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Geneva show: Maserati details Levante high-rider

Fresh wind: The Levante name is inspired by a Mediterranean wind, according to Maserati, and will blow into Australia early next year.

Two petrol and one diesel engine on offer for Maserati's all-new Levante


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2 Mar 2016

MASERATI'S first SUV in 100 years, the all-wheel-drive Levante, will be launched with a choice of three turbo-charged V6 engines, but so far, there is no V8 in sight.

Revealed in full at the Geneva motor show overnight, the Italian-built high rider will roll out to Australian dealers in early 2017 to compete with other performance-focussed large crossovers such as the Porsche Cayenne, BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and Audi SQ5.

Maserati Australia chief operating officer Glen Sealey said he expected the Levante to be a hit Down Under, but added that pricing and specifications would wait until closer to the launch.

“The Levante is the next step for Maserati under its growth plan,” he said.

“Australia has a great affinity for both SUVs and Maserati. As such we see a strong opportunity for Levante in Australia.

“We are clearly excited at the prospect of a Maserati SUV in Australia. Pricing for the Australian market will be available closer to the time Australian vehicles hit the market in early 2017.”

Mr Sealey said the expected interest in the Levante has meant the company's Australian distributor has had to expand its dealer network and upgrade facilities at existing dealers across the country in preparation for the model’s arrival.

“The Levante has driven a second round of dealership openings and upgrades across Australia and New Zealand,” he said. "As we said at the launch of the Ghibli, it is essential that new clients must receive the same level and quality of personalised service as previous customers.

“To meet this increased requirement, our dealerships across Australia have new facilities, new staff and more space to display to the best effect the new Maserati range, not to mention, given the market sector in which Levante competes, specialist training and facilities to meet the different expectations and needs of these clients.”

The Levante – the name is inspired by Mediterranean wind, according to Maserati – is built on the Italian car-maker's sedan platform that already underpins the Quattroporte and mid-size Ghibli at its refurbished Mirafiori plant.

The coupe-esque Levante is powered by a trio of 3.0-litre V6 engines, kicking off with the twin-turbo direct-injection petrol GDI unit – co-developed by Maserati Powertrain and Ferrari Powertrain – delivering 257kW at 5750rpm and 500Nm from 4500-5000rpm.

This version can race from 0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds, on to a top speed of 251km/h and achieves fuel economy of 10.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle and 249g/km of CO2 emissions.

A second version of the petrol engine – found under the bonnet of the Ghibli in different states of tune – pumps out 316kW at 5750rpm and 580Nm at 5000rpm for a 5.2s 0-100km/h sprint time and fuel use of 10.9L/100k and 253g/km of CO2.

Pneumatic valves control the engine's exhaust system to maintain “the rich aural signature of the brand”, and in default driving mode the valves are closed for more discreet motoring, but in 'sport' mode, Maserati's unique sound is pumped out and the handing characteristics change.

The most frugal powertrain is the VM Motori-sourced common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel unit (also found in the sedan models) with idle-stop. It produces 202kW at 4000rpm and 600Nm at 2000-2600rpm, offers a 6.9s 0-100km/h time and sips 7.2L/100km while emitting 189g/km of CO2.

Maserati offers its Active Sound system for the diesel that produces a sexier sound than a traditional diesel when the driver hits the sport buttonNo V8 option is offered at this stage, and it is unclear if Maserati will add higher-powered variants down the track.

All engines are matched with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with seven shift modes selectable from a cluster next to the shifter. These include 'normal', 'sport' and 'off-road' in auto and manual and ICE (Increased Control and Efficiency) mode, as found in the related Maserati sedan models.

The on-demand all-wheel drive system is standard across the range, but the car-maker says it was developed to “deliver a typical Maserati rear-wheel drive experience, even in low grip road conditions”, transferring traction to the front wheels when required.

It has variable torque control that can respond to a variation in the driving conditions, and this can even be monitored by the driver on a 7.0-inch cluster display.

Maserati says the Levante is the only vehicle in its segment fitted with a mechanical limited slip differential at the rear axle as standard, helping to ensure “the best traction in all driving situations”.

The Levante also features torque vectoring for sporty driving, with the car-maker suggesting the Levante is is “equally suited to day-to-day use as it is to use at Nurburgring racetrack”.

At 5003mm long, 1968mm wide, 1679mm tall and with a 3004mm wheelbase, the Levante is larger in all areas, except height, than the Porsche Cayenne, with Maserati claiming best-in-class cabin space.

Also best in class, according to the Italian car-maker, is its aerodynamics, with a coefficient of drag of 0.31, thanks to “meticulous” simulations in wind tunnels, long testing and the inclusion of an Air Shutter in the front grille – a first for a Maserati.

To keep the weight down, Maserati has used aluminium in the chassis, body (doors, bonnet and rear hatch) and suspension. This has also helped engineers ensure a 50:50 weight distribution.

The suspension is double wishbone set-up at the front and five-link at the rear, with an adjustable air spring suspension system standard on all variants.

Electronically controlled dampers, a hydraulic steering system and high-performance brakes with five colours available for the callipers are also included.

Safety wise, Levante gets active cruise control with stop and go, blind-spot alert, lane-departure and forward collision warnings, hill hold assist and hill descent control park assist and rear view and surround-view camera. It also features six airbags and a suite of other passive safety features.

Also on the agenda are i-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, an optional adaptive front lighting system, 13 exterior colours, four alloy wheel designs with sizes ranging from 18 to 21-inches depending on the spec and options chosen and optional silver-finish or black gloss roof rails.

Inside is a choice of 28 interior trim combinations, an 8.4-inch touchscreen with a new infotainment system, a 580-litre cargo area, four 12-volt sockets throughout the cabin and luggage area, a power tailgate, leather upholstery, eight-speaker audio system, heated and ventilated seats and a series of options packs, including Sport pack, Luxury pack, or stylish Zegna edition that features bespoke silk from Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna.

The Levante will be offered in Sport and Luxury specifications from launch.

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