It wasn’t too long ago when the thought of a luxury car maker producing a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) would have been laughable. But now they’re all at it. The Porsche Cayenne was one of the first, but you can now choose from the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, Jaguar F-Pace etc. It won’t be long before a Lamborghini arrives. There’s even an Aston Martin SUV on the drawing board.

Somehow, we doubt that Ferrari will go down the SUV route but, to be honest, a few years ago you would have said the same thing about Maserati.

One of the latest SUVs to arrive on our shores is the Maserati Levante, named after a Mediterranean wind. At the moment the Levante range is a tad limited – there’s only one. Although, you can expect different engines to appear eventually, we have to manage with a 3.0 V6 diesel unit. Before you dip into the options list, this will set you back £54,335. (A petrol V6 is rumoured to be on the way.)

For such a big vehicle, it feels quicker than the figures suggest. 0-60 takes 6.9 seconds; top speed is 142mph. Go easy and you won’t be far away from 40mpg.

You’ll be pleased to read that the Levante has typical Italian flair. There’s a real sense of get-up-and-go. Squeeze the throttle and the slick automatic gearbox changes down very smoothly. Permanent four-wheel drive helps with roadholding and allows you to traverse a muddy field, reverse a boat into a lake or get you home on a slippery night. The only slight complaint would be the engine note. On start-up or at town speeds, it sounds a tad unrefined. Put it this way, you definitely know that you’ve got an oil burner under the bonnet. However, once you get onto a dual carriageway, it all fades away and becomes very relaxed. The Levante will make a great long distance cruiser.

If you want to hustle along a country lane, the Levante is surprisingly agile. There’s very little body roll and, if you use the paddles behind the steering wheel to change gear, it’s really good fun.

The interior is roomy and very smart. It’s well equipped, too, with leather upholstery, sat nav, keyless entry, heated front and rear seats, air con, touch screen and a host of safety features all included as standard.

Maserati fans were no doubt rather surprised when the idea of an SUV was mooted. Thankfully, they needn’t have worried. It stands out from direct competition purely because it has a certain character. It’s good to drive, good to travel in and looks smart. For those folk who fancy an SUV which has a rarity factor, the Maserati Levante could be right up their private drive.

For more information, see