The Turbo Levo is Specialized’s top-selling eMTB and has become an integral part of the eMTB world. In 2021, the American brand launched the third generation of their e-vergreen. Can the latest descendant of the Levo dynasty keep up with the hottest bikes of the season?
For several decades, Specialized have taken a holistic approach when developing their bikes. In a nutshell, the American manufacturer refuses to simply design a frame and throw a bunch of fancy components at it. Instead, they’re interested in achieving the most harmonious possible interaction between parts. With their analogue mountain bikes, this approach has sometimes led to some wild-looking contraptions. However, when the first Turbo Levo was introduced in 2015, Specialized raised the bar to unimaginable heights, which some manufacturers are still struggling to reach. The bike and motor system had been merged to such a high degree that had never been experienced before. With each new iteration of the Levo, Specialized set new standards, until they made it into the third generation in 2021. Since then, the Turbo Levo has been an integral yet unaltered part of Specialized’s portfolio – except for a few software updates and fresh paint finishes. Is the Levo still ahead of its time two years on? Or is it time to bring on the next generation? Model year 2023 still combines a mixed wheel setup (29″/27.5″) and 160/150 mm of travel, retailing at € 10,700. We put the 22.9 kg Specialized Turbo Levo Expert through the wringer to tell you whether it’s still up to the task.
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best eMTB of 2023 – 30 models in review
Think different, think Specialized – What sets the Specialized Levo Expert apart from the competition?
Despite entering its third season completely unchanged, the Specialized Turbo Levo looks refreshingly modern. With its harmonious, streamlined silhouette, the frame looks as if cast from a single mould, except for the motor area, which looks a little bulky and old-fashioned against the competition. For the motor, Specialized rely on their proprietary 2.2 drive, which churns out a whopping 90 Nm torque and is paired with a 700 Wh Specialized M3 battery that was designed specifically for the Levo. The latter can be charged on the bike via the double-sealed charging port in front of the bottom bracket, which tends to collect mud in wet conditions. Alternatively, you can remove the battery from the downtube for external charging using the 6 mm Allen of the SWAT multitool in the head tube, which is quick and easy to reach. All relevant motor data and battery charge status can be viewed on the Mastermind display, which is seamlessly integrated into the top tube. This also displays a bunch of other information, like the altitude, GPS data and even the number and length of your jumps. The display view can be customised to suit your needs and preferences using the comprehensive Mission Control app. With all of this, Specialized was already far ahead of the competition back in 2021, and still shows some of them what a modern eMTB is really capable of. However, bikes like the Forestal Siyron, for instance, which is even more advanced with its highly networked on-board computer and touch display, shows that the industry hasn’t been sleeping.
In terms of sizing and geometry, The Turbo Levo allows for great flexibility, featuring a relatively short seat tube with plenty of insertion depth across all six sizes, thus ensuring plenty of freedom of movement even for short legged riders. As a result, most riders will be able to choose from at least two frame sizes. Using the flip-chip in the dropouts and the adjustable headset cups, you can adjust the geometry of the bike. We deliberately chose the Expert model for this group test, which might not be the best-specced model in the Levo range but, in our opinion, offers many advantages in terms of performance. The Turbo Levo Expert rolls on Specialized’s in-house Roval Traverse alloy wheelset instead of the fancy Traverse SL carbon variant of the flagship model, which could make the difference between a dented rim and a pile of tangled fibres in your recycling bin. Moreover, the alloy wheelset is a better match for the standard, in-house Butcher and Eliminator tires, which both come in the less robust GRID Trail casing, offering poor puncture protection for rowdy trail sessions. While this combo is still pretty decent for light riders, heavier and aggressive riders should upgrade to more robust tires with tougher GRID Gravity casing straight away. Unlike its top spec counterpart, the Levo Expert doesn’t come with a wireless dropper post and drivetrain from SRAM’s fancy AXS series, which adds a couple of cables to the cockpit. However, the cables are neatly routed into the frame through cable ports behind the head tube. In addition, the Turbo Levo Expert’s cockpit offers significantly better ergonomics than its high-end counterpart, because the dropper remote and shifter are connected to the powerful SRAM CODE RS brakes via Matchmakers. Tall riders will be delighted with the long-travel 190 mm dropper post of the biggest S6 frame size. The rest of the spec, including the FOX suspension, is top-notch. The main argument in favour of the Expert equipment is its € 10,700 price tag, which, with a bit of luck, could even drop below € 9,000 in one of Specialized’s sales.
