Expensive Temptation
Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Review

Specialized carves a niche between muscle-powered bikes and e-bikes. The result is heavier than the former and less powerful than the latter. The manufacturer is asking for 14,000 € for this innovation. The product promise: in terms of handling dynamics, as lively as a muscle-powered bike, but with twice the kick. Is the Turbo Levo SL S-Works truly the best of both worlds?

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The Turbo Levo SL is in a class of its own: by definition, an E-MTB – but one that’s stripped down to the essentials. We’re talking Light E-MTB here. The compact battery packs a 320 Wh punch. The motor delivers up to 50 Nm of torque. Its big brother, the Turbo Levo, is equipped with a battery more than twice that size and cranks out a hefty 90 Nm of torque. When it comes to numbers, the beefed-up Turbo Levo definitely leads the pack. It promises more range and more pedal-assist power.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Review
The Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works: It boasts a suspension travel of 160 mm (150 mm in the rear) and carries a steep price tag of 14,000 €.

However, for true trail riding fun, another figure is key: the weight. The streamlined Levo SL tips the scales at just 17.6 kg. That makes it 4.9 kg lighter than its full-power motor sibling. So, when it comes to ride quality, this mismatched pair is bound to feel markedly different. The lightweight Levo SL suggests a more lively and responsive ride.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works on the Trail
The Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works in Action During Our Test in Finale Ligure
At just 17.6 kg, the bike is a true featherweight in this category.

A Comparison in Numbers: Stumpjumper Evo vs. Turbo Levo SL vs. Turbo Levo

Stumpjumper EVO S-Works (Bio Bike) Turbo Levo SL S-Works (Light E-MTB) Turbo Levo S-Works (Full Power MTB)
Federweg 160 / 150 mm 160 / 150 mm 160 / 150 mm
Laufräder Mullet Mullet Mullet
Besonderheit Staufach im Unterrohr Range Extender im Trinkflaschen-Format 90 Nm Drehmoment
Gewicht 14,2 kg 17,6 kg 22,5 kg
Preis 11.000 € 14.000 € 13.500 €
Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Motor
The Specialized SL 1.2 motor is an in-house development by Specialized, with the hardware provided by Mahle, while Specialized is mainly responsible for the software side of things.

Pricing Philosophy: Luxurious Pretense or Premium Pro Gear?

The Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works at €14,000 is much like a Land Rover Defender X at €115,000. Both vehicles offer exceptional ride characteristics and extreme durability — especially on challenging trails. And there’s another thing these luxury off-roaders have in common: The heart screams “Yes,” but the mind sounds the alarm.

Is it madness to take such expensive rides into extreme terrain? In the world of mountain biking and off-roading, “where there’s shaving, there are shavings.” Neither a Defender nor the Turbo Levo SL is immune to damage. If the Levo SL S-Works takes a hit with a derailleur-meets-rock scenario, you could be looking at a €500 setback. That’s a luxury not everyone can afford.

Ripping up the trails quickly brings the stoke. However, pricey spare parts can put a damper on the fun.

Proper use in mountain biking means plowing through the forests in all kinds of weather. Once both steed and rider are muddied, the abrasion between pant leg and top tube leaves visible marks on the sleek matte black finish of the 14,000 € Levo SL. This doesn’t affect the bike’s performance, but the associated depreciation is a frustrating matter.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works in Field Review
The Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works boasts a sleek aesthetic that's crucial to maintain without significant depreciation—a tough task when you're shredding on rugged trails.
Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works in Action
The bike in its element – its responsive handling sets every rider's heart racing.

Specification: What's behind a bike with a €14,000 price tag?

The specs of the Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works are top-tier. A Fox Factory Kashima suspension system – the best that the Californian suspension manufacturer has to offer. An electronic SRAM XX groupset – the priciest drivetrain in the portfolio of the Schweinfurt shifting specialists.

And an innovative dropper post controlled wirelessly from the handlebars. The specification is a selection of the finest components, proven in function and quality. However, the parts are not exceptional. They’re “off-the-shelf.”

Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Drivetrain
Only the best will do: The Sram XX Transmission drivetrain is wirelessly operated via the AXS-POD controller.
Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Shock
The suspension leaves little to be desired on the trail.

