It’s been four years since the Maserati Kubang concept (shown above) debuted at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, previewing the Italian brand’s first-ever SUV. But the production Maserati Levante has been delayed multiple times, even as the appetite for high-end SUVs has only grown.
The Levante may finally debut in showroom-ready form this March at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. It should be ready for production by then, and could go on sale shortly after that, brand boss Harald Wester told Auto Express recently. Wester said the shift of production from the United States to Italy was the main cause of the delays.
Wester said pre-production models are already being built, and that production of cars for customers will begin in February. Despite previous reports that the Levante would use a Jeep platform, Wester claimed the SUV will be “100 percent Maserati.” What appear to be test mules based on the Ghibli sedan have been captured in spy photos.
While the Kubang has become something of a familiar sight over the past four years, Wester also said that the Levante will still hold some styling surprises. He said the production model will look significantly different from the concept, but did not explain how. The Levante will likely bear a familial resemblance to other current Maseratis.
Engine options will likely be derived from other Maseratis as well, meaning a twin-turbocharged V6 for the majority of models, and possibly a larger V8 for the top trim levels. Maserati may also introduce a plug-in hybrid at some point, and given the phalanx of luxury plug-in SUVs from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volvo, it makes sense to install that powertrain in the Levante.
Riding the current wave of SUV popularity, the Levante will probably boost Maserati sales significantly. But the storied Italian carmaker will need more than a new volume model to stay relevant. With Ferrari now divorced from the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) family, Maserati is FCA’s de facto prestige brand.
Wester said Maserati still plans to put the lovely Alfieri concept into production as a rival for the Jaguar F-Type and Porsche 911, and that once this happens, Maserati’s lineup will be complete, for now. A new sports car should produce a good halo effect, and ease the concerns of traditionalists, but Maserati may have to expand even further to take on the role of a full-line luxury carmaker.