GENEVA -- The Maserati Levante will be the "big beast" among luxury SUVs, chief executive Harald Wester said.
Unveiling Maserati's first SUV at the auto show here, the automaker showed a video (see below) of an imposing Levante driving through a forest as startled deer ran for cover.
The Levante will be the alpha animal of the luxury sports utility "kingdom," Wester said as the video ran on a big screen during the brand's press conference on Tuesday.
Maserati is counting on the Levante to help reach its target of boosting sales to 50,000 cars next year and to 75,000 in 2018. Maserati's shipments fell 11 percent to 32,474 last year as demand slowed in U.S. and China.
Maserati says the sector of the market it is targeting with the Levante has grown by 40 percent in the past five years to global sales of 500,000 last year.
The Levante, a Porsche Cayenne rival, is based on the same platform as the brand's Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans.
The SUV will be sold with a 3.0-liter V-6 twin-turbocharged gasoline engine with either 350 hp or 430 hp and a 275-hp 3.0-liter V-6 turbocharged diesel. All engines will have all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The Levante gets its name from a warm, Mediterranean wind that can change from gentle to gale force strength in an instant. The 430-hp Levante S accelerates from 0-100kph in 5.2 seconds and has a top speed of 264kph.
The Levante has technical features that give it the brand's typical sporty handing and performance, Maserati said. These include a double-wishbone suspension system on the front axle and multi-link on the rear, combined with electronically controlled damping and four corner air springs. The SUV also has the lowest center of gravity in its class, 50-50 weight distribution between the front and rear, and high levels of dynamic torsional and flexional stiffness, Maserati said.
European deliveries will start in May. Asia gets the car in July while it arrives in North America in September.
Maserati said the Levante's price in Switzerland would start at 75,900 Swiss francs (70,000 euros). It did not disclose pricing for other markets.