It’s time for yet another SUV. And yet another object lesson in why either the modern automobile or myself has lost the plot.
This time, it’s Maserati’s turn to ‘go Sports Utility’. Which isn’t so terrible in itself – after all it’s a clear case of ‘join ’em in the chorus or die singing your own melody’, but the resultant car, dubbed Levante, is as disappointing as it is dull.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the car in the metal (and in quite dimly-lit circumstances) at its unveiling at a local prestige car dealership, which made for an interesting study on the people the Levante has been designed for.
In a nutshell: Bryan Ferry wasn’t around, but a lot of hair product, blazers-worn-with-blue-jeans and pointy leather shoes. The accompanying ladies (yes, I’m generalising here, for a good reason) were wearing dresses that could be described as almost outré by Hanseatic standards. Driving a Maserati in Germany is, after all, still considered a risky endeavour (in social terms, rather than for safety considerations, that is).
Catering was of decent quality, despite the soggiest Carpaccio I’ve ever come across. Making amends was a delightful veal tartare. And the catering staff serving both were a pleasant bunch, although acknowledging their physical presence (which quite a few fellow guests had chosen to ignore) might have helped establishing decent interaction.
The Wind of Change, as which an advertising magazine handed out upon leaving described the Levante, eventually blew across the halls, hence taking the spotlight away from the culinary arena.
An extremely ordinary luxury car indeed, trying – and failing – to marry the conflicting demands of elegance, athleticism and bulkiness, the Levante can best be summed up as one squat automobile. The attempts to instill its styling with some flamboyance as ill-fitting as having Bruce Willis play Benedict Cumberbatch’s incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. It is, plain and simple, not a convincing proposition.
And neither is the interior, which even tops the Ghibli/Quattroporte’s sense of insignificance. I actually welcome the concept of having Ermenegildo Zegna offering a high quality cloth option for the seats, but no matter what quality the upholstery: the current Maseratis’ cabins are simply too run-of-the-mill, too Rocher-like to exude a genuine sense of luxury.
And even if they did, the nasty Rovere Chiaro wood option the demonstration car was equipped with would do its best to sabotage the entire interior ambience. If this is actually wood, then I’d suggest FCA hire the chap who must have been fired from BMW for having brought the hilariously awful ‘wood’ option that was part of the current 3 Series’ Modern line to production. His sensibilities would fit right in with Maserati’s current interior styling ethos.
At the end of my introduction to the Wind of Change (will there be a Levante ‘Scorpions’ limited edition in the vain of VAG’s glorious past efforts?), I was left wondering about my own place in the modern automotive world. This is obviously the kind of car people aspire to these days – yet its appeal utterly eludes me. In the darkest corner of my conscience, I can actually see the reasons why anyone would desire a Range Rover proper: the lofty seating, the lovely cabin, the large windows, the excellent sound insulation, the sense of dignity this car – despite a great many owners’ best efforts to the contrary – still exudes. But this Maserati is too ill-defined, too insecure a product to even appeal as a guilty pleasure.
I’d rather have a whiff of Bora, thanks very much. Of either Maserati or VW provenance.