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“The time for you & Maserati to get together could be right now.” So says Jason Gunn after driving one of our Maserati Ghiblis. With 3.9% finance on selected Maserati demonstrators until the end of March, there has never been a better time to experience the exclusivity and uniqueness of a Maserati. As Jason says “It’s a treat”!
They have done it. At 13h20'26” UTC, Maserati Multi 70 crossed the Tea Route arrival line between Hong Kong and London passing under the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.
Giovanni Soldini and the trimaran's crew composed of Guido Broggi, Sébastien Audigane, Oliver Herrera Perez and Alex Pella took 36 days, 2 hours, 37 minutes and 2 seconds to cover the 13,000 nautical miles of the theoretical route between the Chinese port and the capital of the United Kingdom.
They have improved the record by almost a week (5 days and 19 hours) that previously belonged to Gitana 13, the 100-foot maxi catamaran that completed the route in 41 days in 2008. On the ground, the Italian trimaran travelled 15,083 nautical miles at an average speed of 17.4 knots.
Just after the finish line, the skipper Giovanni Soldini comments: ''We are super happy but also very tired. The last 48 hours have been very tough. Sailing in the Channel upwind with a lot of breeze, a lot of sea and a terrible cold. The record went very well, we are very happy with our route. The most difficult part was the last one: with more favorable weather conditions in the Atlantic we could have gained another 3 or 4 days, but that's okay. Indeed it could not have been better, technically the boat is perfect. From the last time we put Maserati Multi 70 in a yard, we have sailed more than 19,000 miles and everything is fine onboard, surely there is the work of preparation by Guido and the whole team. An excellent crew.''
As we wait for the ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council, the organization that validates the ocean records, here is a summary of the Tea Route day by day.
The 2018 update for Maserati’s top-tier grand tourer has landed on New Zealand shores, featuring a host of refinements and improvements.
Two versions of each car are now offered, Sport and MC. Both use the same powertrain but suspension, trim and equipment differ before adding personalisation characters.
The MC, or ‘Maserati Corse’, replaces the outgoing MC Stradale and offers five selectable driving modes.
The appearance of both has been subtly updated from last year, including a front end inspired by the Alfieri concept. Headlights have been redesigned, as have the front bumper’s lateral air ducts. A rear parking camera is now standard. The MC gets a more pronounced central splitter, and the redesigned front end helps lower the drag coefficient to 0.32.
The MC also gains a carbon-fibre bonnet, with “downforce-optimising air vents.” Additionally, there are iconic vertical air vents in the front wings, deep functional side skirts, titanium brake callipers (black in the Sport) and 20” Trofeo Silver forged wheels, now 10 per cent stronger and lighter.
The rear bumper has been redesigned to incorporate the central diffuser which differs between versions. Sport gets oval exhaust outlets at the edge of the bumper while the MC features round outlets coming through the central, transparent diffuser. The exhaust system of the MC version is lighter and has a totally different shape and function. When in Sport mode, a valve channels exhaust gases so they completely bypass the silencer. This reduces back pressure and should make quite a racket.
Inside, there are further differentiating features. The 2018 Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio Sport are fitted as standard with a Maserati Centennial Pack which boasts two-tone Poltrona Frau leather upholstery, and a trident logo stitched on the head restraints. Seat backrest covers and seat frames are in carbon fibre.
By contrast, the MC variants have a mixed Poltrona Frau leather and Alcantara upholstery interior which extends to the sports steering wheel, instrument cluster, central armrest, door panels armrest/handles, central dashboard area, and tunnel gear pod.
The centrepiece of the dashboard is now a high-resolution, 8.4” capacitive touchscreen. That brings these models in line with other Maseratis, and it’s compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring functions. Both Sport and MC models now feature a Harman Kardon Premium Sound system as standard.
The powertrain remains the Ferrari-designed 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 offering 338kW and 520Nm. Zero to 100km/h takes 4.7sec for the MC version and 4.8sec in the Sport. The power is handled by a six-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
The 2018 Maserati GranTurismo and GranCabrio ranges are on sale now, with the GranTurismo Sport starting at $224,990 and the GranCabrio Sport at $254,990. Add $25k for the Cabrio MC model and $35k for the Turismo.
Few performance cars have been lavished with a more consistent flow of praise by hot hatchback aficionados than the Renault Mégane RS. This car has bossed the fast front-drive niche for most of its life, having appeared with that memorable ‘bustle-back’ styling in 2004 and promptly set new class benchmarks for driver involvement and handling poise.
But it’ll take something to reclaim that familiar old perch now, with the Honda Civic Type R having become a brilliant driver’s car in its own right and the Volkswagen Golf GTI, incoming Seat Leon Cupra R and four-wheel-drive Ford Focus RS suddenly making competition in the segment seem little less fierce than what Renault’s been coming up against in Formula 1 of late.
For that reason and others, you could call the launch of this third-generation Mégane RS (it’s also the performance version of the fourth-gen Mégane, confusingly) something of a watershed moment. Can the firm that brought us the flawed Clio RS 200 rediscover its sparkling form of old? Does Dieppe still have whatever it was that made so many of its hot hatchbacks so good for so long, or is it lost forever? Has Renault’s Alpine A110 sports car, brilliant as it may be, swallowed up so much engineering talent that what could be considered Renault Sport’s most important product has been left undernourished? It’d be understandable. But forgivable? I’m not so sure.
