Maserati is hoping to recreate the buzz around the Jaguar F-Pace and Bentley Bentayga with its long-awaited SUV offering, the Levante. It'll hit showrooms in the second half of next year, and these latest spy shots give us the best look yet.
We were told last week by boss Harald Wester that a finalized version of luxury SUV will come to next year's Geneva Motor Show in March, ready to go on sale soon after. The shift of assembly from the USA to Italy has been the main delay, as it was initially touted for this year.
We asked Wester whether the upcoming Levante was the most important car Maserati had ever made, but he strongly opposed this, saying instead: “It is the biggest business opportunity".
"I think when you talk about a brand like Maserati, you have to distinguish between the products that have determined the brand’s business opportunities. If I say the Levante is our most important car, you will have many people who are crying and saying ‘this guy is completely nuts."
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He confirmed the manufacture of pre-production models had already started, while customer Levantes would be built from February with delivery shortly after. He revealed that despite having access to the wider Fiat-Chrysler group – including SUV-specialists Jeep – the Levante would be “100 per cent Maserati.”
He also said it would look significantly different to the initial 2011 Kubang concept. Wester refused to elaborate on exactly how it may look, but having reported earlier this year on a set of leaked official drawings, we were already aware the production-ready car was likely to inherit its toned down looks from other models in the range.
Plug-in hybrids will feature heavily in the Maserati line-up before the end of the decade, too, with Wester tell us to expect them “across the entire range – starting at the end of 2017.”
Maserati’s CEO also declared the two-seat Alfieri sports car was in the pipeline, designed to sit alongside the existing GranTurismo and GranCabrio when it goes on sale in 2017. We first saw an Alfieri concept car at the Geneva Motor Show in 2014, but news had subsequently died down – with the brand focussing its efforts elsewhere.
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Wester told us the new Jaguar F-Type rival would be the final piece in the puzzle for Maserati’s rejuvenated product range. He ruled out a smaller SUV, though, hinting that might be better suited to sister brand Alfa Romeo.
“You have to consider we are not alone”, he said. “You walk across the corridor and you will meet Alfa Romeo. We will not start everybody doing a bit of everything. It doesn’t make sense.
"The only thing we’re missing is a successor to the sports car. When we’ve realised the Alfieri, from my point of view, we will be done."
Drawings of the new Maserati Levante have leaked ahead of the car’s reveal later this year. Last year, we learned the Levante would sit on a substantially altered Jeep Cherokee chassis – giving a raised ride height, long wheelbase and wider track.
From the drawings, we can see the Maserati will feature a face inspired by the Quattroporte and Ghibli saloons, with a huge gaping grille and swept-back headlights. It looks rather like a Porsche Cayenne from the side, with a sloping roofline and high, sharp creases in the body. Also evident is the raised suspension, emphasising the car’s position as the brand’s first-ever SUV.
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Engines have already been confirmed as a pair of twin-turbo V6s and a top-spec V8 petrol. Three diesels, ranging from 247bhp to 345bhp, will complete the line-up. All Levantes will get four-wheel drive and auto gearboxes as standard.
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The Levante’s styling was previewed by the Kubang concept at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, so don’t be too put off by this crazy-looking test mule, which is a very early powertrain and chassis evaluation vehicle running the hacked body of a Ghibli saloon.
The Ghibli’s body sits on a raised ride height, with a further heightened roofline section to simulate the Levante’s taller silhouette. The high-profle tyres sit under massively flared wheelarches, suggesting a wider track and stretched wheelabse for the Levante, which is due to go on sale in mid-2015.
Now read more about another Fiat group SUV that's on the horizion from Alfa Romeo.