Maserati Levante rendering
The Maserati Levante SUV has been spied with lighter camouflage, which reveals some front-end styling details.
Camouflage cladding still covers much of the car's bodywork in these latest spies, but the skin-tight nature of the cladding means the overall shape of the car can be seen more clearly, with a tapering roofline and rakish tailgate. The dramatically sculpted bonnet can also be seen in more detail, and the camouflage no longer shrouds the large front air intakes, which are deeper and give a more aggressive appearance than those of other Maseratis.
Although the camouflage is still fairly comprehensive, the Levante adopts a similar front-end styling treatment to other Maseratis, and previous spy shots show that the tail-light clusters closely follow the design of those of the Ghibli, Quattroporte and GranTurismo. The Levante also adopts the quad tailpipes featured on its stablemates.
Maserati's upcoming Porsche Cayenne rival was also spied winter testing and road testing ahead of its launch in 2017. Its sales success is crucial to the firm’s rebirth as it builds towards launching the Alfieri sports car in 2018.
The Levante, which will rival the Porsche Cayenne in both size and intent, has been spied testing several times in recent months. Styling cues include a long bonnet and sloping roofline. Insiders say the car has been heavily restyled from the 2011 Kubang concept, with it subsequently taking design cues from the 2014 Alfieri sports car concept.
Giulio Pastore, Maserati’s European general manager, told Autocar that the success of the Levante in the burgeoning and hugely profitable SUV segment was crucial to Maserati’s plans to grow sales to 70,000 cars by 2018, and to generate enough profit to maintain investment in new products.
“We are building to 2018, when we will realise the potential of the brand,” said Pastore. “The Alfieri will represent the absolute DNA of the brand, and to build to that we must build a sustainable business. The Levante is a critical part of that; there is no life for a company that sells only sports cars, so its success is key to us.
"That is why we have invested so much in the Levante. It is our design, engineered entirely by Maserati and built to our values. It is a sports SUV with an emphasis on the sport, but with credible off-road capability and the unique Maserati qualities around style and sophistication. We will also always be more exclusive than our rivals - the Levante is something truly special."
The Levante will be built at the firm’s Mirafiori plant and be unveiled at the 2016 Geneva motor show.
Maserati boss Harold Wester has previously revealed that the Levante will be based on “100% Maserati parts” and will not borrow anything from other Fiat-Chrysler brands, including Jeep. To that end it will be based on the same platform that underpins the Ghibli and Quattroporte, will be sized and priced between those models and use the same V6 and V8 engines, transmissions and all-wheel drive system as those cars.
Speaking at the last year's Frankfurt motor show, Maserati boss Harald Wester confirmed the Levante will receive its global debut at the Geneva motor show.
He revealed that it would be based on “100% Maserati parts”, and would not borrow anything from other Fiat-Chrysler brands, including Jeep. To that end, it will be based on the same platform that underpins the Ghibli and Quattroporte, will be sized and priced between those models and will use the same V6 and V8 engines, transmissions and all-wheel drive system as those cars.
Wester, who ruled out a smaller SUV as he has no further plans to expand the range beyond the addition of the Levante and Alfieri sports car, said the Levante would sport many new features and innovations which would then drip down through the Maserati range.
Among these would be plug-in hybrid drivetrains, which will be offered in the Levante, Ghibli and Quattroporte from late 2017/early 2018, with appearances in the Alfieri and GranTurismo replacement likely. Diesels would continue to be offered in Maseratis following the launch of plug-ins, Wester confirmed, although they will not be in the sports models.
He said the production Levante would be “different in every way” from the concept car of the same name shown at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show. It will have strong off-road ability “better than competitors”, Wester revealed, and would be as capable off road as a non-Trail Rated Jeep.
Wester revealed that SUV coupés were not in the Maserati plans, as he has no desire to fill niches with Maseratis. “We need to be a 100% SUV,” he said.
One sports model that won’t be appearing is a Maserati version of LaFerrari, something that happened before when Maserati launched its own version of the Ferrari Enzo.
Maserati marketing director James Cowan told Autocar earlier this year that the SUV has the potential to be a "game-changer" for the brand. "It will be our biggest seller in many markets and will attract almost universally new customers to the brand," he said. "The key factor is that it is a global vehicle; it will sell well in Europe, the US and China, and that gives us a broad base to approach sales from."
The brand has set targets to grow sales to 75,000 units by 2018, of which around 3000 will be in the UK. "That's massive growth from where we were in 2013, when we sold 319 cars in the UK, but it is still relatively niche," said Cowan. "By 2018 we should have around 30 UK dealers - so that averages out at 100 sales per dealer, which should ensure customer service and experience remains top-notch."
Wester has said the Levante is still a real Maserati and that it has been built as a response to the changing market: "Of course it is a real Maserati; sports and luxury can stand for different things. The market has changed, and the preference of our customers has changed. The sports car market has slowed down dramatically to 50,000 cars a year. The luxury SUV segment is 10 times that."