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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 February 2019

Mini road test: 2018 Maserati Levante S

What's in a car colour? Quite a lot, it turns out, when it involves red leather

Car buyers of the UAE, we need to talk. Look, it’s not you, it’s me. Perhaps I have unrealistically high standards. Either that, or it’s simply taste. And you? Well, you love red leather interiors. Yeah, red. Yuck.

Maybe we just weren’t meant to be together. But perhaps there’s a chance we can reconcile: at least the cars that you choose to almost ruin with badly judged hides stretched across seats, doors and dashboards are almost always cracking to drive.

Or should that be crackling, in the case of the Levante S? Because, like basically every Maserati you can buy from a trident-embellished showroom right now, the Italian SUV has exhaust pipes that sound like Chinese New Year celebrations in full explosive voice whenever you hammer the accelerator.

That extra S badge denotes various performance enhancements over the regular Levante, which also draws its power from a twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6. We’re talking 430hp (versus 350hp) and an extra 80Nm of torque (versus 500NM). Should you find the space to do so legally, 264kph is the full extent of those gains – a full 13kph faster than the lesser model’s top whack – with a 5.2-second 0-to-100kph split.

There aren’t many sporty five-seat SUVs of any dimensions or power outputs that are as enjoyable to pilot as the Levante, with its track-worthy handling and rakish good looks. Its lither than a Porsche Cayenne, not as boorish as a BMW X6 M and more charismatic than an Audi SQ5.

Silly shades aside, the Italian tailoring that goes into the Levante’s interior is undeniably fine, while the 8.4-inch touchscreen makes for light work of the navigating the infotainment system. If only everything wasn’t so flipping... red.

After a few days with the Levante S, I might almost say that I grow to appreciate its rouge insides and begin to think that it sort of sets off the pearly-white exterior. Only almost and sort of, though, because as soon as I jump back into my own car and sink into its tan-brown leather seats, I realise the truly gross scope of the red trend. A colourblind toddler could do better. And the Levante S definitely deserves classier treatment than such design disasters – thankfully, as our gallery above demonstrates, other colours are available.

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Updated: January 23, 2019 02:48 PM

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