Some good news would definitely be welcome - and maybe we’re about to get some. Although it retains front-wheel drive, the fast Mégane has been through an overhaul that would seem every bit as thorough and attentive, on paper, as that of any of its rivals. This third-generation version has a new 1.8-litre turbocharged engine that's smaller and lighter than the old car’s 2.0-litre unit, delivering more power and torque than the Mégane 275 bowed out with – and which can be paired with a choice of six-speed manual or twin-clutch automatic gearboxes. Unlike in the Clio RS 220 Trophy, then, you needn’t be stuck with two pedals and two paddles if you don’t want them. Told you there was good news.
For suspension, the Mégane RS sticks with struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear, but its front configuration has new geometry and retains Renault Sport’s PerfoHub technology, which reduces kingpin angle offset and therefore better resists torque and bump steer. The RS version rides 5mm lower than a Mégane GTand has axle tracks widened by 45mm up front and 30mm at the rear.
The car’s chassis features two key technical departures: a four-wheel steering system and a set of hydraulic suspension bump stops. This isn’t the first Renault Sport product to use the latter. Described by the company as "a damper within a damper", the hydraulic suspension bump stops are independent fluid-filled shock absorbers that sit on the lower end of the front and rear suspension struts. And while they’re commonly fitted to rally cars and the new Mégane uses them at all four corners, the current Clio RS uses them too (on the front axle only); Dieppe’s history with them stretches all the way back to the legendary Clio 182 Trophy of 2005.
Having experimented with adaptive dampers too, Renault’s conclusion was that it could achieve better dynamic performance by combining a good, well-tuned passive damper with a hydraulic bump stop than by spending the equivalent on an adaptive damper. Interesting. And it’s a claim that seems all the more credible coming from a firm with Renault Sport’s pedigree in chassis tuning than it might be if you heard it anywhere else.
In more familiar vein, you can have the Mégane RS with a slightly softer ‘sport’ suspension tuning (partnered with an electronic brake-actuated torque vectoring system) or firmer ‘cup’ settings. With the latter, you also get a Torsen mechanical slippy diff configured for greater lock-up under power and less drag effect on a trailing throttle than the outgoing Mégane 275’s GKN slippy diff had. Enlarged 19in wheels fitted with Bridgestone tyres, and uprated lightweight brakes with aluminium hubs saving 1.8kg a corner, are options on ‘cup’ cars.
Prices are still unofficial, but are tipped to start at £29,000, with the order books open in April and first deliveries in June. A ‘trophy’ version, meanwhile – with 296bhp, 295lb ft, a standard cup chassis and all the must-have options included – is an open secret to join the range before the end of the year.
Renault gave us the opportunity to test both ‘sport’ and ‘cup’ suspension configurations on the Mégane RS 280’s launch, as well as both manual and EDC gearboxes – although our impressions on the manual ‘cup’ were confined to the limits of a track, so we’ll have to wait to discuss how the stiffer-suspended car rides on the road. We should make it plain up front, however, that the Mégane RS ‘sport’ has an amazingly supple and deft suspension set-up that works quite spectacularly well over bumps and bad surfaces. But more of that shortly.
The current Mégane’s cockpit makes for a decent departure pointfor a performance treatment, albeit one with some minor frustrations. The Mégane RS 280’s Alcantara sports seats are good and supportive, and the driving position they grant is also good by class standards: you don’t sit uncomfortably high and the controls are well-located in front of you. Renault Sport’s attempts at enriching the interior materials are mixed, though; the RS’s red-striped seatbelts and red trim accenting is bright and effective, but its part-Alcantara sport steering wheel has fairly ordinary-feeling leather where your hands rest on the grips (at quarter to three) and soft suede at six and 12 o’clock, where you seem to touch it less.
Equally odd are the car’s part-analogue, part-digital instruments, which consist of a square digital screen made up mainly of differently themed combinations of analogue rev counter and digital speedo. The system’s available screen space, however, is drastically curtailed by oversized analogue fuel level and water temperature gauges on either side of it. One bigger screen, with temperature and fuel information you could call up when needed (or at least scale to your preference), would have been a much more intelligent layout.
Details, perhaps. Still, they matter – especially since details also initially prevent you from enjoying the driving experience of the paddle shift-equipped car. The positioning and action of the shift paddles for the Mégane RS 280’s EDC gearbox are – by my reckoning, at least – plainly at fault here. Oh dear, I know: same record. But having been criticised so strongly for the Clio RS 200’s cheap and flimsy-feeling paddles, it’s amazing that Renault Sport should have repeated almost exactly the same offence with that car’s new bigger brother.
The Mégane’s shift paddles have better haptic feel than that in the Clio; the ‘crushed cornflake’ action is notable by its absence. But they remain awkwardly placed on the car’s steering column (displaced upwards by Renault’s trusty old column-mounted audio remote control) so they’re a slight stretch for your fingertips every time you need to grab a gear. They also lack that solid, defined action that’d tell you beyond question when you’ve successfully selected the next gear. They feel light and woolly, so it’s easy to half-pull one, then tug it again just to be sure, only to find you’ve accidentally upshifted twice. Annoying.
The EDC gearbox itself does a respectable job of managing the car’s gear ratios and gives you something more like that close, instinctive control over the driving forces going into the car’s front wheels than the Clio RS 200’s 'box ever managed. It’s much quicker on the upshift than on its way down the box, though, and nothing like as smooth or judicious with its shift timing in D as the better 'flappy paddle' hot hatches you might compare it with.
