Maserati is developing its first SUV, and rumours are circulating that a Maserati 4x4 concept could surface at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show.
Our artist's impression reveals how the Maser SUV could look. While the styling of Italy's supercar 4x4 may be under wraps, CAR has compiled a dossier of hard fact about the Maserati off-roader project. Read on for the full story.
Maserati and Chrysler: a history lesson
In 1989, Chrysler and Maserati celebrated their first love affair. The ensuing offspring was known as TC by Maserati, but customers ignored the LeBaron-based glitzerati so stubbornly that production ended after only two years.
In 2003, Bernd Pischetsrieder fell for the Maserati Kubang concept. In exchange for the Quattroporte's transaxle platform he intended to use for a super-Volkswagen that never materialised, the chairman was on the verge of providing the Italians with an Audi V8 engine and with the spaceframe technology of the A8.
But in the end we had to wait until 2010 for a firm SUV commitment from the Modenese manufacturer.
Maserati SUV is go
In November 2010, Fiat and consequently Maserati CEO Sergio Marchionne added a large Maserati crossover to the two smaller Alfa-Romeo crossovers he had announced earlier last year.
Trouble is, all three vehicles are based on Chrysler Jeep models, a bloodline which typically does not bode well for a European premium brand. In the case of Maserati in particular, the required genes will be siphoned from the new Jeep Grand Cherokee which is a decent piece of kit - but not exactly an eye-to-eye rival to X5/X6, Cayenne or Range Rover Sport.
According senior sources in Italy who've spoken to CAR, the still nameless four-wheel drive luxury Trident gets its own exterior, its own interior and its own engines.
So what will be shared between Maserati's 4x4 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee?
Only the body architecture, the suspension, the key safety elements and the electronic platform are to be shared with Motown's finest. To emphasise its ambitious position in the market place, insiders expect subtle content enhancements like additional airbags and driver assistance systems, Brembo brakes with ceramic discs, bespoke ICE features, amenities like Keyless Go, and of course such Maserati USPs as the Corsa button which stiffens the dampers and speeds up the gear shifts.
On the engine front, we should see a specially prepared version of the 3.0-litre Pentastar V6 which is reportedly good for 350bhp. One rung up, there will almost certainly be a 3.9-litre V8 designed and built by Ferrari. Equipped with switchable intake and exhaust manifolds and a two-stage exhaust, the direct-injection twin-turbo unit is tipped to deliver 450bhp.
Petrol 4x4s sell like ice cream in Alaska... Any dervs?
For Europe only, VM is likely to develop a high-performance edition of its 3.0-litre diesel which might just about hit 250bhp. The transmission of choice is allegedly an eight-speed ZF automatic.
While Audi intends to bring the kerb weight of the next Q7 down to 2000 kilos by using a body made of aluminium, the bílingual US-made SUV will probably struggle to undercut the 2250kg mark.
In terms of presence and street cred, however, the all-terrain, four-seasons Maserati is unlikely to disappoint.