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2016 Levante SUV: Critical for Maserati’s Future

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Maserati has always been known for their luxury sports cars, models like the Quattroporte and Ghibli have been able to hold their own on the market. But now, the sales of Maserati’s two staple vehicles are now decreasing, and the company needs to do something fast if they want a new Maserati for sale in the future. Enter Levante; the new luxury-sport car crossover that is the brands ticket to a sustainable future in the competitive crossover market.

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Maserati had already toyed with the idea of making a crossover before. It started back in 2003 with the unveiling of the Kubang concept, but it never took off. Later in 2011, it was resurrected and rumored to go into production. The idea was to build the Kubang on the Jeep Grand Cherokee platform, even though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles promised to keep it “100 percent Maserati.”

Maserati’s parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles decided to scrap the development of the Kubang later that year. This is when Maserati took the concept back to Italy and renamed it Levante, focusing on in-house development and promising this time it would be kept “100 percent Maserati.”

The problem is, other luxury sports car companies like Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes have already been on the crossover market. The models these companies are putting out are already raking in the cash, building a flawless and well-established reputation with consumers. The Levante is going to be entering into some stiff competition, but Maserati doesn’t have a choice. In order for the company to keep their head above water in a sea of crossovers flooding the market, the release of the Levante is a now or never situation.

Survival of the Fittest

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In an interview with Autocar the brand manager Giulio Pastore said “the Levante is a critical part of building a sustainable business; there is no life for a company that sells only sports cars, so its success is key to us. That is why we have invested so much in the Levante. It is our design, engineered entirely by Maserati and built to our values. It is a sports SUV with an emphasis on the sport, but with credible off-road capability and the unique Maserati qualities around style and sophistication.”

When it is released at the Geneva Motor Show 2016 in March, the Levante will be a “make it or break it” vehicle for the company. Entering the market will be tough for the new Maserati, but it will have assistance from the Ghibli and Quattroporte; being based on the same platform as those models. It will also share the same range of V6 and V8 engines the Quattroporte and Ghibli models have, as well as their transmissions and the advanced all-wheel drive system.

The Levante borrowing some well-known aspects of previous successful models should aid with wedging its way into the market. The cinching point of the Levante being Maserati’s legendary detail to design, with the same Italian-esque styling found inside and outside other Maserati models. Even though it is a new design, you can expect to see the standard two-tone dashboard found in other models, as well as a large infotainment screen as the center piece. Everything that is plastic will be the same high quality plastic found in other Maserati models, and everything that isn’t will be the Alcantara leather with fine stitching.

Maserati also needed a way for the Levante to stand out on the market, so they decided it needed some dramatic looks. The main focal point being a bold front-end inspired by the Alfieri sports car concept, which will be the companies main production vehicle once the Levante starts racking up sales.

A competitive price has also been set for the Maserati that we will get into a little later.

They may have come to the crossover market late, but if Maserati had not done a complete redesign, it would probably look like just another run of the mill crossover. With the competitive market already being full of crossovers from other prominent companies, the Levante really needs to stick out. Making the Levante “100 percent Maserati” was the best way for them to draw attention to their new crossover, and turn around their diminishing sales.

Expectations are High

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There is a lot expected from the Levante crossover, but Maserati feels like it can get the job done. During an interview with Auto Express Magazine Peter Denton -regional manager for Maserati North Europe- says “It will have a 10 percent premium on the Ghibli in terms of starting price.” In the U.S., the entry level for the Ghibli is priced at $70,600. This means that the Levante could start at $77,660. This give it the same competing price as the other high-end luxury crossovers on the market, such as the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover.

Will it be enough to sway consumers though? The company needs the Levante to help increase sales, so they have certain quotas that need to be met. By 2018, the company planned to reach 75,000 annual sales. This represents a jump of 15,000 sales in only four years, with the heavy-lifting being done by the Levante. The company recently announced that they intend to be producing 70,000 cars annually, which is already 5,000 less than the original plan they had in place.

With sales in America already slowing down for the company, the Levante is the expected breadwinner to give Maserati the sustenance they need to continue production of their models.

The Competition

How is the Levante looking to match up with the competition? We know that it has the same type of styling as other Maserati vehicles, and this styling is equipped to the Levante’s unique new model. So in terms of standing out it shouldn’t be an issue. But it is also borrowing some parts from the Quattroporte and Ghibli. Of particular importance is the engine. The engine is a main factor in dictating performance, so lets see what some of the competition is sporting.

The Porsche Cayenne is one of the higher-end luxury crossovers out there, and is also seeing a 2016 model release. Powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that puts out 300 horsepower. The entry level model accelerates from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds, and gets an EPA rating of 19 city mpg and 24 mpg highway. The bigger V8 engine putting out 530 horsepower with 14 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.

The Levante is set to use the engines from the Quattroporte and the Ghibli, with the V6 expected to put out 350-425 horsepower depending on the engine. For a higher price, you can also get the V8 engine putting out 560 horsepower. It appears that the Levante has the Cayenne beat in terms of horsepower, but fuel economy is still unknown for the Levante at this time. You could estimate that it will get around the same as the Ghibli or Quattroporte, depending on the engine.

Since we already know that the Levante is competitively priced around the same as the other-high end luxury vehicles on the market, it appears that in terms of performance things are looking good. Putting out more horsepower at the base engine and the V8, along with having the advanced auto-adjusting transmission and all-wheel drive system from the Quattroporte and Ghibli models is sure to draw some attention.

If that doesn’t draw enough attention, then I’m sure the bold and unique looking design will. I think it’s safe to say that Maserati’s new Levante might actually be able to keep up with the competition, fulfilling the expectations of the brand. They entered the market late, but Maserati did a good job revamping the design, and that should pay off for them in the future.

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