The Mégane RS 280’s six-speed manual gearbox is a much simpler, more intuitive and more satisfying thing to interact with, thankfully. Shift quality is well-defined and the car’s pedals are sufficiently well placed that most drivers who want to will easily be able to heel-and-toe their way down the ratios. There’s no ‘synchro rev-match’ function that’ll do it for you – but I don’t mind. Can’t heel-and-toe? Then learn to drive properly, numpty.
And what about that critical new mechanical oily bit that gearbox is connected to: the new Mégane RS engine? On this evidence, I’d say it’s strong enough; competitive with the prevailing standard for the average full-sized hot hatchback, certainly. But as a replacement for the old Mégane 275’s blown 2.0-litre engine, I’m not sure ‘better than average’ makes it worthy, actually. Because while the Mégane RS 280 has abundant real-world on-the-road performance, it’s not thanks to its engine. The motor’s torquey and free-ish-revving, but also sounds a bit ordinary, suffers a bit with iffy throttle response throughout the accelerator pedal travel and doesn’t breathe in and keep hauling with anything like the high-range urgency of a Civic Type R’s 2.0-litre engine. As hot hatchback engines go, it’s just alright.
Now, guess what’s better than alright? The chassis. Yup, better than alright. Balls to understatement – it’s sensational. The car steers faithfully, with useful weight and plenty of feel. But the deftness, suppleness and fluency of the ‘sport’-suspended car’s ride is outstanding on bumpy roads and is somehow set off against first-rate, progressive body control in a combination that no other hot hatchback in the class could match, I’d wager.
And better still are the Mégane RS 280’s true showstoppers: totally absorbing handling agility, brilliant cornering balance and a flair for playfulness that might even make a Civic Type R seem straight-laced. These were apparent in both versions of the car we tested, so it’s certainly not as if you have to buy the stiffer ‘cup’ version with the mechanical slippy diff to end up with a brilliant-handling car – although the slightly quicker responses and marginally better traction it grants are probably worth having.
But it’s the Mégane RS 280’s four-wheel steering system that seems to contribute most tellingly to its handling appeal and to greatest effect when you use Renault Sport’s ‘race’ driving mode, which raises the threshold speed at which it switches over from steering against the front wheels to steering in the same direction as them. In most four-wheel-steered passenger cars, this happens at around 30mph; in the Mégane RS 280 – and in ‘race’ mode, remember – you get a counter-steered rear axle all the way up to 62mph. And so the car turns in with amazing alacrity and carries big mid-corner speed effortlessly on a balanced throttle.
On a trailing throttle, meanwhile, you’ll be amazed how easily you can just flick it into delicious little neutral-steered drifts, with the rear wheels effectively guiding the back of the car ever so delicately into the slide. That’s an incredibly enlivening influence on the driving experience of a front-driven performance car at fairly low speeds, when the bends you’re tackling are tight, clear and well-sighted. And when they’re fast, open and bordered by kerbs, the system makes the car’s handling super-planted and stable right when you want it to be.
And where does that leave the Mégane RS 280? Pretty plainly, it’s staggeringly good in some ways, alright in others – and not without the odd frustration if you like a modern performance hatchback with two pedals. In this form, it wouldn’t cut it for me next to better, slicker and more complete twin-clutch options from the Volkswagen Group stable.
But as a manual, and I dare say in whichever suspension tune best suits the usage you have in mind for it, the Mégane RS 280 has the makings of a genuinely outstanding driver’s car. Not an entirely flawless one, true enough. But how much will a slightly ordinary engine and some curious fixtures and fittings really matter to a devoted petrolhead, I wonder?
The Mégane RS 280’s clever, agile, balanced and insanely ‘chuckable’ handling plainly makes it a very special prospect, and if it impresses us as much on British roads as it has on Spanish ones, it could make the reign of the Honda Civic Type R as our hot hatchback class champion very short indeed.
For now, watch this space. Perhaps Renault Sport didn’t let all its best engineers don those new-season Alpine polo shirts, after all.
Renault Megane RS 280
Where Jerez On sale April 2018 Price £29,000 Engine 4cyl inline, 1798cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 276bhp at 6000rpm Torque 288lb ft at 2400-4800rpm Gearbox 6-spd twin-clutch automatic/ 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1430kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 5.8sec Fuel economy 40.9mpg CO2 155g/km Rivals Honda Civic Type R, Seat Leon Cupra 300
The updated Quattroporte has arrived in New Zealand, with subtle enhancements for the 2018 model year.
First off, the twin-turbo, Ferrari-built 3.0-litre V6 has received a power and torque bump, to 321kW and 580Nm respectively for the higher-spec S version. This allows the car to hit 100km/h from standstill in a quoted five seconds flat, and on to a top speed of 288km/h. The base Quattroporte retains the 257kW engine. For the power-hungry out there, the GTS variant features a 3.8-litre V8 with 390kW, but expect to pay a pretty premium for it. More on that in a bit.
Externally the Quattroporte is largely unchanged, save for new adaptive LED headlights. The GranSport version gets a gloss black grille as standard to differentiate it from the rest of the family. Soft close doors are now standard. Electric power steering replaces the old hydraulic system, and paves the way for active functions of the Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) though Maserati assures us that its car will retain the handling characteristics the brand is known for.
