Maserati's sporting bid for the school run: RAY MASSEY drives the Levante SUV aimed at wealthy parents
Maserati's first sports utility vehicle is set to conquer hearts as it brings Latin sex appeal to the off-road market.
While 95 per cent of customers for the Italian maker's grand tourers, sporty coupes and soft-tops are male, British bosses say they expect up to 40 per cent of the takers for its Levante 4x4 to be women.
The Levante is expected to be a popular sight around upmarket shopping areas.
Italian debutante: The stylish Levante is Maserati's first SUV.
'It has a comfortable grand tourer feel, but is agile and can put on a good fiery sprint when required,' says Ray Massey.
The base model starts at £54,335, with a luxury Zegna edition with silk interior raising that to £61,185.
The flexible five-seater with lots of space for families and their kit is intended to attract younger buyers than Maserati's Ghibli and Quattroporte saloons, GranTurismo coupe and Gran-Cabrio — down from mid-40s to about 35-plus.
I took two versions of the Levante — in sport and luxury trim — for a spin on and off road around the rain-sodden byways of the Cotswolds.
It's certainly a big beast with real presence, but despite its size, manages to look elegant and sophisticated with a large grille — bearing the trademark trident badge — that means it won't be mistaken for anything else.
Though not as capable off-road as a Range Rover Sport, I sloshed around in mud, and up and down steep and slippery woodland tracks with success.
The base model starts at £54,335, with a luxury Zegna edition with silk interior raising that to £61,185. And there are options to push that even higher.
Maserati expects '30 to 40 per cent of sales to be to women, against 95 per cent male sales for the rest of our range'.
It's available with a three-litre, 275bhp V6 diesel automatic gearbox, though a V6 petrol alternative is expected later. It has a comfortable grand tourer feel, but is agile and can put on a good fiery sprint when required. It accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds with a top speed of 145 mph.
It promises an average 39.2 mpg while CO2 emissions are 189g/km. There are five ride heights and four drive modes to suit your mood and surrounding.
Up to 1,500 Levantes are due for the first year of sales, doubling the brand's British sales to between 3,000 and 3,500 cars a year.
Peter Denton, head of Maserati North Europe, says: 'For women, the Levante offers a more appealing style of SUV. We expect 30 to 40 per cent of sales to be to women, against 95 per cent male sales for the rest of our range.'
Ford Focus RS ‘boy racer’ police car on test with police in 2016 (the car at the rear). In front, a Ford RS200 police car put to the test with forces in 1986.
Beware boy racers — especially if it's the 'boys in blue' on your tail
A police car able to keep pace with even the fastest offenders has been tested with forces across Britain. It's based on Ford's £31,250 super hot-hatch Focus RS.
The four-wheel-drive car, with a turbocharged 2.3litre 16-valve, 345bhp, four-cylinder Ford EcoBoost engine, goes from 0 to 60mph in less than five seconds.
Ford created a 150 mph 1.8-litre RS200 police car (pictured below), which forces tested in 1986.
The company supplies more than 1,500 vehicles to UK police forces. See the trailer at: youtube/Z53VBBMUPVQ
McLaren reckons you can drive its 540C coupe for less than the price of a return ticket from London on the Gatwick Express - and have more fun to boot. Payments are £31.13 a day (£946.87 a month).
The other main catch? The £35,000 cash deposit on the car, which retails at £128,550.
Tempted by a seemingly generous finance deal for that new car you've always promised yourself?
Deals such as the popular Personal Contract Purchase offers (PCP) are 'luring' cash-strapped car buyers to upgrade their cars more frequently and potentially creating an embarrassing cash shortfall, say consumer experts at What Car? magazine.
'It warns that with earnings from savings at an all-time low, and four-in-ten adults having less than £500 to fall back on, motorists could be overstretching themselves when the initial, tantalisingly low, PCP payment term ends.
Volkswagen's newly refreshed UP! city car.
Editor Steve Huntingford says: 'The final payment to secure a vehicle on a PCP term is typically several thousand pounds, and the deposit on the next car can also require a substantial cash injection.
'These finance options shouldn't be seen as free money and buyers need to ensure they have a financial cushion to cover the costs at the end of their initial payment term in order to stay on the road.'
You'll be spoilt for choice with a potential 63,180 customisation options — including bold colours such as as Habanero Orange and rich Savanna Gold — for Volkswagen's newly refreshed UP! city car, which starts from £8,995.
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