After years of waiting, the "Maserati of SUVs" is finally here. Maserati released the first pictures and details of the Levante ahead of the model's 2016 Geneva Motor Show debut. And like that, the premium SUV segment balloons ever larger.
Maserati has been working on an SUV for what feels like an eternity. It showed its first Kubang concept all the way back in 2003. That concept didn't make it to production, but Maserati revealed a second Kubang at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The 2011 Kubang was more serious from the start, and reports and rumors about a production version were flying even before the concept's official debut. They've continued flying for the four and a half years since.
In revealing the production Levante, Maserati has stopped short of a full, pre-Geneva unveiling, but it has released more than the typical misty teaser picture – a four-picture tour around the uncovered exterior.
The Kubang's influence is quite clear up front, in the grille, sharp, two-part headlamp design and hood. The sides are straighter and sharper than the Kubang, the upper character line shooting back into a crisply cut rear leg muscle, which supports the visual weight of the upper liftgate. The triple air vents on the front fenders give the profile a Maserati signature. The rear-end is rather nondescript, with the exception of details like the spoiler and quad exhaust.
Our impression from these pictures is that it's a Maserati face on a rather plain, dull crossover. That's about the same impression we had when we saw the patent sketches, so we're skeptical that our opinion will change when we see it in person in Geneva. You never know, though; some cars must be seen live to be fully appreciated.
So far, we'd say the Jaguar F-Pace is a much more convincing sporty premium crossover design.
Maserati is keeping the details to a minimum for now, committing only to generalities like the promise of Maserati-level on-road performance coupled with skills on the dirty, slippery stuff beyond the asphalt's edge. All Levante models will come standard with electronic suspension with controlled damping and air springs, Q4 intelligent all-wheel drive and a specially calibrated eight-speed automatic transmission.
Maserati doesn't identify the eight-speed's partner, saying simply that there will be both petrol and diesel Euro 6-compliant engines. That engine lineup is expected to include V6 and V8 options pulled from the Ghibli and Quattroporte.
The Maserati SUV was originally going to stand on a Jeep platform and be built in Detroit, but those plans later changed to Maserati underpinnings and Turin production. Maserati says that production has already started, and it plans to launch the Levante in Europe in the coming months and the rest of the world starting later this year. We look forward to getting the full scoop in Switzerland.
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