Additional ADAS features include Highway Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, as well as Traffic Sign Recognition. This allows Maserati to offer Level 2 driving automation technology, in line with the top competitors in the high-end segment. A Surround View Camera complements the reversing camera which has dynamic guidance lines on the screen.
Integrated Vehicle Control is also new. IVC, essentially an evolution of the ESP, works to prevent rather than react to a loss of car control. Maserati says the system intervenes more smoothly and with less noise than a traditional ESP to ensure better balance and traction at the limits of the car’s dynamics.
Two trim levels are available with each tier of Quattroporte: GranLusso and GranSport. The GranLusso trim is said to ‘reinterpret the concept of luxury’ by enhancing the exterior finish and improving in-cabin comfort for both driver and passengers, while the GranSport trim underscores the sporty character of the Quattroporte while enhancing the aggressive appearance of the car.
Away from the headlines about Mercedes-Benz's record-breaking sales totals, press releases detailing Jaguar Land Rover's new-tech offensive and ... well, Holden's anti-mullet obsession, a lot has been going on at Renault.
You remember Renault, the French car company that sort of invented the people mover? It's good at hot hatches, too, but mainly known for vans in this part of the world,
I've had reason to reacquaint myself with Renault's line-up. The degree to which it has matured and extended past the Megane is impressive.
The Captur crossover is a tastily designed car that is comfortable and fun to drive. The manufacturer still makes the Clio and Clio RS, as well as the Megane hatchbackrange, including the always bonkers Megane RS 265 and 275 track day assault weapons for the true aficionado.
And then there are those delivery vans of various shapes and sizes you see everywhere; the Trafic 3 mid-sizer is - and I'm not being facetious - the best van I have driven in about five years.
But without burying the lead, while everyone was looking elsewhere, the Renault Koleos has become really good.
For a start, it's not the slightly awkward Nissan X-Trail-based mid-size SUV you might be mis-remembering. The modern Koleos is a different beast, with broad shoulders and sculptured good looks. At over 4.5m long, it feels like an XL-sized SUV.
All Koleos have 18" alloys filling the wheel arches, although the manufacturer saves the nicest design for the top-spec version, as shown in the range-topping Intens trim.
In this state of dress, the Koleos features plenty of chrome on the outside, but not in an overzealous Beijing-Auto-Show sort of way.
It's tastefully trimmed with the shiny stuff, yet the addition of metallic framework around the headlights, through the side of the car and even around the exhaust pipes at the rear, provides for a visual line-break between this one and the Zen grade (available as either a front- or four-wheel drive).
Exterior aesthetics aside, the Koleos is packed with new-tech surprise-and-delight stuff these days.
The Intens' centre stack is dominated by a lovely 8.7-inch portrait-format touchscreen that looks more like a tablet device. The system navigation is simple; a tiled layout detailing control of audio, climate, vehicle data and phone or device connectivity.
Speaking of navigation, GPS is standard in this grade Koleos. A rear-view camera with parking sensors is included, as is cruise control with Active Emergency Brake Assist, which warns the driver of impending rear-bumper-shaped danger ahead in heavy traffic.
Other niceties include heated and cooled front seats, Bose premium audio and -- in the top trim Koleos -- an electronically opening boot and panoramic sunroof.
Cabin materials are all top-notch, with stitched soft leather seats providing for some ace ambience. And it's roomy; there is a huge amount of space for rear seat passengers (class-leading rear knee room by all accounts), while the boot provides for 458-litres of on-board real estate to cram full of stuff. If you need to add more practicality, the Koleos boasts a 2000kg braked towing capacity.
Power comes courtesy of a 2.5-litre, four cylinder petrol engine with 126kW of peak power available. The Intens grade is a 4x4-only affair and feels nicely planted on the road. I was surprised by the eagerness of the engine. There's plenty of oomph despite the vehicle's relative size.
About the only negative I can put my hand on - after dropping it several times with a teeth-clenching clatter - is the smooth-sided key card you use to access the Koleos.
It's a weighty, credit card-sized "key" that resembles a Mini-me iPhone. But there is no facility to attach it to a good old-fashioned key ring, so you end up with yet another thing to carry. I don't know why Renault persists with the gimmicky ignition key, but at least the previous plastic-y one had a hole in it through which you could feed a key ring.
Still, that's a relatively minor quibble. The updated Koleos is an impressive SUV. It also offers something a little different in a sea of the usual common or garden variety German, Japanese and Korean fare on our roads.
While the other two French brands seem to have abandoned the SUV, Renault has cracked it. And that deserves more attention.
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol (126kW/226Nm)
Prices: $44,990 (Koleos Zen 2WD), $49,990 (Koleos Zen 4WD), $54,990 (Koleos Intens 4WD)
Pro: Great looks, lots of space, satisfying level of techy comfort and convenience as standard
Con: Skoda Kodiaq is imminent and will offer seven seats for similar prices
You’d be forgiven for thinking there isn't much separating the Levante diesel SUV that broke new ground for Maserati last year from the newly released petrol-powered Levante S — but that's because you haven't heard it.
Visually they’re difficult to differentiate, bar a lone SQ4 badge on the boot and painted front brake callipers.
But fire up the twin-turbo V6 engine and your ears are greeted with a type of raucousness only Italian motoring executives would dare sign off.
