Snow is not something we are traditionally accustomed to in South Africa, at least not in the way that people who live in the Alps are. Over there, they quite happily whizz along icy roads in old Fiat Pandas as though it is just an everyday trip to the shops.
People also do not seem to notice the cold so much, even when it is -20°C, which is exactly what it was when we arrived in the ski resort town of Courmayeur at the foot of Mont Blanc in Italy. It was cold, but a perfect picture postcard, and we were there to tackle the snow and ice in one of the latest entrants to the luxury four-wheel drive market, the Maserati Levante S.
Firstly, the S is a big difference from the diesel version, which was launched in South Africa first. Instead of the Fiat Chrysler Group diesel, there is a beautiful petrol motor that produces the traditional Maserati sound that echoed through the mountainous valleys. It is a proper sports utility vehicle (SUV), and, while most owners in South Africa will never experience how it handles the snow, we were fortunate to be given the chance not just on snow-covered mountain passes, but also on a go-kart track cut out of the snow, which in places stood well over 2m deep.
We reached the track in a Maserati Quattroporte GTS — yes, an executive sedan with a big V8 and rear-wheel drive. It was not ideal for the conditions, but in this era of electronic safety systems, it coped surprisingly well with just a bit of oversteer fun in the winter wonderland.
We were far less reliant on the electronic systems with the Levante S though; after all, we wanted a bit more fun. And fun was definitely to be had as the Q4 all-wheel drive system dealt with the conditions and we occasionally managed to get a decent drift out of the corners. It all seemed a far cry from the urban commute of South African cities, but the Levante proved that while it might be a SUV, it still has sportscar heritage at its heart.