► Maserati Levante comes to UK as diesel only
► It's Maser's first-ever crossover
► Another Geneva motor show star
The new Maserati Levante SUV was officially unveiled at the 2016 Geneva motor show, where officials revealed it would be sold as a diesel only in the UK. Prices are expected to start at £53,000 when Modena's first crossover arrives in right-hand drive in October 2016.
That means that British buyers will be denied the zingy-sounding 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol engines. The full line-up confirmed in Geneva is:
- Levante 3.0 V6 bi-turbo petrol, 345bhp, 6.0sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 249g/km CO2
- Levante S 3.0 V6 bi-turbo petrol, 424bhp, 5.2sec 0-62mph, 164mph, 253g/km CO2
- Levante D 3.0 V6 diesel, 271bhp, 6.9sec 0-62mph, 143mph, 189g/km CO2
Why no diesel Levante in the UK?
Peter Denton, Maserati chief in the UK, said the Levante should double the brand's sales in the UK, from around 1500 cars a year to 3000. The sector is predominantly diesel-focused, he said, admitting there was no business case for a petrol Levante in RHD. Who will buy it? Families and existing Maser owners who need more space. 'We might even see some Ferrari owners who currently have another brand's SUV in the garage already.'
Named after a Mediterranean wind, the large 4x4 is claimed to have a 0.31 drag coefficient - the sleekest in class - contributing to a slippery shape and impressive top speeds for a five-seater SUV. There will be no seven-seat option.
The Levante is built on the same architecture as the Quattroporte and Ghibli, so the V6 engines, transmissions and electronic systems onboard are largely similar. But here, the company claims, the crossover wardrobe is applied with a dash of Maserati style: witness the gills on the flanks, blistered wheelarches and 'Saetta' logo on the C-pillar.
Click here for CAR magazine's full preview of the 2016 Geneva motor show.
Maserati Levante in detail
Remember, the Maserati was sent back to the drawing board after initial plans to build it in Detroit alongside its Jeep brethren. Fiat group overlord Sergio Marchionne recognised early on that mass-market Grand Cherokee underpinnings wouldn't cut it at this rarefied sector of the market, so the Levante is an all-Italian affair, the company claims. Yes, they're claiming even the 4x4 hardware is unrelated to its Jeep siblings across the Pond.
It will be built in the Mirafiori plant in Turin; the first Maserati SUVs rolled off the production line on 29 February 2016 and left-hand drive sales are due to start in spring 2016. Right-hand drive sales are due in the autumn.
The chromed grille is framed by eight vertical strakes surrounding a Trident logo, connected to slimline headlamps. The style is different to a Jeep Grand Cherokee's or a Porsche Cayenne's, but is bound to cause some controversy among Maserati traditionalists.
CEO Harald Wester told CAR it was true to Maserati's values. ''The Levante is consistent with what a Maserati should be: it must drive like a Maserati, smell like a Maserati and look like a Maserati,' he said. 'It gives our customers the same feelings and freedoms as our sports cars.'
The tech spec
Modena has confirmed that every Levante will come with adaptable air suspension, Q4 four-wheel drive and an eight-speed auto transmissions.
Suspension is by double wishbones at the front and a multi-link rear axle; the electronically controlled damping allows buyers to choose five ride heights and an electronically locking centre differential proves that this particular crossover can in fact tackle some degree of mud, should Zara get stuck at the local gymkhana.
Inside the Levante's cabin
The Levante's cabin feels similar to those in the Ghibli and QP. No surprises there. There's a neat suede headlining, which feels classy, and an impressively low transmission tunnel, giving decent foot space. Headroom is impressive in the second row.
The car we sat in at Geneva was a top-end car, with a carbonfibre-effect wheel, huge metal gearshift paddles and the classic Maserati oval clock. It's impressively fresh and different to many rivals' cabins, although we fear some of the 8.4in infotainment touchscreen system will struggle to keep up with more modern digital outfits.
What do you think of the new 2016 Maserati Levante? Be sure to tell us in the comments below.
Read more of CAR’s 2016 Geneva motor show coverage here
Click here for CAR’s A-Z guide to the 2016 Geneva motor show