Could the nation which gave us the supercar pull another ace out its sleeve and give the term “luxury performance SUV” real substance, and perhaps a bit of soul, too?
That's what I'm here to find out at the Australasian launch of the new Maserati Levante S, on deserted roads surrounding the Bathurst racetrack north-west of Sydney.
Three new Levante models are now arriving in New Zealand dealerships, with new colours and an array of options. The range begins with the entry-level Levante S, priced from $169,990.
Luxury and performance orientated models — the Levante S GranLusso and GranSport respectively — complete the line-up, both retailing from $174,990.
All models promise to deliver “sportscar-rivalling performance” on the road and genuine 4x4 capabilities off it due to the SUVs near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution, adjustable air spring suspension and electronically controlled shock absorbers, all of which are fitted as standard.
They could be right when you consider the Levante also boasts the lowest centre of gravity and best aerodynamic efficiency in its class, thanks in large part to the Air Spring Suspension system that can adjust ride height by as much as 85mm when shifting between park, aero and off-road driving modes.
Levante S also ushers in a range of MY18 updates, headlined by a list of safety features made possible with a shift from hydraulic to electronic power steering. MY18 Levantes now come with highway, lane-keep and active blind-spot assist.
The front-facing cameras can now recognise traffic signs, with speed limits displayed on the instrument cluster, and navigating tight spaces has been made a lot easier with the addition of a 360-degree camera displayed through a redesigned 8.4” touchscreen infotainment display on the dash.
These updates help Maserati match its SUV rivals, but the reason Driven hoped across the ditch wasn't to test safety features, (all things going well) it was to try the sports SUV on tarmac roads with the twin-turbo petrol engine we first experienced in the MY17 Quattroporte — which Maserati is quick to point out is a Ferrari-built engine.
All three Levante S models are powered by a 3-litre, twin-turbo V6 that produces a sprightly 316kW of power at 5750rpm and 580Nm of torque at 5000rpm.
The engine was designed by Maserati Powertrain and built at Ferrari’s Maranello plant, and coupled to the a lightweight exhaust system, the engine note resonates with all the crackles and pops you’d expect from a performance-orientated Maserati.
There's an old-school turbo feel to this engine once you start driving. Get caught meandering in a high gear and any depression of the accelerator will be a complete non-event.
However, once you flick into one of the two sport modes and drop down a few gears in the instantaneous ZF 8-speed gearbox, and the throttle pedal should be treated with the highest respect.
0-100km/h is dealt with in 5.1 seconds, a mere tenth slower than the Quattroporte, but the Levante’s real-world party trick is 30-100km/h in under 2.5 seconds. When you get moving there are no complaints from the chassis, either.
All Levante models are built on the same platform as the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans, with 20 per cent more rigidity to deal with added weight and off-road stresses.
The fact the Levante’s Q4 Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive system directs most of its power to the rear axle through a mechanical Limited Slip Disc (the only car in its class to come with a LSD as standard) only adds to the SUV’s playfulness.
Powerful Brembo six-piston callipers clamping down on 380mm disks in the front and 42mm floating calipers in the rear ensure all that performance and weight can be subdued in a moment’s notice, perfect for dodging kangaroos and mudslides on my drive day.
The performance from this 2.2 tonne vehicle is stunning, and the sound out the back of the four exhaust tips urges you to push harder.
Maserati has considered neighbourly relations however, with exhaust valves able to close to keep the peace during an early-hour commute.
As a full pack, it’s little wonder that Levante, in the distributor’s words, ‘is transforming Maserati in the luxury market’.
In much the same way the Cayenne worked wonders for Porsche in the early 2000s, Levante is drawing new customers once uninterested in Maserati’s GTs or sedans.
In 2017, the Levante diesel outsold Maserati’s three other nameplates combined. The addition of Levante S is only going to accelerate that trend.
It’s a high-riding vehicle with the 580 litres of boot space that buyers in all markets desire.
Though, in the case of Levante S, that practicality, comfort and luxury come packaged in an Italian-made, Ferrari-powered performance SUV that wants to shout its lungs out and send its power to the rear axle as often as possible.
That’s a difficult package to fault.
Engine: 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6, 316kW, 580Nm
Price: $174,990 + ORCs
Pro: Performance and feature rivals Germany’s best
Con: No diesel trade-in offer
The Alfa Romeo Giulia has opened 2018 with yet more awards to add to its bulging trophy cabinet with awards from both sides of the Atlantic presented to the Giulia, with leading UK performance magazine ‘evo’ giving the Giulia not one, but two awards, and in the USA ‘Motor Trend’ lauding the Giulia with its 2018 Car of the Year title.
The new awards join a remarkable list of wins and not just for the obvious areas of style and performance, with the Giulia wining plaudits for its safety, interior design, engineering and, most presciently just after its launch, a prize for being a car to watch in future months.
Given this its no surprise that the Giulia also picked up awards on both sides of the Atlantic as being a future classic car and as being the Game Changer of the Year, along with a major factor in Alfa Romeo being named twice as Brand of the Year.
Geographically the awards have come from some surprising places too. Who could guess that Texans, the lovers of everything big, would pick the Giulia as the ‘Car of Texas’? JR Ewing would be most surprised. Germans, British, the Irish and more have all fallen in love with the Giulia.
Back in New Zealand the Alfa Romeo Giulia comes in two award winning versions - the UK’s ‘evo’ gave a car of the year title to both versions - the 206 kW Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce at a recommended retail price of $79,990 plus on road costs and the stupendously fast 375 kW Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio at $134, 990 plus on road costs.
