Maserati’s evolution into full-range luxury manufacturer turns an important – possibly even company-saving – corner at the Geneva Motor Show this week with the world premiere of its first SUV.
It’s the Levante, what Roberto Corradi, chief technical director, calls ‘a true Maserati’ although one that, with its spacious cabin and off-road abilities, brings wide new appeal to existing Maserati strengths.
Design, finish, performance and a deep-rooted Italian character promise to set the car apart in a crowded market, along with signature luxury like Ermenegildo Zegna silk and – GRR is particularly pleased to note – the lowest centre of gravity in its class and, in its sportiest ride setting, a perfect 50-50 weight distribution.
New information revealed in Geneva about this significant newcomer includes a starting price – around £53,000, first deliveries October – and confirmation of the engine line-up.
As we have already reported the Levante gets the V6 petrol and diesel engines from the Ghibli saloon. The entry model (and undoubted biggest seller) 3.0-litre diesel has 275hp and gets from 0-62mph in 6.9secs. For the economy minded it will do 39mpg and has a CO2 rating of 189g/km.
Two power outputs (350 and 430hp) are available from the 3.0-litre twin turbo petrol V6, with the more powerful of the two despatching 0-62 in 5.2 seconds and hitting 164mph flat out.
No 530hp V8 version then? ‘We are keeping the Quattroporte GTS as the Maserati flagship for now,’ Maserati Europe general manager Giulio Pastore told GRR at Geneva. ‘For the Levante we must concentrate on the part of the market where most sales are, V6 diesel. (But) we have eight years to improve the Levante and we will go step by step…’
No V8 plans for the moment then but, being based on the Ghibli/Quattroporte platform, that potent drivetrain will certainly fit… and make a stonking rival for high performance SUV rivals.
The Maserati chiefs see the Levante as offering the coupe-like style of the BMW X6 but with the interior package of the Porsche Cayenne.
‘For the volumes this car will generate it is the most important Maserati ever,’ said Giulio. ‘It will be the biggest selling Maserati in the range and the biggest selling Maserati ever – it must be, and will be.’
Without the Levante Maserati would be missing out on half the luxury segment, and the only part of the market that has shown continuous global growth in the past three years. The UK plays an important role in its success too, with Giulio Pastore saying a quarter of all the Levantes will find a home in the UK, already Maserati’s biggest market in Europe.
GRR looks forward to putting it through its paces – both on- and off-road. With its (standard) height adjustable air suspension, electronic adaptive dampers, mechanical limited slip diff, super-stiff shell and low-for-a-SUV Cd of 0.31, Maserati’s avowed intent is for the Levante to offer ‘outstanding performance’ on both the rough and the smooth.
As Roberto Corradi told us, ‘you can feel driving this car that it is really a Maserati. It is a true Maserati, with the same road behaviour as our sporting sedans.’ Not just a pretty face then? Watch this space…
GRR wishes it well… it’s the success of cars like this that will – fingers crossed – fund new sports cars like the Alfieri…