Many components of the Levo SL S-Works are also built into countless models from other manufacturers – and they are often more affordably priced. An equally high-quality Santa Cruz Heckler SL CC with a retail price of €13,000 comes in €1,000 cheaper. The Spanish premium brand Mondraker undercuts the price of the Levo SL S-Works by €2,000. The Neat RR SL is available for €12,000.

The major difference: Santa Cruz and Mondraker rely on power systems supplied by third-party manufacturers – off-the-shelf components, so to speak. Specialized, on the other hand, has developed its own proprietary system.

The charging port is located in the direct line of roost, but it's very well sealed.
Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Seatpost
The dropper seatpost is, of course, wirelessly controlled.

What sets the Specialized Turbo Levo SL apart?

Whether it’s Specialized, Santa Cruz, or Mondraker emblazoned on the downtube: at prices over 10,000 €, expectations should be sky-high. Yet, none of the bikes feature boutique components made in small production runs. No Direttissima brakes from Trickstuff or ultralight wheels from Beast Components. Instead, fairly conventional SRAM Code RSC brakes and wheels from Specialized’s own brand Roval. So, what makes the Turbo Levo S-Works so exceptional?

A first unique selling point of the Turbo Levo SL is its weight. At just 17.6 kg, the Specialized is a true featherweight. There are lighter bikes out there, but they can’t handle the rough and tumble of gnarly terrain. The Specialized can. Constructing such a light E-MTB that’s also durable requires a lot of expertise.

The durability of the Levo SL is underscored by Specialized with an ASTM certification in Category 4 – All Mountain. Those who register their bike as the first owner even receive a lifetime warranty on the frame.

Specialized offers original owners a lifetime warranty on the frame.

Geometry: When It Needs to Fit – Specialized "Rider-First Engineered"

The Turbo Levo SL comes in six frame sizes. That’s a lot. For comparison: the previously mentioned Heckler SL is available in five sizes – the Mondraker Neat SL only in four frame sizes. Cube delivers many models in just three frame sizes. More sizes mean more frame shapes – and that’s expensive. A costly luxury that only a few manufacturers can afford.

Moreover, each size variant is developed independently. The carbon layup – the arrangement and size of the carbon fiber sheets – is calculated individually for each frame size. This ensures that the frame’s stiffness is perfectly tailored to the rider’s weight. Whether light or heavy – all riders should experience the same riding dynamics, so the promise goes.

Quality bikes thrive on details: Specialized offers the Turbo Levo SL in six frame sizes.

When choosing a frame size at Specialized, it’s not about the usual seat tube length consideration. Riders should base the decision on desired riding dynamics – that is, the frame length. Nimble or stable? Short or long? How the bike handles is determined by its wheelbase. Specialized calls this “Style-specific sizing” and categorizes sizes from S1 to S6. The correct sitting position (saddle height) can be adjusted in up to three different sizes for some frame options.

Specialized also delves into fine-tuning the suspension. The Fox shocks are fitted with a base setting specifically tuned to the rear suspension kinematics – the so-called Tune. Specialized takes it a step further by giving the smallest frame sizes their unique Tune.

Homemade: From Frame to Rim Tape Deep Dive in Development

Featuring in-house developed wheels, tires, and handlebars, Specialized aims to deliver unique selling points. Their proprietary wheels are built extra sturdy and are designed to be incredibly durable. Even under the most severe stress, spoke tension remained constant throughout the tests.

The Traverse SL wheelset weighs 1,700 grams. Not a record-breaking figure, but the weight-to-durability ratio is still top-notch. Complete with tires, brake rotors, and cassette, the wheelset weighs only 4,170 grams. However, it’s disappointing that Specialized has an even better wheelset up its sleeve. Regrettably, the nearly 100 grams lighter Traverse SL II is reserved exclusively for Levo SL S-Works customers.