Speaking of ‘evo’, the UK’s leading performance magazine, in its 2018 awards the Italian marque is the only manufacturer to scoop two spots in its top ten list of the best cars.
James Disdal, road test editor at evo, commented: "The glorious Giulia Quadrifoglio, the Supersaloon that’s shot through with the soul of a supercar."
Meanwhile, the Giulia Veloce, which sits just below the Quadrifoglio in the Alfa Romeo Giulia line-up, was shortlisted in the top ten as evo’s ‘Sports Saloon of the Year’.
David Vivian, evo contributing editor, said: "We all agree that the Giulia Veloce looks and feels as if it benefits from all the special parts and effort that went into creating the terrific Giulia Quadrifoglio… making it the best all-round sports saloon you can currently buy."
Meanwhile over the Atlantic Motor Trend's Car of the Year program is open to any all-new or substantially upgraded 2017 model year vehicles. Rather than being compared against one another, contending vehicles are first put through Motor Trend's full battery of performance tests to measure acceleration, braking, and limit handling.
All contenders are then evaluated on three separate courses at a professional automotive test center before finalists are selected. Out of its third-largest field ever - Motor Trend's judges narrowed the field to eight Car of the Year finalists, including the Alfa Romeo Giulia.
"Motor Trend's judges agreed that the Alfa Romeo Giulia is the new ultimate driving machine," said Ed Loh, Motor Trend Editor-in-Chief. "Alfa Romeo developed a car that is perhaps the finest handling sedan on the market."
All "Of the Year" contenders were selected by Motor Trend judges and evaluated against six key criteria: advancement in design, engineering excellence, safety, efficiency, value, and performance of intended function. The 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia best represents these six key elements, which also characterize what consumers most want in their next vehicle.
Back in Old Blighty, the Autocar Awards made it clear that the Giulia is more than a superb car, it is a game changer for Alfa Romeo and car buyers. As Autocar says, its 'Game Changers' are cars that 'bring new, higher standards to their classes, or because they defy conventions to benefit buyers.'
Of the Giulia, the Autocar judges said: "The Giulia is a riveting, idiosyncratic and striking entrant into a class usually defined by an understated brand of superiority." And Mark Tisshaw, Editor of Autocar, added: "This is not only the most competitive Alfa Romeo saloon since the last Giulia was launched more than half a century ago but, crucially for anyone with Alfisti blood lurking in their veins, it's the most likeable, too. With its incredible performance and exciting handling, the Giulia is everything you'd want an Alfa Romeo to be."
US Magazine Car and Driver prepares a demanding test to produce a list of the best ten cars in the USA market for the consideration of its readers and their purchasing plans.
"Every year, we gather all the new sub-$80,000 cars for a meta test of automotive virtue," said Car and Driver. "Sixty-five cars, 10 days, 26,000 miles, 58 ballots, 502 doughnuts, one rainstorm, zero traffic citations. We crunched the numbers and here you have it: the 10Best Cars for 2018."
Rather than limiting entries to only all-new or significantly redesigned vehicles, Car and Driver invites returning winners as eligible for its 10Best awards, making the pool of candidates much larger and more competitive.
"High-fidelity steering and innately easy response define the Giulia as it comes to life in your hands. The efforts are never high, but a deliberate grip on the wheel is required as the Alfa shifts and pulls, subtly but faithfully exposing where there’s grip and where there’s none," said Car and Driver. "Acceleration comes earlier and earlier as confidence builds. And even with iron rotors, our car’s brakes never fatigued."
The UK’s Octane magazine gathered some of the world’s famous car enthusiasts to test the Alfa Romeo Giulia against its rivals. Now in its seventh year, it was judged by an illustrious panel of car experts, including TV star Jay Leno, Pink Floyd’s legendary drummer Nick Mason and five time Le Mans winner Derek Bell.
For the Performance Car of the Year winner, judges were looking for a model that appealed to head and heart, providing drivers with the latest advanced technologies and an exhilarating driving experience for under £100,000.
The Octane Award judges said: "This is Alfa Romeo back to its brilliant best with a car that's as good to drive as it is to look at. It's sensationally fast, yet full of feel and with huge reserves of grip to match the big helpings of power. And when you don't want to drive fast, it'll potter around perfectly happily, too - a true, all-round performance car".
You’d expect the likes of Jay Leno, Nick Mason and Derek Bell to fall for the charms of the Giulia, but what about at an automotive rodeo corralled by the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA)? Well, at least the test wasn’t held in a dirt lined stadium or out on the range, rather it was at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA). With its 20 turns, 133-foot hill and a coned-slalom segment in the straightaway, the 3.4-mile track at COTA provided a world-class driving experience for evaluating vehicles in side-by-side comparisons unlike any other automotive media event
"The Giulia Quadrifoglio took to the track at Circuit of The Americas and thoroughly impressed our journalists with its nimble handling, compelling Ferrari-derived 505-horsepower V-6 engine along with its true Italian flair," said Nic Phillips, President of TAWA. "Alfa Romeo has created something original, something extraordinary in just about every measure with the Giulia Quadrifoglio - one of those cars you have to experience to believe - whether you’re on the track or looking for a smile-inducing drive to work, this sedan delivers it all and quite comfortably at that."
