Maserati Embraces the SUV Market with the 2017 Levante
The rumor of a Maserati sport utility vehicle is now a fact. The Italian company has been teasing the public with the promise of an SUV for several years now and Maserati has finally revealed the production vehicle, which will be sold as the 2017 Maserati Levante.
The Levante isn’t important precisely because it’s Maserati’s first SUV, it’s important because it’s the Italian auto industry’s last, best shot at relevance beyond the niche of hypercars. The Levante is Italy’s last, best shot in a mainstream luxury business populated by Audis, Lexi and, soon, Hyundai’s Genesis brand.
In case you missed it, SUVs now account for nearly 50 percent of global luxury auto sales. Maserati has big plans, starting with the goal of increasing sales sixfold over a six-year period ending in 2018. To succeed, Maserati needs a vehicle to compete in what amounts to half the luxury market. Welcome, Levante.
Drawing heavily on the seductively dramatic 2014 Maserati Alfieri sports coupe concept, the Levante strike a similarly moody and assertively predatory aesthetic, all the more dominant owing to increased ride height. With vast hexagonal grille, squinting strongly browed headlights and a long sculpted bonnet with side ports to exaggerate its length, the Levante features slim inwardly tilted LED running lights, widely spaced grille slats and evocative Trident emblem.
Levante features five ride heights, including low parking and 175mm ground clearance high-speed modes where it looks hunkered down and aggressive. Off-road modes can raise clearance to stilt-like 247mm — from a default 210mm — to comfortably traverse deep ruts and rocks, improve approach, departure and ramp angles and increase wheel travel to keep tires in contact with the ground.
Deep, gaping and hungry, the Levante’s grille reveals close radiator slats which help achieve best in class CD0.31 aerodynamics and can open to feed in cooling air when necessary. Kitted with enormous 265/45R20 footwear to fill its muscular wheelarches, the Levante’s rising waistline and descending roof lend urgency from profile, while broad haunches, pert rear section, big tailgate spoiler and big dual exhausts give it’s a sporting edge and road hugging demeanour.
Riding on air spring suspension for poised level cornering and comfort over imperfections.