Specialized Turbo Levo Expert
Motor Specialized 2.2 Custom Rx Trail Tuned 90 Nm
Battery Specialized M3-700 700 Wh
Display Specialized MasterMind TCU
Fork FOX 38 Performance Elite 160 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X2 Performance 150 mm
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic 170 mm
Brakes SRAM CODE RS 220/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Eagle X01 1x12
Stem Specialized Trail Stem 35 mm
Handlebar Specialized Trail 790 mm
Wheelset Roval Traverse 29"/27.5"
Tires Specialized Butcher GRID Trail T9/Eliminator GRID Trail T7 2.6/2.6
Size S1 S2 S3 S4 S5 S6
Weight 22.9 kg
Perm. total weight 131 kg
Max. payload (rider/equipment) 108 kg
Trailer approval no
Kickstand mount no
Tuning tip: Volume spacer in the shock for heavy and active riders
Showing the youngsters how it’s done – What is the Specialized Turbo Levo Expert capable of on the trail?
On tours, the Levo places you in a central, well integrated but slightly front-heavy pedalling position, putting a little pressure on your hands. When making your way to the trailhead on fire roads, the pressure decreases and the position feels just right. The powerful 90 Nm motor provides a pleasant shuttle feeling on climbs, with only the firm-ish suspension preventing the Levo from keeping up with the best tourers in this test, like the Cannondale Moterra LT. When you have had enough of fire roads and forest paths and decide to grind your way up the mountain on a crunchy uphill trail, the Turbo Levo truly comes to life. While the motor clearly plays in the same league as the most powerful drives in test, it lacks the punch of the racing oriented motors in this test, like the Bosch CX-Race motor of the Orbea WILD, meaning that even climbing novices can easily modulate its power. The weight is evenly distributed between the front and rear, which together with the efficient suspension and the motor’s discreet power delivery and long overrun, makes the Levo one of the strongest climbers in the entire test field. Only the Orbea WILD and FLYER Uproc X overtake the Specialized on steep tech climbs.
When you drop into the trail to shred your way back down into the valley, the Levo smacks you with a huge feel-good factor. Downhill, it integrates you nicely with its frame and still provides plenty of freedom of movement, inspiring huge amounts of confidence in the process. The weight is evenly distributed between the front and rear, ensuring equal amounts of traction on both wheels, and the Levo implements steering input willingly and precisely, providing a very pleasant, intuitive riding experience. The short chainstay setting makes it easy to pull manuals on flow trails and flick the rear end from one corner into the next. However, the suspension doesn’t have the same pop as the best flow trail bikes in this group test, and struggles to match the excellent fun factor of the Yeti 160E and Orbea WILD. On steep, techy gnar, you’re better off turning the flip chip into the long setting (low), which provides tons of composure. At the proud age of almost 3, the Levo still ploughs its way down the mountain like there’s no tomorrow, proving that nothing can faze it, ironing out nasty rock gardens like a 15-ton paving machine, bursting with traction, but still offering enough reserves for botched landings – while nonchalantly leaving behind almost the entire test field in a cloud of dust! While it’s at it, the Levo is quiet as a mouse, which is rather rare in this group test. Only aggressive speed junkies who want a smidge more feedback from the ground should take a closer look at the slightly better Orbea WILD.