So much so that the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio was crowned "Car of Texas" and also took home the honours for "Performance Sedan of Texas" and so popular was it, that the Giulia took the title of "Most Drives" as the 52 TAWA motoring writers just couldn’t keep out of the Giulia’s driver’s seat.
With all these awards for how it looks and how it drives, its no surprise that classic car experts on both sides of the Atlantic are looking at the Alfa Romeo Giulia as a future classic Like many, many Alfa Romeos before it, these experts believe that in the coming years the Giulia will be a car to cherish.
The classic car experts at Hagerty highlight the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio’s stand-out combination of stunning Italian design and craftsmanship, race-inspired technologies and class-leading performance by adding the most powerful Alfa Romeo production car ever to its "Hot List" of future collectible vehicles.
"The Giulia is a true expression of La Dolce Vita," said McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty. "It’s the kind of car that makes you want to spend your time looking for twisty roads. The car has the ingredients to become a future classic."
It’s a view shared by Motor Klassik in Germany who presented the Giulia with its Future Classic award
But back to those awards and according to Top Gear Magazine, "The Giulia is modern and high-tech but the proposition is simple: engine, handling, beauty. Those are things we want from Alfa. The Giulia over-delivers."
If God is in the details, then its also where some of the awards are, because after spending two months evaluating 31 vehicle nominees and scoring each based on materials, ergonomics, driver information, safety, comfort, fit-and-finish and aesthetics, the editors at WardsAuto named the Alfa Romeo Giulia to the WardsAuto 10 Best Interiors List for 2017.
"From the F1-inspired steering wheel and creamy leather seats to the matte-finish genuine walnut trim on the doors, instrument panel and stylishly arrayed center console, the Giulia does its Italian design heritage proud," said Tom Murphy, senior editor of WardsAuto. "Our editors rave about the expertly applied metallic accents, outstanding build quality, artistic lines, the intuitive control screen that blends neatly into the instrument panel and the tidy white stitching that sweeps across the soft-touch black IP and upper door trim."
Crafted by Alfa Romeo artisans at the Cassino plant in Italy, the Giulia is a testament to Alfa Romeo’s perfect balance of engineering and emotion, creating a premium sports sedan for driving enthusiasts that stands out in the segment, and is luxurious and comfortable on the inside.
Nor is all about performance, style and luxury. The new Alfa Romeo Giulia has also been named ‘Safest New Car’ in the Carbuyer ‘Best Cars’ Awards.
"Testers praised the Giulia’s structural integrity and the ability of the Autonomous Emergency Braking system to work at higher speeds. With that hugely impressive adult occupant protection score, we've named it our Safest New Car," explains Carbuyer editor Stuart Milne "It also scored top marks this year in the Euro NCAP crash tests. It achieved a remarkable 98 per cent score for adult occupant protection, beating cars like the Mercedes E-Class and Volkswagen Tiguan."
But if there was an award for prescience, the ability to see what’s to come, it must go to the judges at the UK’s Fleet World because just weeks after its launch they lauded the Giulia with its "One to Watch" title and it is awarded to the car that the Fleet World team thinks will be an exciting and significant addition to the fleet sector over the coming year.
Commenting on the win, the Fleet World Honours judging panel noted, "The Giulia looks set to transform Alfa Romeo’s presence. A stylish return to the compact executive class after a five-year hiatus, it’s underpinned by a new chassis with a focus on driver enjoyment, it’s an exciting addition to the sector."
Given all the awards and titles it has won since that initial title, there could no more accurate prediction than that the Alfa Romeo Giulia was - and is - "one to watch" and possibly one that should invest in a new, larger trophy cabinet!
If the shape of the 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia doesn’t get your heart pumping just looking at it, nothing will. But when you get behind the wheel, you won’t feel your beating heart because the performance will take your breath away.
There are few brands out there with a history as rich as Alfa Romeo. The brand, founded in 1910, has been involved with racing since 1911.
It is also deeply Italian, a source of pride that one of their own can take on the best of its European neighbours — from the German Porsche to the British Jaguar.
It was exported to North America from the mid-1950s to 1995.
After a long drought, the marque returned in 2014 with the 4C, a two-seater coupe.
Last year the Giulia, a luxury sport four-door sedan, joined the team — the least-expensive vehicle in the Alfa Romeo lineup.
It is available in three trims, the Giulia, Giulia Ti and Giulia Quadrifoglio, with a base price from $48,995 to $89,495. It is also available in rear wheel or all-wheel-drive configurations.
I got an opportunity to drive a Ti model with all-wheel drive both on road and track.
Depending on your bent, the Ti can also be ordered in one of three levels — the base Ti, the Ti Sport and Ti Lusso. The Sport speaks for itself, the Lusso is the more luxurious version.
The base Ti comes with a direct-injection turbocharged in-line 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 280 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but in Canada the more popular model would undoubtedly be the all-wheel-drive variant.
(Those who have a deep need for speed would crave the Ferrari-derived V-6 found in the $89,495 Quadrifoglio model, but that review will have to wait for another day.)
The turbo four, with 280 horses and 306 foot-pounds of torque, moves briskly off the line, with a 0-100 km/h time of about 5.2 seconds (according to Alfa Romeo).
Those few seconds and half-seconds are an important measure in a field crowded with BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, Audis and others.
Alfa has benchmarked the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C300, Jaguar XE and Lexus IS as its competition, with more power than the premium models.
