2017 Maserati Levante first drive review: beauty is pain

Check the tape: Maserati owned the U.S. comeback before Fiat and Alfa Romeo crowded into the party.

Trident-clad cars could be found roaming streets in the U.S. for more than a decade before Alfa Romeo returned.

Yet, despite being the elder statesman at the ripe old age of 15, Maserati had to wait far too long for its turn in the SUV luxury war of attrition.

One SUV is good. Two is better. Twenty is probably best.

MUST READ: Maserati launches CPO program with 2-year unlimited mileage warranty

Even still, the 2017 Maserati Levante is, for now, our only look at what Italy calls a luxury SUV.

For the record, it’s gorgeous. Daylight runs around the organic shapes in ways that attract stares and whistles at stoplights.

Let’s go further: At a stop, the Levante emits a carnal growl that even rises above a Los Angeles rush-hour din. The slow, low-frequency burble doesn’t rocket from the Levante’s quad-tipped tailpipes as much as it wafts like a cold breeze in a warm room. Both cause shudders.

Maserati may have hightailed it from the U.S. in the 1990s for making prima donnas, but this Levante still knows drama.

I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Back to the future

The Maserati Levante first arrived at the 2016 Geneva motor show. A way for owners to view it from the outside and still drive it should have arrived shortly after.

The Levante shows off a decade or more of greatest hits from the Italian firm. Its shoulders are straight lifted from the current Quattroporte, its flanks borrowed from the GranTurismo, and there’s even a little Alfieri in the low, dropped nose, to my eyes.

Even in my tester’s hopelessly rich and dark Nero shade that swallowed all of the southern California sun, the Levante’s grace was blinding.

Blacked-out pillars effectively hide all that nasty glass in profile and reveal an unbroken chrome accent around the Levante’s windows ill-advised for people like me with hypertension. Sharp isn’t the right word; beauty like this is excruciating.

Inhale, Aaron. Exhale.

Beauty is pain. That will be important to remember for later.

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