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The worst kept secret in sporting luxury motoring has been exposed in the form of the Levante, Maserati’s own and very first SUV.
The Levante, which will be put together at the Mirafiori factory in Turin, northern Italy, is to be launched in its native Italy and Europe in time for the northern hemisphere spring, with New Zealand taking the car in late 2016 or early 2017.
Maserati has chosen the world’s most prestigious motor show at Geneva for the vehicle’s first appearance, which will be to the press corps on February 29 and the general public on March 1.
The new SUV takes its name from the Via Emilia Levante in Bologna, where the Maserati brothers, more than 100 years ago a century created the maker and racer of automobiles that still bears their names.
The common sense of creating SUV cars for luxury and sporting car brands has long been realised by many companies, and the Levante will allow Maserati access to the burgeoning crossover/SUV market, creating a broader customer base and the associated sales and profits.
As long ago as 2013 when the Levante was first slated for production, Fiat Chrysler said that their proposed new model was designed to boost Maserati’s global sales to 50,000 cars, thus generating funding for the company’s stock in trade luxury sports sedans and gorgeous coupes.
The Levante will fit neatly into the Maserati line-up, which currently comprises the Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans and the GranTurismo and GranCabrio coupes.
For the right hand drive New Zealand market, the Levante will employ the same V6 turbo diesel power units used by the sedans, and will have four-wheel drive and automatic transmissions gearboxes as standard.
Reports say even the entry-level diesel does the sprint to 100kmh in 6.9 seconds and will go on to reach 225kmh flat-out.
Maserati will be hoping to recreate the excitement seen around the original Porsche Cayenne launch 15 years ago as well as the more recent Jaguar F-Pace and Bentley Bentayga SUV reveals.
The official pictures show an overall shape of Cayenne-like proportions. The large Maserati grille and slim headlights dominate the nose and curving side creases and flowing lines add more than a touch of sports flavour to this tallest Maserati’s shape.
The design of the Levante features clear associations with the Maserati brand and its distinctive Italian character: the company’s design signature is clearly visible in side profile with three signature air vents in the front wings, a trapezoidal C-pillar with Maserati’s simple “Saetta” logo inset therein and large, frameless door.
The new SUV boasts sophisticated electronic suspension with controlled damping and air springs, which can be set on several levels, and “Q4” intelligent all-wheel drive is featured.