With the extra power, Alfa also says the Ti has a 240 km/h top speed, a claim that I was not about to verify. On the highway, the Giulia never seemed to work hard to get to triple-digit speeds.
What amazes me is how quiet the engine sounds. I was expecting a growl or snap to the Italian-designed powerplant. What I got was a very civilized whoosh up to speed. There is no lack of power, just a lack of auditory feedback. The Alfa engineers should perhaps have listened to their own 4C, which sings much more eloquently at speed.
(Those who don’t like any unnecessary audio cues to annoy neighbours may disagree with me.)
But put the Alfa into that first corner, and all complaints about sound fade into the distance as the brand’s DNA comes bubbling to the forefront. The Giulia is a joy on the road and track, with a highly balanced feel and a steering wheel that communicates intimately with the driver.
I would also say it is very forgiving, allowing a weekend warrior (such as myself) the time to gather confidence with each lap.
The interior is both clean and contemporary, with a minimum of extraneous knobs or switches. The cabin isn’t as utilitarian and cold as some German makes, but it also isn’t a sea of chrome like the Americans.
If pushed, I might say it has more in common with the British, with soft sensuous lines that begged to be touched and warm colours that make the cabin a relaxing space for both eye and body.
My tester had an 8.8-inch widescreen infotainment screen at the top of the centre stack. The display is good, but not the best example in the luxury segment.
The driver also faces a seven-inch thin-film-transistor cluster display, which I found more attractive than the larger infotainment screen.
The Alfa Romeo Giulia is like a breath of fresh air in a field dominated by generic German sedans. It appeals to the enthusiast by its enthusiasm on the road and its nicely balanced chassis on the track.
Those with deeper pockets — and the urge to humiliate the competition — should search out the Quadrifoglio.
Regardless of which you choose, the Giulia is sure to steal your heart.
Type: Mid-sized luxury-sport four-door sedan, front engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 280 hp at 5,200 r.p.m., 306 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,000 to 4,800 r.p.m.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,638; width, 1,872; height, 1,450; wheelbase, 2,819
Curb weight (kg): 1,530
Price (base/as tested): $52,995/ $65,435 (includes $1,795 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)
Options: Driver assistance package $1,000, Leather package $1,000, Driver Assistance Dynamic Plus $1,500, Performance package $1,750, Dual pane sunroof $1,595, Harman/Kardon audio system $1,200, Tri-coat paint $2,500
Tires: 225/45 R18 on alloy wheels
Fuel type: Premium
Fuel economy (L/100km): 10.2 city/ 6.0 highway
Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car
NASHVILLE, TN--(Marketwired - December 14, 2017) - The INFINITI 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine was named to Ward's 10 Best Engines list for 2018 model year. The VR-series engine has the distinction of being one of just two engines on the list to receive the award for a second consecutive year.
Available across the range of newly redesigned INFINITI Q50 sports sedan models, along with the Q60 sports coupe, the advanced VR-series engine was tested by the WardsAuto editors as offered in the INFINITI Q50 3.0t SPORT, Q50 RED SPORT 400 and Q60 RED SPORT 400. Available in two configurations, the 3.0-liter VR-series engine is capable of producing 300 horsepower with 295 lb-ft of torque; in a high-performance option, this engine delivers 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
"The VR-series engine is a key representation of INFINITI's Empower the Drive ethos, delivering thrilling performance that luxury customers have come to expect from our products," said Christian Meunier, INFINITI Global Division Vice President. "INFINITI is on track to achieve another record year for both U.S. and global sales, and the exceptional engineering and performance of our engines are vital contributions to that success."
In the 24th year of Ward's 10 Best Engines awards, the INFINITI VR-series V6 was tested against a range of new and significantly improved powerplants from manufacturers around the world, along with Ward's 10 Best winners from 2017.
"INFINITI is one of only two returning winners for this year's Ward's 10 Best Engines competition, and it happened with virtually no debate among the judges," said Tom Murphy, Managing Editor, WardsAuto. "The 3.0L twin-turbo VR V6 in the INFINITI Q50 sedan and Q60 coupe is smooth and refined, yet devastatingly fast, with brilliant midrange acceleration and an uncanny ability to get off the line in a hurry. This engine makes V-8 power, and yet we managed 23 miles per gallon during our testing."
INFINITI's VR-series 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo engine boasts a series of innovative technologies to deliver an engaging driving experience while remaining efficient thanks to the use of direct-injection, minimal mechanical friction and turbocharging. Lightweight aluminum construction also helps to keep vehicle weight low and increases engine response to deliver an engaging driving experience in both the Q50 sports sedan and Q60 sports coupe. The VR-series 3.0-liter V6 twin-turbo engine is the successor to INFINITI's VQ engine, which appeared on the Ward's 10 Best Engines list for 14 consecutive years.
INFINITI Motor Company Ltd. is headquartered in Hong Kong with representations in 50 markets around the world. The INFINITI brand was launched in 1989. Its range of premium automobiles is currently built in manufacturing facilities in Japan, the United States, United Kingdom and China. INFINITI design studios are located in Atsugi-Shi (near Yokohama), London, San Diego and Beijing. INFINITI is in the middle of a major product offensive. The brand has been widely acclaimed for its daring design and innovative driver-assistance technologies. From the 2016 season, INFINITI is a technical partner of the Renault Sport Formula One team, contributing its expertise in hybrid performance.