MASERATI’S first SUV will double the brand’s sales in Australia when it arrives early next year, despite a price tag starting at more than $150,000.
Pitched as a rival for the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5 and Jaguar F-Pace, the Levante adds a welcome dash of Italian flair to the premium SUV market, and initially will be offered with the choice of a six-cylinder diesel producing 205kW/600Nm or Maserati’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 in two trims: 261kW and 321kW.
Expect to see the Italian brand’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 squeezed under the bonnet in the near future, too.
The Levante will also be the first Maserati ever to offer a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
“Oh yes, obviously that is something Maserati is going to provide,” said Maserati boss Harald Wester. “And we will start with the Levante.”
Every Levante has all-wheel drive and shuffles its power through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It also rides on air suspension with electrically controlled dampers and boasts 50:50 weight distribution, the lowest centre of gravity in its class and, according to Maserati, genuine off-road credibility.
Inside, the Levante offers the usual blend of leather and high quality plastics, but there’s also the choice of seats trimmed in 100 percent Zegna silk. The latest version of Maserati’s 8.4-inch Touch Control infotainment system is also fitted.
It’s a combination that promises to be something of a sales boon for Maserati, not only locally but worldwide.
“It’s obviously a huge opportunity,” said Wester. “Last year our global registrations were around 22,500, and I expect this number to grow significantly with full availability of the Levante.
“I’m confident that with full production and with all variants in all markets, that in 2017 we will sell 50,000 cars for sure.”
Maserati’s local arm is equally excited.
“It will double our sales volume,” said Glen Sealey, who heads up Maserati in Australasia and South Africa. “The diesel engine will be our most popular variant and for us it’s the most important engine.”
Sealey added it was too early to give an accurate indication of local pricing, but did reveal the Levante would command a premium price tag.
“We’re going to be well above a BMW X5,” he said. “It’s still a Maserati so exclusivity is one of our attributes. Ghibli starts at $140,000 and Levante will be above that.”
And don’t think Maserati has plans to unleash an entire range of SUVs. When quizzed about the chance of a smaller SUV to slot beneath Levante, Wester hinted that’s a job better suited to sister brand Alfa Romeo.
“This is going to be presented, I would say, in one of the important auto shows, a more compact SUV for Alfa Romeo,” he said. “If you’re a group and you have 10 brands like we have, not every brand can do everything. So for the time being this [small SUV market] is a segment we do not enter for Maserati. We said this very clear from the beginning. There are no plans to extend our range downwards.”