To achieve the wheelset’s outstanding overall weight, Specialized employs a little trick: The smaller 27.5-inch rear wheel of the Mullet wheel pairing saves significant grams compared to pure 29ers. By the way: Specialized also offers a lifetime warranty on the wheels with their 30mm wide carbon rims.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works, Specialized Butcher Tires
A super lightweight wheelset, albeit not the lightest in its class: the Butcher tires.
Specialized opts for a mullet setup and carbon for the wheelsets.

Innovation Driving Up Prices: Pioneers of Lightweight E-MTBs – The Turbo SL Motor System

The compact motor system named Turbo 1.2 SL isn’t just bought off the shelf, it, like many components of the Levo SL, is developed in-house. Everything is a product of their own creation: the controller, the top tube-integrated display, and even the motor software along with the app are from the Specialized Turbo Unit. The “Turbo Unit” is more than just a department within Specialized. It stands as an autonomous branch located in Switzerland.

Away from the Californian headquarters, product managers and engineers are innovating the future of e-bikes in Cham, Switzerland. It was here that the first Turbo SL motor was born, setting off a new era for e-bikers as a compact lightweight.

The second generation of the motor packs a punch: Quieter. Lighter. More powerful. The motor weighs in at just 1.9 kilograms. Its form factor is so compact, that at first glance you wouldn’t even know the Turbo Levo SL is an e-bike. In terms of weight, the motor is on par with the significantly less powerful TQ HPR 50 and the much more robust Fazua Ride 60.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Display
The display is well-protected, nestled into the top tube.

With 320 watts of power and up to 50 Nm of torque, the Turbo 1.2 SL provides substantial support, especially during take-off. The motor responds quickly and sensitively to pedaling input. Starting on a hill or on loose terrain? No problem. It feels like the full 50 Nm of torque is available right from the get-go. However, once the motor has accelerated the rider, the lower max power becomes noticeable. At the high end, the motor lacks the “punch” – and a high cadence doesn’t compensate for this. The motor’s strength is in its smooth and consistent assistance.

The motor isn’t whisper-quiet, but it’s pleasantly unobtrusive. Unlike the high-pitched whine of other e-bike motors, the Specialized motor emits a more subdued hum. On gravel paths, the motor noise blends with the rolling sound of the tires and fades from awareness.

Engine noise or rattling is virtually non-existent, allowing you to fully concentrate on shredding the trails.

Software is King

Besides all the technical hard facts, Specialized is also aiming to set standards in usability. By pairing the bike with a smartphone through an app, riders can easily adjust the system to their individual needs on the specially developed Specialized App – no frills, just functionality. Those seeking a natural riding feel, even with pedal-assist, will find it here.

The motor has a powerful yet refined character, and is pleasantly unobtrusive. You won’t notice any engagement or disengagement, even when you naturally transition out of assistance above 25 km/h. The concept is successful: The holistic approach of the in-house developed motor system delivers on its promise of intuitive operation and a remarkably inconspicuous riding experience.

50 Nm of Torque: Does That Spell Riding Fun?

Kids running out of steam on the climb often feel the saving grace of dad’s helping hand from behind. That’s pretty much the sensation of the Turbo 1.2 SL motor’s power kick. The assistance is noticeably significant. On the climbs, the time advantage over a non-motorized bike can be up to 200% – meaning you can summit twice as fast.

In-House Development: Specialized manufactures its own motor system.

Through streets and gravel paths, one can ascend swiftly, provided you pedal with vigor. But what does not work: resting and letting the motor do all the work. With full-power bikes, it’s sufficient to casually spin the cranks in the highest support level, and the bike will shoot up the hill with minimal effort from the rider. Not so with the Specialized: those who don’t push hard on the pedals will find themselves crawling uphill at a snail’s pace.

On steep, technical climbs, the compact mid-drive motor reaches its limits. If you want to quickly accelerate out of tight switchbacks or over trail features, the motor lacks the necessary peak power. Searching for uphill flow in technical terrain will be in vain. However, those who lack a direct comparison to a full-power e-mtb might still be surprised at how substantially the electric assist can push when lending a helping hand.

Pedaling without assistance: Does it work well?

