Various recent routes towards success in this department may have been demonstrated by the F-Pace and Bentley Bentayga, but simply replicating the dynamic success of either of those cars is much more easily said than done.

Prudently, the Maserati has borrowed liberally from the playbook of others; this is a typically thick-set, heavily steered, generally purposeful-feeling car to drive.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Off-camber corners reveal equitable balance but highlights how much weight there is moving around

It feels wide (expect to instinctively breathe in on narrow roads), but the Levante nonetheless manages to conjure the familiar feeling of satisfaction that results from piloting something so overtly burly from the comfort of a crow’s nest.

However, it’s also clear that lessons sagely learnt by others have not been fully digested.

The F-Pace was a success because it upscaled – as much as it reasonably could – the dynamic prowess of the XF.

The Levante, larger and on standard self-levelling air suspension, feels much more distantly removed from the taut sportiness that defined the Ghibli.

That would be fine except that the compromise struck between the divergent requirements of ride and handling is not a particularly satisfying one.

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Naturally, comfort is prioritised here far more than it was in the saloon, but the SUV fails to make much of a virtue of its sophisticated air springs. Its various body movements make it feel curiously detached from the road, and yet it’s simultaneously keen to detail every vice and irregularity in the surface under its wheels.

Much like the Ghibli, the Levante feels as if it were tuned only with smooth roads in mind. It is most likeable on newer motorway sections; away from them, it struggles to reproduce the polish or refinement of the Range Rover Sport – or even a Porsche Macan on its optional air suspension.

And certainly, just as it is no match for the latter in a straight-line sprint, it doesn’t rival the Porsche among corners, either.

While it generates decent grip and is not without a sense of balance, the Levante is plainly too heavy and too limited in steering feel to measure up to the world’s best-handling SUV – and even bythe more appropriate standards of its closest competitors, it hardly handles very keenly.

Driven hard, the Levante is capable if ultimately less interesting than the presence of a limited-slip diff suggests it might be.

A two-level Sport mode firms up the air suspension’s resistance to body roll, and while the car never attains the composure of a Porsche Cayenne, its even weight distribution prevents it from ever becoming too untidy.

Nevertheless, the chassis never fully frees itself from the burden of the car’s mass or makes its heft seem to work in its favour, as a Range Rover Sport does. And because its engine suffers from a shortage of clout, the Levante often gives the impression of toiling — a sensation hardly moderated by the suspension’s inability to settle as satisfyingly as in rival options.

Combine that with the original steering rack that takes a moment or two for its assistance to catch up with your inputs on fast direction changes and the Levante didn't really feel like an SUV you want to drive quickly for fun. For the 2018 model update, Maserati ditched the hydraulic steering system for a electric power steering setup, which from our first encounters highlights this rack is better-weighted, crisp and very precise to interact with.

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