The Specialized Turbo Levo Expert is like a watch where all the cogs mesh together. The motor and frame look as if they were cast from a single mould.
|Seat tube||380 mm||390 mm||405 mm||425 mm||445 mm||465 mm|
|Head tube||105 mm||105 mm||115 mm||125 mm||135 mm||145 mm|
|Chainstays||442 mm||442 mm||442 mm||442 mm||442 mm||442 mm|
|BB Drop||25 mm||27 mm||27 mm||27 mm||27 mm||27 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,179 mm||1,200 mm||1,225 mm||1,255 mm||1,284 mm||1,318 mm|
|Reach||412 mm||432 mm||452 mm||477 mm||502 mm||532 mm|
|Stack||605 mm||617 mm||626 mm||635 mm||644 mm||653 mm|
Who should take a closer look at the Specialized Turbo Levo Expert and who should look elsewhere?
The Specialized Turbo Levo Expert convinces with predictable, beginner-friendly handling and doesn’t get overwhelmed easily, whatever you throw at it. It inspires huge amounts of confidence in all situations and delivers a massive performance when in the right hands. And while the Levo makes you feel at ease from the get-go, you can still tweak your ride using the countless geometry adjustments, or customise the electronics from Specialized’s app. Despite its age, the Levo covers a wide range of applications, having you covered in all situations. Yes, the Levo is still an outstanding all-rounder!
Conclusions about the Specialized Turbo Levo Expert
With its versatile character and impressive performance in all situations, the Specialized is an excellent all-rounder at a comparatively fair price. Despite having been around for two seasons already, the Levo makes most of its opponents look old with its mind boggling trail performance and elegant look. However, Specialized’s evergreen lacks a smidge of liveliness compared to the best bikes in test and narrowly missed out on the test victory.
- Easy and intuitive to ride for riders of all levels
- Top notch motor and feature integration
- Very quiet on descents
- Provides too little feedback for active riders
You can find out more about at specialized.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best eMTB of 2023 – 30 models in review
All bikes in test: Berria Mako Hybrid GT LTD (Click for review) | Bulls SONIC EVO SL EN-1 (Click for review) | Cannondale Moterra Neo Carbon LT1 (Click for review) | Flyer Uproc X 9.50 (Click for review) | Focus SAM² 6.9 (Click for review) | Focus JAM² 6.9 (Click for review) | Focus Jam² SL 9.9 (Click for review) | Forestal Siryon Diōde (Click for review) | Giant Trance X Advanced E+ Ltd (Click for review) | Haibike Lyke CF SE (Click for review) | Ibis OSO (Click for review) | KTM Macina Prowler Exonic (Click for review) | MERIDA eONE-SIXTY 975 (Click for review) | Mondraker Crafty Carbon XR LTD (Click for review) | Moustache Samedi 29 Game 11 (Click for review) | Orbea Rise M-Team (Click for review) | Orbea WILD M-LTD (Click for review) | Pivot Shuttle SL Pro X01 (Click for review) | Pivot Shuttle LT Team XTR (Click for review) | Radon Deft 10.0 (Click for review) | Rotwild R.X735 Ultra (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Heckler MX XO1 AXS RSV (Click for review) | SCOTT Lumen eRide 900 SL (Click for review) | Simplon Rapcon Pmax TQ (Click for review) | Specialized Turbo Levo Expert | Transition Repeater AXS Carbon (Click for review) | Thömus Lightrider E Ultimate (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EXe 9.9 XX1 AXS (Click for review) | UNNO Mith Race (Click for review) | Yeti 160E T1 (Click for review)
The rating used for riding characteristics refers to the bikes in the group test and the current state of development of eMTBs. The best bikes managed to blend supposedly opposite riding characteristics, feeling both lively and stable at the same time. The handling describes the balance of the bike on downhill sections. The information regarding motor-power refers to the ride-feeling in the overall context of the bike and not exclusively to the motor – that’s why the same motor can present different values.↩
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Words: Rudolf Fischer Photos: Mike Hunger