Even without motor assistance, the Levo SL pedals very efficiently. There’s no noticeable drag due to friction losses in the motor. The Levo SL feels like a heavy-duty enduro bike, but the stiff suspension actually absorbs less pedaling force compared to others, and the tires roll more effectively. Range anxiety is unfounded – with the Levo SL, you can easily cover longer distances without the motor (speaking from personal experience).

Range anxiety is virtually unknown with the Specialized.

Battery Capacity: High. Higher. Turbo Levo SL

Right from the start in turbo mode, the Levo SL climbed a consistent 1,200 meters of elevation in only 60 minutes during our test. The total distance covered was 9.2 kilometers—which calculates to an average gradient of 13%. The steepest section of the long climb had a 19.5% gradient. Was the battery drained? It was not.

The chosen route was 90% asphalt. The tires were pumped up to 1.5 bars, the shock was set to open, and the bottle cage was empty—meaning no range extender was mounted. Our tester weighed in at 78 kg. After tackling 1,200 meters of elevation, the battery’s remaining capacity was 13% according to the display. At 1,245 meters of elevation, the capacity had dropped to 10%, and the system switched into energy-saving mode.

Climbing 1,245 meters in turbo mode is a bold statement for an e-MTB with a small 320 Wh battery. The range altitude test did make our tester break a sweat, though. Riders who prefer a more leisurely pace and are content with Eco mode will definitely get more range out of their ride.

Back at the starting point in the valley, the battery had 8% remaining capacity. That’s where the range extender came into play: providing an additional 160 Wh, it bumped the battery indicator from 8% to 55%. Reaching 1,800 meters of elevation—with a range extender and a modified riding approach—is no uphill battle.

Descending after a long climb - with adjusted riding style, this experience can be had even without a range extender.

Comfort Factor: How does the Turbo Levo SL feel?

The seating position on the Levo SL is less upright than many of its competitors. You sit centrally on the bike but not as close to the cockpit as you do on many e-MTBs with their steep seat angles. The Specialized’s sporty orientation is quite noticeable. The seat angle, at 75.8 degrees, is nearly 1 degree steeper than the average in the All Mountain category.

At a height of 1.81 meters, the Specialized fits like a glove in size S4. The pressure distribution between the contact points is balanced – neither the buttocks nor the hands cause any trouble. You can sit comfortably in the saddle for hours on end. Thanks to the sporty seating position, you can really apply power to the pedals. With full power e-bikes, that’s less important. However, Turbo Levo SL riders greatly benefit from pedal efficiency.

The rear suspension remains active even under high drivetrain load, creating plenty of grip on the rear wheel. This makes even moderate singletrack climbs a lot of fun. Mount up. Feel at home. Let it rip! The Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works is a thoroughbred for those who are not traditional riders. It rides intuitively and is forgiving, but by no means dull. The Turbo Levo SL feels incredibly lively.

Beyond the Motor: How the Levo SL Rides on the Trail and Downhill

Gliding through terrain like a magic carpet, that’s the Turbo Levo SL for you. That is, if the rider dares to let go of the brakes. The suspension is tuned sporty stiff. So, it’s somewhat insensitive to minor bumps on the rear end. It takes a good hit before the suspension really kicks in. Once you let it rip, the Specialized stays planted on the trail.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works in Action
A stiff suspension ensures that harder hits are well compensated.

Specialized gives the Levo SL 150 mm of travel at the rear end. Classic all-mountain specs. On the descents, however, the lightweight e-MTB rides more like an enduro rig. Joy levels spike. As soon as gravity takes over acceleration, the Turbo Levo SL comes alive. On the downhill, the bike impresses with intuitive and predictable handling. The grip on both the front and rear tires is well-balanced – the weight distribution between axles feels evenly matched. The bike is forgiving and instills confidence.

The Specialized is seemingly tailor-made for quick direction shifts. The front wheel leads – the rear wheel follows. The reason behind this confident cornering is the mixed wheel size setup. The smaller 27.5” rear wheel sits a thumb’s width lower than the front axle, which is fitted with a large 29” front wheel. The smaller rear wheel renders the bike highly maneuverable.

The Turbo Levo rides compliantly and delivers intuitive handling.

