The transformation of Maserati from a maker of pretty but also rare hand-built grand touring coupés into a fully fledged global luxury car brand has been forging ahead at full steam for the past three years.
But with this road test subject it comes to a rather large and conspicuous climax.
The new Levante is interesting because it takes the Italian brand into a third permanent production base and swells its showroom offering to five models when, throughout a century of history, it has rarely built more than two or three at a time.
It is also vital, because it takes Maserati into the biggest and most lucrative part of the world’s luxury car market.
But it’s most remarkable because, as you’ll no doubt have noticed, it’s an SUV: a £56,000, high-riding, four-wheel-drive, five-metre-long reason not to buy a Range Rover Sport, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X6 or Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé.
Whether Maserati should be making such a car has become a moot point. As recently departed company CEO Harald Wester could always be relied upon to point out, risking the Maserati brand on a big 4x4 – given how popular they have become – is actually much less cavalier than declining to do so.
With Porsche, Bentley and so many other luxury brands already feeding off the benefits of big-selling SUVs, while Alfa Romeo and Lamborghini are beginning to breach the market and Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce planning to join them, Maserati has clearly judged that its sporting reputation isn’t likely to be eroded here – and if it is, it’ll be a price worth paying.