Motoring’s most controversial issue, the subject of electric cars, hit the headlines in early February when the government decreed that the availability of diesel and petrol vehicles will cease in 2035, thus bringing forward the previously announced date for this to happen by five years. Understandably the directive set about disquiet within the global motor industry, and not least caused concern amongst customers who might be considering a change of vehicle within the foreseeable future.

The worry for manufacturers and customers alike is that the run-out of both diesel and petrol cars has been widened to include hybrids. Customers looking to buy new cars have in the main accepted the hybrid technology route as it dispels any range anxiety, a syndrome that has frightened a lot of people away from going all-electric, while offering considerably lower emissions than the most fuel-efficient diesels and petrols. For manufacturers, banning hybrids from 2035 is a serious interruption in their development programmes, especially as they have a number of self-charging and plug-in hybrids either ready now or soon to be introduced.

Motor manufacturers have fully invested in electric vehicle technology, and whilst sales of such cars are a fraction of conventional types and hybrids, there are no fewer than 60 electric vehicles (EVs) on the market and a further 34 coming in 2020. Moving the goalposts puts manufacturers under extreme pressure and will take more than solely automotive industry investment. Research shows that the biggest concern about going electric is the UK’s charging network, the Society of Motor


Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) referring to it as being ‘woefully inadequate’. The upside of this is that we can expect to see electric cars on the market with truly adequate range capacities and rapid charging times.

After months of speculation the merger between PSA (parent company of Citroën, DS Automobiles, Peugeot, Vauxhall and Opel) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles – heading up Fiat, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Lancia and Maserati – has been completed. Maserati is one of those select marques which, because of its exclusivity, enjoys a niche position in prestige family cars and full-throated sports cars. There’s even a luxury SUV in the shape of the Levante which I’ve been trying.

With its imposing looks and size, the Levante immediately lends itself to rivalling the like of the Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne. Unlike some of its contenders in a lively market sector, the Maserati can be had for a pretty competitive £58,315, this being the entry-level 275bhp 3-litre twin-turbo Levante D (signifying diesel power). Going up-trim and with more features to include a V6 petrol engine, is the Levante S adding a further £14,000.

What you get with the Levante is Italian panache. The seats are like armchairs with comfort to match while the interior is quirky yet beautifully appointed.

ISSUE 439 | 27 FEBRUARY 2020 | 32

Maserati Levante in Courmayeur, Italy

Diesel performance is acceptable at around 35mpg, but that from the petrol is better, even if the economy seriously hurts the wallet. Both models get ZF’s lovely eight- speed transmission for a unique driving experience.

Malcolm Bobbitt Photographs by Maserati and MB

Interior of the Maserati Levante above and posing in the rain in Northern England!

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