The Maserati Levante looks to be on course to get a Ferrari-built 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol option in the UK, following a business case investigation by the Italian manufacturer.
Maserati's head of marketing Mike Briscoe told Autocar: "Diesel is a primary concern and would certainly outsell the petrol in the UK, but a petrol model - like the Turbo Macan for Porsche - would be beneficial to the Maserati brand."
The petrol unit is also featured in the Ghibli SQ4, in which it produces 404bhp and 406lb ft. The Ghibli SQ4 is all-wheel drive, like the Levante, so it's likely that outputs would be identical in both models.
The original plan was for the Levante to be offered only with a diesel engine in the UK, but a statement from the Italian brand earlier this year signalled the start of an evaluation of the business case to develop its first SUV with the 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine in right-hand drive form.
The Levante sits on an updated version of the platform used in the Ghibli and Quattroporte saloons and has a drag coefficient of 0.31, putting it at the top of the class. To boost aerodynamics further, the model features a so-called Air Shutter behind the concave grille, designed to control the amount of air making its way to the engine.
All models come with standard air suspension, four-wheel drive and a torque-vectoring system that’s designed to improve on-road handling as well as the Levante’s off-road ability.
One 3.0-litre diesel engine is available. It produces 271bhp anfd 442lb ft and will get the Levante to 62mph from rest in 6.9sec and on to a top speed of 143mph. The claimed combined economy figure for the diesel version is 39.2mpg, and along with 189g/km of CO2.
It comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive and air suspension as standard.
Inside, all models seat five and have a 580-litre boot. All versions get leather seats, an 8.4in touchscreen infotainment system, cruise control, hill descent control, climate control, 18in alloy wheels and an electrically operated tailgate.
One notable piece of optional equipment is a tow bar, the first time Maserati has ever offered this item on its options list. The Levante will have a maximum towing capacity of 2700kg.
Official pricing has not been announced but we expect the Levante to cost from around £60,000 when it arrives in the UK towards the end of the year. In Switzerland, one of the first markets to get the Levante, prices start at £54,121.
Speaking to Autocar at the Geneva motor show, Maserati's European manager Giulio Pastore said: “Is it our most important car ever? If you talk about volumes, then yes. With this car we can cover off 50% of the luxury segment. The rest of our range together covers off the other 50%."
When asked if the new Levante would be as good to drive as Porshe’s Macan, judged as being one of the best-handing SUVs on sale, Pastore said: “I have driven the Porsche Macan, and it is a very good car. I’ll ask you the same question about us when you have driven the Levante.
“Vehicle dynamics are one of the key parts of our DNA. We want to give the same on-road ability as our sporty saloons. We also have the same off-road ability as the BMW X5 and Porsche Cayenne. We have this thanks to a combination of two things: air suspension and continuously variable damping.
“To drive it feels like a true Maserati. Everything is optimised for the dynamics. This will maintain our DNA.
“Style is still the first reason to buy a Maserati. The second is the sound quality, and this sounds as good as our saloons with diesel or petrol. Then it’s vehicle dynamics and the pleasure to drive.
“Roominess in the back is the same as the Porsche Cayenne and the boot is the same as the BMW X6. But we have more space than the X6 in the back. In terms of the concept, this is the same as the X6. But it is a functional car still.
“The volumes will come from the diesel models, as much as 95% in the UK. [As for bigger petrol engines], we will see how we go and the market develops. The Quattroporte is our V8 model, but the Levante will develop over its eight-year life.”
Maserati expects that one in four Levantes in Europe will be sold in the UK. The brand's dealer network in Europe will expand to 180 by the end of 2017, up from 146 at the end of last year.
Rumours were abound in Geneva that Maserati may have to change the name of the SUV for some markets due to negative connotations with the Levante name. While Levante is the name of a piece of the Ligurian coastline near Genoa, other historical definitions include the geographical name for Syria and Palestine, and the French name for the area that covers Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus and Turkey.
See more of the new Maserati Levante in our video blog, below, and in Maserati's official launch video.