Maserati’s Levante is Like Savory Espresso Among SUV Sludge

What feels like an eternity ago, I actually enjoyed the burnt, flavorless liquid Starbucks calls coffee. Of course, I didn’t consider a Tall Pike’s Place roast to be so heinous at the time. Then, it was just another pick-me-up – no different from any other cup ‘o’ joe – or so I thought.

My ignorance to the concept of rich, caffeinated texture and taste lasted through college and into my first months as a working professional. Then, my company introduced a new guest to the break room; its name was Nespresso. For those of you unfamiliar with the single-pod dispenser, it almost instantly supplies a concentrated dose of java with a delightful aroma, crème, and, most importantly, depth of flavor. I soon zeroed in on my favorite pod: Levante.

The revelation was as stirring as it was melancholy; the moment I discovered savory coffee was the moment I realized how many years I’d wasted sipping sludge. I still cringe at the thought.

Years later, I’m experiencing the same sort of epiphany, courtesy of yet another Levante.

In many ways, Maserati’s first SUV is a wake-up call – both for the brand, and the industry. The Italian luxury manufacturer is well known for its Ferrari-derived engines and curvaceous designs — less so for dabbling in new vehicle segments. In truth, Maserati’s hand has been forced. SUVs are (to keep the metaphor alive) the caffeine fix Americans all crave. It isn’t just mass-market appeal – crossover buyers want the same type of luxury and power they experienced with their ex-lover: sedans.

2017-Maserati-Levante-S-Q4-12

You could say the Italian automaker was slow to respond to industry trends, or you could take a closer look at what they’ve created. The Levante isn’t just another SUV; it is an extension of the brand’s sporting heritage, sheathed in the latest fashion.

A long, curved bonnet is the crème cover to the Levante’s espresso jolt — a compact twin-turbocharged V6 brimming with 424 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque. Power coursing through the Levante’s veins, it beats feet to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds, aided by a sophisticated all-wheel drive system. Each pull of the steering wheel-mounted paddles triggers a snapping retort from the chrome-coated exhaust. A full-bodied anthem fills the cabin, unsubsidized by digital dupery; this is genuine soul, baby.

The Levante is as smooth as it is sharp, coddling passengers in leather and Alcantara. An adaptive suspension system cools the ride quality from taut to tame, and an off-road mode suits those with an earthy palette. Be it highway or hillside, Maserati’s low-slung SUV drinks in tarmac without prejudice.

In the time since discovering Nespresso, a third wave coffee revolution has taken hold, speckling town centers with boutique roasters and snob-staffed cafes. Bentley waves its 186-mph SUV in the face of every luxury manufacturer; Mercedes-Maybach, Rolls-Royce, and Lamborghini plot a similar routine.

At some point, one must ask if the nouveau specialty really means a better cup of coffee, or simply a more expensive one. For my money, nothing usurps the Levante.

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