Maserati takes on Range Rover, Porsche and BMW with first SUV

Maserati Levante

HERE in Drive we are rather fond of Maserati, so a new model is always cause for celebration.

The cause for jubilation this time is this car, named Levante, which, as you can see, is an SUV in the mould of a BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne.

After a century forging its reputation as the manufacturer of racers, sports cars, gentleman's grand tourers and plush saloons, this is something of a radical departure for the storied Italian marque.

The quest for increased sales for the brand is the motivation behind the decision to build an SUV - people can't buy them fast enough, even at the £60k-plus Levante prices are expected to start at.

Maserati is, of course, part of the Fiat Chrysler group and an original plan which would have seen its posh SUV based on a Jeep Grand Cherokee was, thankfully, canned before it could become reality - the Jeep's underpinnings, accomplished as they are, wouldn't be up to the job of challenging the German premium marques or anything with a Range Rover badge.

So while some Jeep off-road know-how is bound to have migrated to the Levante, for the most part it is an all-Italian affair, complete with sonorous V6 and V8 engines.

Four-wheel-drive, air suspension and an eight-speed automatic gearbox are standard across the range.

Applying a design language which has been long established on coupes and sleek saloons to the larger canvas of an SUV is not always easy - I point you to the first Porsche Cayenne - but judging by the pictures, Maserati seem to have got it just right. Is there a better looking SUV around?

Maserati has already started building the car at its Mirafiori factory in Turin, with sales in Europe expected to start soon.

Another effort by Maserati to increase its sales volumes, the gorgeous Ghibli saloon, seems to have made little impact in terms of persuading company car users out of the smarter BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 models it targeted.

But with SUV sales booming, the Levante could be the right car at the right time for Maserati; I certainly look forward to being able to get behind the wheel and report back on it.

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