These are the latest spy shots of Maserati’s upcoming SUV, the Levante
, which will enter production in 2015 and hopefully arrive in showrooms in time for the 2016 model year. This is a very early test mule for the vehicle, which shares only internals with the production version of the Levante set to be unveiled sometime next year.
The test mule confirms Maserati is sticking with its own platform rather than relying on Jeep Grand Cherokee running gear, as previously planned
. The platform is a modified version of the rear-wheel-drive underpinnings found in the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans, complete with Maserati’s own Q4 all-wheel-drive system.
The test mule also confirms that the Levante will be similar in length to the midsize Ghibli but with a wider track, as evidenced by the makeshift wheel arches. The Levante will also be much taller than the Ghibli and sit much higher, which you would expect for an SUV—the thick roof of this test mule is additional weight, used to simulate a taller center of gravity.
As for styling, Maserati’s Kubang concept car
from the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show points the way. Don’t expect the Levante to be a clone of the Kubang, however, as the design language of Maserati has evolved since then.
The Levante won’t be a capable off-roader like the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Land Rover Range Rover; instead, it will target luxury performance SUVs such as the Porsche Cayenne and the upcoming Bentley SUV
. The most potent model should hit 60 mph from rest in a little over 5.0 seconds.
As for engines, expect the same turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 and 3.8-liter V-8 gasoline units found in the Ghibli and Quattroporte to make their way into the Levante. The most powerful model should match the 523-horsepower rating of the most powerful Quattroporte. Overseas, expect a diesel too. An eight-speed automatic should be the only transmission.
Production of the Levante will take place at the Mirafiori plant located in Turin, Italy, which is owned by Maserati’s parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] and has the capacity to build up to 300,000 vehicles per year. Volumes for the Levante will be much lower than that, with initial sales estimates ranging between 10,000 and 15,000 units per year.
And in case you were wondering, the Levante name comes from Via Emilia Levante in Bologna, Italy, where the Maserati brothers more than a hundred years ago dreamed of the company that today still bears their name.
_______________________________________Follow Motor Authority on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.