Luxury performance SUVs battle it out for class honours. Which comes out on top?
Porsche Macan Diesel S
Engine: 3.0-litre V6, diesel
Power: 254bhp @ 4000-4250rpm
Torque: 428lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
Top speed: 142mph
Fuel economy: 46.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 159g/km
Maserati’s first-ever SUV, the Levante, combines strong performance with plenty of space for four, but is it a better choice than Porsche’s smaller and somewhat cheaper Macan? We pitch the Italian brand’s luxury high-rider in £54,335 Levante Diesel form against the £46,182 Macan Diesel S, which is great to drive and boasts a classy cabin. Which model is best?
Porsche established the trend for sports car makers to build chunky SUVs way back in 2002, with the arrival of its Cayenne. Although it was originally a controversial move, fans voted with their wallets, turning the model into a huge success. The slightly smaller Macan followed, and its superb handling ensured its place as one of the finest luxury SUVs around. Maserati has turned up to the party fashionably late, but its Levante was well worth waiting for. It oozes style, has a roomier cabin and promises an equally sporty drive.
Performance and driving
Diesel SUVs aren’t known for their blistering straight-line pace, but that generalisation doesn’t apply here. Both models’ powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesels despatch the 0-60mph sprint with a hot hatch-rivalling flourish; the Levant in 6.8 seconds, the Macan a whole second faster. Both auto boxes are smooth, but the Porsche’s is snappier and responses to its paddleshifts more obedient.
The Levante’s light and artificial-feeling steering makes it tricky to place the car’s nose through a bend, and necessitates plenty of minor adjustments to keep straight and true when cruising. These are not issues with the Macan, whose steering is heavier at low speeds but gives far more all-round feedback.
The Porsche also behaves better than its rival through corners, with astonishing grip and well controlled body roll. Meanwhile, the Maserati feels less comfortable changing direction quickly, and it seems much heavier, despite a fairly small weight difference. Both cars tackles bumps with a firm edge, but the Macan better isolates you from broken surfaces – helped by our test car’s £1788 air-suspension.
Maserati Levante Diesel
Engine: 3.0-litre V6, diesel
Torque: 443lb ft
Top speed: 143mph
Fuel economy: 39.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 189g/km
When it comes to engine and noise refinement, the Porsche wins out once again. Its diesel is far smoother and quieter than the Maserati’s decidedly coarse and clattery unit, and the cabin is noticeably quieter at a cruise, too.
Inside, the Levante has a more traditional high driving position than the Macan’s more car-like one, and more legroom. Leather seats are standard fit – the Porsche has faux leather and Alcantara – but both cars have plenty of soft-touch plastics and slick-operating buttons. The prize for overall class and quality goes to the German model, however.
When it comes to infotainment touchsceens, the Porsche’s set-up also has crisper graphics and more logical menus. A rotary dial controller in the Levante works in a similar way to those in Audi and BMW models, but we preferred to stick with the touchscreen. We also preferred the Levante’s minimalist dashboard, which was easier to use than the Macan’s more button-heavy layout.
In the rear, there’s more legroom in the Maserati and its backrest can also be reclined, while the Porsche has a fair bit more headroom. Seats up or down, the Levante boasts the largest, longest boot; the Macan’s is more uniform in shape and a bit taller.
The Macan costs £8000 less to buy outright before options, and has stronger predicted residuals. A three-year PCP finance deal with a £10,000 deposit and 12,000-mile annual limit costs £377 a month, whereas it’s a huge £694 for the Levante. The Porsche is also around £150 a month cheaper to lease.
Business buyers will also be better off with the Macan, as the Levante’s far higher CO2 emissions mean it will cost 40% taxpayers £5000 more in benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax over three years. Road tax, diesel consumption and servicing bills are also higher.
Both cars have standard-fit DAB, cruise and control, Bluetooth, parking sensors front and rear plus an electric tailgate. The Levante adds xenons, sat-nav, leather, keyless entry, adjustable lumbar support and air suspension; all cost extra on the Macan. The Macan has a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating while the Levante hasn’t been tested so far, but neither comes with automatic emergency braking, even as an option.
You’ve probably guessed it’s an easy victory for the Macan. Not only is the Porsche cheaper to buy and own, it’s more comfortable, boasts superbly poised handling and has better infotainment, too. Only stingy standard kit and smaller rear legroom and boot let it down.
The more practical Maserati Levante has extra rear space and a roomier load area, plus higher standard kit levels, but it is expensive, can’t compete on efficiency, slower and simply less fun to drive. It’s a flawed package in this company.
Review: Maserati Levante v Porsche Macan