Even a storied sports car brand such as Maserati cannot ignore the boom in luxury SUV sales, especially in its key markets of China and the U.S. So the Levante, which is named after a warm Mediterranean wind, is breezing into showrooms as the brand's first ever SUV, joining the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans.
Maserati expects the Levante to help boost the brand's annual sales to 70,000 by 2018, double the current volume.
"The Levante will become our best-seller," Fiat Chrysler Chief Technology Officer Harald Wester said. Maserati's target is to sell 17,000 Levantes by the end of this year and 30,000 next year.
The brand says the SUV has on-road handling typical of its sedans, along with class-leading off-road capability. The Levante is the first Maserati to offer torque vectoring as standard. When cornering, the function distributes more torque to the outer wheels helping the driver to go round bends at a sporty speed. It is coupled with the brand's Q4 all-wheel-drive system.
At 5003mm long and 1968mm wide, the Levante is larger than the Porsche Cayenne, its main rival. It is underpinned by an evolution of Maserati's sedan platform and shares its engines and 4wd system with the Ghibli.
Purists might complain that a true sports car brand shouldn't sell SUVs. But they said the same about the Cayenne. The Cayenne and the smaller Macan SUV now account for more than 60 percent of Porsche’s volume. Maserati aims to reach the same figure with the Levante.