RoadTrip: Maserati luxurious Levante SUV takes a drive to stunning Langebaan

Named after the Easterly wind blowing in the Western Mediterranean Sea, the Levante SUV-range from Maserati recently benefitted from a new entry-level petrol model breezing into South Africa. We took it for a visit to The Farmhouse Hotel in the West Coast haven of Langebaan.

For just over three years we have seen potent diesel and powerful petrol gusts of Levante wafting into South Africa but now Maserati has unleashed a slightly less potent wind force in the form of the entry-level petrol-driven Levante 350. 

But do not be deceived; powered by the same Ferrari-derived twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 used in the Levante S, it still delivers a very healthy 257kW and 500Nm of torque to all four wheels through an eight-speed auto transmission with torque-converter.

maserati levante

                                                                                         Image: Maserati SA / Jim Freeman

So, offered the opportunity to appraise it – for a short day only, mind you – we decided to release the new wind force from Modena in the direction of the West Coast and the picturesque seaside town of Langebaan. 

While termed entry-level, our Nero Ribelle coloured 350 still had a high level of bespoke equipment, including sumptuous black-clad leather seats, multiple steering wheel controls, a high-quality sound system, and a comprehensive infotainment system. For its size, the cabin still felt somewhat constricted, in part due to the busy layout of the centre console and surfeit of buttons and switches.

maserati levante

                                                                                     Image: Maserati SA / Jim Freeman

Its bespoke V6 engine made its presence known with a loud yet resonant burble after start-up but at cruising speed on the byways leading out of the Mother City it was suitably subdued. However, it was possible to coax more sonorous sounds from the six-cylinder by selecting “sport” mode.

After passing through Malmesbury, we turned onto the R45 leading to Hopefield. By now it was clear that the petrol powertrain was a much better option for the Levante (compared to the turbodiesel). It was more responsive and rev-happy and combined well with the ZF transmission to manage the mass of the hefty SUV (it weighs nearly 2,4 tons).

maserati levante

                                                                                      Image: Maserati SA / Leigh-Ann Londt

With its twin-turbo configuration, it did not suffer from much lag, making it possible to reach the 100 km/h-mark in just six seconds from standstill when sport mode is selected. However, be prepared for quite jerky, uncomfortable shifts as it hurries through the gears. Rather use the shift-paddles to manage the revs and soften the changes.

While serenely cruising along the rippling road, the lesser petrol Levante did not feel like it needed the extra grunt of its uprated S-stablemate, except when overtaking. Even on 18-inch rubber (compared to the 19- and 20-inch tyres of its siblings) and considering its weight, the 350 proved more poised in the bends than expected.

Even in tight corners its handling inspired confidence, thanks to the Q4 all-wheel-drive system with rear limited-slip diff, while standard active air suspension gave it better ride quality than its more fancied S-sibling. All in all, a satisfying driving experience, and we arrived in Langebaan fresh and relaxed. 

maserati levante

                                                                                          Image: Maserati SA / Jim Freeman

Lovely Langebaan Taking in the surrounding beauty, we slowly cruised down the main road of the town towards The Farmhouse Hotel overlooking the tranquil Langebaan lagoon.

It was a clear, brilliant Autumn day, and the lagoon shimmered enticingly in the bright sunlight gave credence to the claim of the town as the ‘Jewel of the West Coast’.  We received a warm West Coast welcome from the pleasant staff and enjoyed steaming cappuccinos on the wide veranda with a view stretching from the lagoon to Saldanha harbour, before sitting down for a light lunch consisting of a delicious chicken dish.

Originally built in 1860 as the Panorama Farm Homestead, the establishment is very much part of the West Coast legacy. It was beautifully restored in 1992, recreating the original Cape Dutch farmstead atmosphere and retains the charm of reed ceilings, huge fireplaces, and outstanding views of the lagoon.

maserati levante
                                                                                         Image: Maserati SA / Jim Freeman 

The restaurant offers traditional Cape cuisine and boasts a wine cellar built in the original underground water tanks, specialising in wines of the West Coast and Swartland regions. The restaurant houses a very interesting museum and antique collection tracking the history of the region. It is a very convenient stopover for a lunch run from Cape Town …

While we rather would have stayed to enjoy the sunset over the lagoon, we still had to return the Maserati, so reluctantly we took our leave and watched Table Mountain grow bigger as the Levante made short work of the long, straight stretches on the R27 towards Cape Town.

                                                                                         Image: Maserati SA / Jim Freeman

It was a pleasant trip, and the Levante 350 proved to be a balanced, well-rounded package– a huge improvement on the diesel model and a viable alternative to the more powerful, much more expensive S-variant. However, at R1 549 900 (with some options) it is still pricey compared to its direct competitors such as the Porsche Cayenne (R1 160 000) and Mercedes-AMG GLE43 (R1 259 855).

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Our vehicle: Maserati Levante 350 

Engine: 2,979 cc V6, twin-turbo petrol 

Maximum power: 257 kW @ 5,750 rpm

Maximum torque: 500 Nm @ 1,750-5,000 rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, Q4 all-wheel drive0-100 km/h: 6,0 seconds 

Top speed: 251 km/h

Consumption: 10,7 l/100  km

CO2 emissions: 249 g/km

Maintenance plan: Five-year/100 000 km

Price: R1 549 900 (as tested)

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