The ride is notably smooth – especially at the front wheel. One of the reasons: the 50 mm stem – nowadays almost a rarity in bikes of this class. The stem lends the bike, with its slack 64.7° head angle, excellent tracking stability at the front end. The Turbo Levo SL carves through corners like it’s on rails – even at lower speeds. Other bikes with shorter stems often reveal a skittish front end in such situations.

Despite its composed demeanor, the Levo SL feels lively and is easy to pop off the ground. The bike willingly takes to the air over drops and terrain edges. There’s no sluggish e-bike feel on this 14,000€ ride.

Edge of Limits: What can the Turbo Levo SL do and what can't it?

When you’re hammering through rough terrain, the rear end feels like it has more than the specified 150mm of travel. Even when blasting through a rapid succession of roots and rock gardens, the suspension system iron out bumps with supreme confidence. However, when faced with hard landings, the rear assembly offers little resistance and you have to accept the bottoming out of the shock absorber.

In extreme terrain, the Turbo Levo SL feels like it’s all of a piece. However, during long descents and steep terrain, the Code RSC brakes noticeably lack stopping power. A more powerful braking system or at least a larger 220mm front rotor would have been very welcome for increased braking force. A bit thicker tires than the installed 2.3-inch ones would have definitely enhanced the riding fun on the Italian EWS trails in Finale Ligure.

The Turbo Levo SL is neither a plush touring bike that lets its rider float through the landscape, nor is it a purebred downhill specialist. The Specialized is an extremely versatile all-rounder that might not be perfect, but does a heck of a lot extremely well. A true trail bike, that is.

Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Brakes
The Code Ultimate brake meets its limits in extreme terrain.
Thick rear rotor - top-notch. The front wheel could have still handled a larger disc, though.

Striking

  • The bike is whisper quiet: The subdued motor noise quickly fades from consciousness, and chain slap is well dampened by the generously sized chainstay protector.
  • Dialing in the motor characteristics through the Specialized App is a breeze and super user-friendly.
  • The Range Extender, in its handy water bottle size, is unobtrusive and significantly boosts the range.
  • Light is king: Even E-Mountainbikes can’t defy the laws of physics. At just 17.6 kg, the Turbo Levo SL S-Works amazes with a nimbleness that’s uncommon for E-Bikes.
  • Lifting the E-Bike over livestock fences or onto a car’s tailgate bike rack is no small feat. The lighter, the better. The 4 kg weight difference of the Levo SL compared to its Full Power counterpart, the Turbo Levo, is palpable.
Always handy: the mini-tool integrated into the head tube.
Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works Chain Guide
Well thought out down to the finest detail. The chain guide keeps the chain firmly on the chainring, even in the roughest terrain.

  • Thoroughly intuitive: in operation as well as riding
  • Balanced handling with comfortable geometry
  • Lightweight, despite sturdy components
  • Enormously versatile – from touring to enduro
  • Pedals well even without motor assistance

Contra

  • Insanely expenisve
  • Brakes too weak for heavy riders
  • Mediocre dropper post travel
  • Paint prone to chipping
In the standard price range: SRAM's XX Eagle drivetrain with flawless performance under full load.
With the 60 mm stem, the bike maintains ample pressure on the front axle when descending.
Every gram matters. Even the shock extension is made from carbon to shave off weight.

Conclusion on the Specialized Turbo Levo SL S-Works

The €14,000 Specialized seduces its rider with a dangerously high level of riding pleasure. Dangerous because even a € 14,000 bike is not immune to wear and tear if used properly.
The Levo SL S-Works craves speed and yet remains playful. It’s great to pedal – with and without motor assistance. Downhill, it almost feels like a classic enduro bike without a motor. Hats off to this development achievement.
With its own motor, own wheels, own size concept and own software, Specialized impressively demonstrates its know-how in the construction of sporty E-MTBs. And the best thing about it: all of this can also be found in the more affordable model variants of the Levo SL.

About the author

Maxi Dickerhoff

...liebt es, mit der Hangabtriebskraft zu spielen und bewegt Mountainbikes bergab meist in Schräglage. Sein Fahrstil verlangt den Bikes alles ab, seine Liebe zum Detail macht seine Tests zu einer wahren Hilfe für alle Biker.

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