result of being lighter than the six cylinder equivalent, with better weight distribution because of the battery slotted into the back of the car.

Prestige is obviously part of owning a Maserati, as is the sound from the exhaust.

You might think that with a mild hybrid mill under the sculptured bonnet it would be compromised but, without using amplifiers and by tweaking the fluid dynamics of the exhaust and adopting resonators, there is the ear-catching sound of an engine tuned to perfection from the large tailpipes.

The only way you’re able to tell the difference from the outside are the iconic side air intakes in blue, as well as the optional brake callipers and C-pillar logo.

There’s something to be said for heritage in a brand like Maserati. The supple leather seats, the embossed trident in the centre of the leather-covered steering wheel and the egg-shaped clock on the dash make you appreciate that.

There’s a lot of black on the inside but it’s soft leather with blue stitching to match the blue touches on the exterior. Brushed aluminium in selected areas enhances the overall premium look and feel.

Thankfully, for now at least, the Levante Hybrid’s dash hasn’t been changed to swathes of glass and digital domination. Instead, you get a traditional analogue rev counter and speedometer with a seven-inch TFT display.

Compared to some of its competitors the 8.4-inch infotainment system is considered small but it does the job well with improved resolution and graphics. The toggle switches for air conditioning and volume and tuner dials also keep it old school as opposed to some manufacturers that have culled them.

There’s a series of short-cut buttons next to the gear lever for various driving modes, for both on- and off-road, and a toggle switch for the air suspension’s adjustable ride height settings. There are six, ones including its lowest setting when Park is engaged for easy ingress and exit.

What’s it like to drive?

I spent some time behind the wheel in and around Johannesburg for a few hours. Although there weren't many opportunities to give it some hard driving, when the opportunity arose I could feel how well balanced the vehicle was.

While performance and SUV is a bit of an anomaly, they’re here to stay. In terms of performance and handling, the Levante GT Hybrid is more than happy to wear the moniker.

Maserati’s Q4 all-wheel drive system makes for an impressive drive. This is thanks to its variable torque setting, which under normal conditions sends all the power to the rear wheels but with spirited driving from take off or cornering, it splits torque equally to all four wheels in a blink of an eye.

It will gladly take off at full throttle with a whoosh from the exhausts and accelerating out of a corner there’s a slight squeal from the rear tyres while it powers out with very little flex, a testimony to the well-weighted combination of chassis suspension and power delivery.

Maserati has managed to combine all the bits in harmony, ensuring a superb combination of handling, acceleration, steering and driving fun, especially in Sport Mode.

We’d love to have spent more time with the Maserati Levante GT Hybrid but, on the face of it, it’s a perfect introduction to the brand at just over R2 million, providing an easy-to-live-with everyday car that’s more than happy to oblige when your race face takes over.

Oh, and then there’s the street cred you get when putting a Maserati keyring on the bar counter.

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