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Maserati Levante

2017 Maserati Levante: Porsche Cayenne Nemesis?

Will Maserati’s new SUV accomplish what the Cayenne did for Porsche?

The Maserati Levante is on its way, representing the first SUV from this Italian luxury vehicle manufacturer. The new model was formally introduced at the Geneva Auto Show in March, making its U.S. debut at the New York International Auto Show later that month.

Now in Production

With production now underway, the first Levantes will be sold in Europe beginning in May, then roll out to other markets as the year progresses. U.S. sales will begin in September with prices starting at $72,000.

The Maserati Levante’s base price is higher than the Porsche Cayenne’s ($59,600), but the base Cayenne is not the trim Maserati has in mind. Instead, the Maserati Levante is designed to do battle with the Cayenne S ($76,600) and higher trims.

Maserati Levante History and Name

Maserati has been wholly owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and its predecessor, Fiat S.p.A., since 1993. Parent FCA is intent on doubling worldwide sales to 75,000 units within the next few years and expects the Levante to contribute nearly half those sales.

As for the SUV’s name, Maserati says Levante describes a warm Mediterranean wind that can suddenly transform from a light breeze into a powerful gale; perhaps underscoring a similar change as the twin-turbocharged SUV’s boost kicks in. In any case, the moniker is certainly a better choice than Kubang, a 2003 concept SUV credited with yielding the Levante.

Moving past its sports car heritage is a risky move for Maserati, but not one without precedent. Indeed, IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley told The Detroit News, “Porsche proved that a niche sports car brand having an SUV is not an issue. You just have to do it well, and you have to make sure you align with your brand’s DNA.”

If Maserati executes its SUV strategy correctly, frequent comparisons with the Porsche Cayenne seem likely. That battle may only escalate if a much-rumored V8 engine is later added to the Levante powertrain mix. Such a model could take on the Cayenne Turbo S, which is one of the fastest SUVs in the world. In any case, the Levante offers luxury shoppers something else to consider besides the Land Rover Range Rover Sport and the upcoming Jaguar F-Pace.

Maserati Levante Exterior Highlights

As for the model at hand, the Levante’s design is at once luxurious as it is athletic.

The front fascia is marked by a gaping upper grille that’s accented by eight chrome vertical slats and punctuated by a trident emblem. Winglike headlamps with LED accents connect to the grille. Circular recesses housing the fog lights along with a sporty lower grille opening and lip are also present.

From stem to stern, the Levante’s muscular presence is amplified by several characteristics, including its long curving and bolstered hood, firm shoulders, a high beltline and a sweeping roofline. Profile accents such as portholes, character lines, body sculpting and polished chrome wheels add to the mystique.

If the style of the Levante evokes comparison to a sports car, that’s not a mistake. That’s especially evident when examining this SUV from the rear as the roofline dips and wraps around the liftgate, which is marked by a spoiler and accented by oversized combination lamps.

Maserati Levante Interior Highlights

Seating five, the Levante’s interior is wrapped in leather and accented with French stitching. Optional dual-color leather raises the luxury quotient further, while aluminum trim and chrome finishes provide additional enhancements to the interior.

The Levante’s instrument panel parallels what you’ll find in the Maserati Ghibli or Quattroporte with white backlighting. An 8.4-inch touch screen is the focal point for the center console with an elegantly classic Maserati analog clock centered on top of the dashboard. Buttons and driver controls are sensibly placed and happily uncluttered.

Maserati claims ample seating for five, with the split-folding rear seat offering generous headroom. As with other Maserati models, personalization of the SUV is possible with 28 interior colors available.

Maserati Levante Powertrain Choices

The base 2017 Maserati Levante is powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 engine making 345 horsepower. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. That same engine in the Levante S benefits from intake, exhaust and software changes to deliver 424 horsepower at an $83,000 starting price.

The first engine choice moves the SUV from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. Choose the Levante S and your 0-to-60 mph time drops to 5.1 seconds. All-wheel drive is standard across the model line. This SUV boasts an even 50-50 weight distribution.

Technology and Off-Road

Cutting-edge technologies, including Bi-Xenon headlights, LED lights, an off-road capable suspension system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Siri, are all present.

Based on the architecture supporting the Maserati Ghibli sedan, the Levante benefits from aluminum control arms up front and five links at each corner in the back, as well as air springs with electronically controlled dampers. The springs and dampers have been especially reworked to allow for off-road access, something very few Levante owners are likely to do. But it is there when you need it.

All Things SUV

With Porsche, Maserati, and Jaguar each sporting SUVs, the choices for consumers has never been better. That also means Maserati won’t automatically lose customers desiring an SUV as the Levante fills garages alongside the Ghibli, Quattroporte, GranTurismo or GranCabrio.

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