The wait is almost over.
In fact, the end is in sight. Or should I say, the beginning?
It’s been confirmed that the 2016 Maserati Levante will be unveiled at Detroit’s 2016 North American Auto Show hosted in January.
Although it will be a while before you can purchase the new Levante from Maserati New York, one source reports that production is set to start in March of 2016, marking less than a year before the Levante is actually built for purchase.
What will this new creation from the legendary Italian automaker look like?
I’ve got a few sneak peeks to share…
The Trident’s SUV Treatment
We were first introduced to the idea of the Levante, Maserati’s luxury SUV, back in 2003. Test models have finally taken to European roadways and production is set to start in March of 2016.
So, what should we expect rolling off the assembly line?
Word on the street is that the Levante will be a five-seater, rather than a seven-seater vehicle, built off the same, but modified platform shared by the Maserati Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans.
Equipped with Maserati’s exclusive Q4 all-wheel-drive, the style inspiration was provided by Maserati’s Kubang concept car, first introduced at the 2011 auto show in Frankfurt.
But again, the Kubang is just the inspiration, not the blue print. Maserati has tweaked its own design language since 2011, so expect something reminiscent of the Kubang, but not replicated.
Similar to the shared platform, the Levante will also make use of the Ghibli and Quattroporte’s drivetrains, specifically the standard level twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 seen in the Ghibli S, generating 404 horsepower and 406 lb.-ft. of torque. Zero to sixty estimates put this engine at 5.5 seconds.
The top of the line will come equipped with the Quattroporte GTS model’s twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8 engine, rated at 523 horsepower with 479 lb.-ft. of torque. This drivetrain will likely crush the zero to sixty sprint in under five seconds.
Rumor has it we can also expect a 3.0-liter V6 diesel model, rated at 266 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque (as seen in the Ghibli), though the European market will be the first to get it. Figures!
Another rumor suggests the eventual availability of a plug-in hybrid as well.
As far as looks go, Maserati is keeping the Levante under tight wraps. But, it’s fair to envision a crossover that will be both athletic, yet sleek, and even sexier than its competitors, like the BMW X6.
Signature Maserati details, like the Trident grille, sizable air inlets, and svelte headlamps will feature on the front fascia of the Levante.
The front fenders will sport the tri-bar gills typical on other Maserati models, as well as the muscular rear fenders reaching towards the raked tailgate, another Maserati design giveaway.
Expect the rear of the vehicle to showcase impressive taillights and exhaust outlets, organized in a quad-pipe assembly.
A small spoiler perched over the tailgate points to the performance-driven perspective Maserati kept in mind while designing a crossover that also redefined luxury.
Interior details are also based primarily in assumptions based off the current Maserati models.
For example, given the Ghibli and Quattroporte’s styling, it’s fair to expect that the Levante will perhaps feature a two-tone dashboard, housing a sizable infotainment screen. Leather and Alcantara materials, complemented by contrasting accent stitching will make up the bulk of the interior, otherwise expect high-quality plastic throughout the cabin.
Standard aluminum inserts can be replaced by those made of carbon-fiber.
Maserati was borne of race car ambitions and so it makes sense that it’s street-legal creations would share some of the race-ready appeal of earlier models, specifically with respect to the athletic steering wheel and sporty gauge cluster.
Drivers and front-seat passengers should enjoy plenty of head and shoulder room, but back seat passengers might feel a slight pinch from the sloping roof.
Rear legroom dimensions are projected to mimic the Ghibli’s, but the Levante should offer additional cargo room.
Maserati’s Mission with the Levante
The Levante is so named after the birthplace of the Maserati brothers, specifically the Via Emilia Levante in Italy’s Bologna.
There is a real driving force behind this latest crossover creation, which is to extend Maserati’s range, reach more consumers, and boost sales figures.
Just how much of a boost is Maserati looking for?
Maserati hopes that, annually, at least 50,000 Levantes will sell to consumers worldwide.
The idea is to drive sales in order to fund the Maserati passion and original mission of creating cutting edge and competitive sports cars.
Although pricing has yet to be released or even rumored, industry experts do not believe the Levante can come in under $80,000.
What that means for those ambitious sales figures, only time will tell.
Threats to the Trident? The Levante’s Rivals…
Out of the luxury SUV-crossover lineup, three contenders emerge to rival the reign of the Levante as the best luxury SUV on the market.
The triple threat looks like this: the Porsche Cayenne, the BMW X6, and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport, all ready to get in the ring in 2016.
The Porsche Cayenne Spices Up the Segment
Now in its second generation, Germany’s Porsche Cayenne is refreshed, and can be equipped with gasoline, diesel, or hybrid drivetrains.
Operated by a 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine, the Cayenne is rated at 300 horsepower in the base model, and extends to 420 horsepower in the S and Turbo models, topping out at 520 horsepower from the 4.8-liter V8 engine.
The Turbo S, which will be a new release for 2016, is able to get 570 horsepower.
The 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine generates 240 horsepower, the most sluggish of the Cayenne crew.
Alternatively equipped, the S E-Hybrid runs with 416 horses, due to the collaborative efforts between the supercharged V6 engine and electric motor.
Priced to start around $53,000, the Cayenne can exceed $157,000 for the premium Turbo S.
The BMW X6 – One Half of the Levante’s Ambition
Apparently, Maserati made the claim that the Levante would somehow combine the best of the Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X6. Think imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, double time.
Anyway, if that is true, then the other half of the flattery equation comes from the lighter and overall enhanced second generation of the BMW X6.
The real performance threat from the BMW X6 presents in the X6 M trim, which houses a massive V8 engine, rated at 567 horsepower and 553 lb.-ft. of torque. So equipped, this vehicle makes the zero to sixty mph dash in four quick seconds. Tough numbers to beat.
Even tougher? The price point, starting at approximately $59,000.
Land Rover’s Range Rover Sport: Class-leading Efficiency
Starting with the 2016 model year, the Land Rover Range Rover Sport will offer class-leading fuel efficiency from its brand new 3.0-liter V6 engine, estimated at 25 mpg combined.
This represents a 32 percent boost over the gasoline-powered drivetrains.
Able to generate 254 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft. of torque, this engine can get 658 miles from a single tank, or so claims Land Rover.
Depending on how long it takes Maserati to release a diesel-powered Levante State-side, the Range Rover Sport might lure some serious sales away from the Levante line.
However, premium fuel efficiency comes with a premium price, and the Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is estimated to start at $91,000.
Okay, so I’m not a fortune teller, but I can say with confidence that the 2016 model year is going to be an exciting and competitive one for the luxury crossover division. And all this competition is only good for us consumers, right? I’m all in favor of the Levante’s fight for class dominance going a few rounds…and then some.