2016 Maserati Levante spotted testing

2016 Maserati Levante spotted testing

These spy pictures show the production-ready version Maserati Levante SUV wearing less disguise than ever ahead of its 2016 launch.

Through the camouflage that remains we can see the high-riding, four-door Maserati will feature tradition SUV proportions, with a long bonnet and sloping roofline.

Speaking at the recent Frankfurt motor show, Maserati boss Harald Wester confirmed the Levante will receive its global debut at the Geneva motor show next March.

Wester said pre-production of the Levante would start soon and it would be in production at an extension of the firm’s Miafori plant by February.

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 use the same V6 and V8 engines, transmissions and all-wheel drive system as those cars.

The original plan was to have the Levante in production by next January's Detroit motor show, as part of Maserati’s desire to reach 50,000 sales by 2015. This target will not now be reached due to the delay to the Levante, something that Maseratis puts down to the switch of plant and making sure it is a proper Maserati product and not one derived from elsewhere.

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 that 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 Coupé-SUVs 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.

Wester also revealed that replacements for the Granturismo and Grancabrio sports GT models were also in the works and would arrive around the same time as the Alfieri sports car in 2017.

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."

Cowan also said Maserati would work to grow its brand awareness: "One of the biggest challenges we face is getting people to want to know about Maserati. They've heard of it but they aren't necessarily eager to know anything beyond the Ferrari association. That's why we launched the Levante concept early - to get people talking about us."

Wester has said that the Levante SUV 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."

Source: www.autocar.co.uk