SO THE farmer's heart lies with Land Rover (read also Range Rover). But, for the bloody minded, is there an alternative?

Well, yes and no. If you want a name badge that can match it ... then maybe 'naw' ... but that might have been until Maserati announced it was entering the SUV market.

Its Levante has recently come to market ... and was it eye-poppingly different (no it wasn't); was it noticeably better (no, it wasn't) – but was it noticeably different: 'Yes it was.' Was it eye-wateringly more expensive? ... No it wasn't!


Well, for a start, it looks different and does a Land Rover product (because that's what it is) have a Ferrari-derived engine? So that's the demarcation line.

The new Levante is a breakthrough product for the Italian marque, which throughout its history has rarely built more than two or three types of cars at a time.

Now it is trying to get into the fastest growing sector of the market that has been so well exploited by the Land Rover brands. However, the most surprising thing about the Maserati is that it could save you money!

Priced from £56,000, this high-riding, four-wheel-drive, 5m-long Levante could be a good excuse to think again.

It's a big departure from the Maserati brand ethos of 'sporty, beyond practical' ... but strangely, the two things do not act in hostility.

It comes in two trim levels – GranLusso and GranSport trims – and has two drive-train choices.

From a standing start after its launch in June, 2017, 25,000 Levantes have been sold in 72 countries around the world, making it the highest-selling Maserati in that time.

Manufactured in its own production line at the recently redeveloped Mirafiori plant, in Turin, it is an evolution of the Ghibli/Quattroporte platform, but its chassis has been developed to match Maserati's on-road driving dynamics with competitive off-road capabilities.

For instance, it has as standard features such as adaptive air suspension, the Q4 intelligent all-wheel drive system and the use of lightweight materials which give it the lowest centre of gravity in the luxury SUV sector.

This, as Para Handy would say, gives it a 'cheneral agility' not matched by many in this sector. That's also aided and abetted by the adoption of electronic power steering, instead of hydraulics, which gives it a pretty sharp handling feel.

But Maseratis are all about effortless driving from a strong range of engines. In the case of the Levante, this means a choice of either a twin-turbo petrol or a turbo-diesel, with both being Maserati three-litre, twin-turbo V6s.

The V6 petrol – there are two, but only the more powerful 430 hp Levante S is available in the UK – will do 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds. The diesel, with its common-rail, direct-injection V6 turbo, has 275 hp on tap and does the timed run in 6.9 seconds.

Each uses an eight-speed ZF auto-gearbox which has four modes – Normal, ICE, Sport and Off-Road – and the electronic wizardry therein alters engine, transmission, suspension and electronic settings as required.

The two trims, GranLusso and GranSport are quite different in their driver appeal. The GL equals elegance and luxury and is externally recognisable by metallic-finish front skid plates and roof rails, badges on the front wings, body-colour side skirts, black-painted brake calipers and 19-inch Zefiro alloy wheels.

In the cabin, there's a choice of Ermenegildo Zegna (apparently, it's a high-end designer clothes brand!) silk or full leather on the seats, which have 12-way power control in the front seats.

As you would expect from the home of the original Gran Turismo, the sound-system is top end Harman Kardon and there's a power-adjustable steering wheel, illuminated door sills, parking sensors, navigation system and new soft close doors.

The GranSport versions are a sportier expression and aimed at reflecting the racing heritage of the brand.

Externally, it has a piano black front grille, skid plates and roof rails, badges on the front wings, body-colour side skirts, red brake calipers and 20-inch Nereo wheels.

There's also a sport steering wheel with standard paddle-shift, power-adjustable sport pedals, parking sensors, navigation system and soft close doors.

For the practically minded, the luggage space is way behind the Land Rover products – except maybe the new Velar – but it is rated to tow 2.7 tonnes.