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Frankfurt show: Maserati goes SUV-mad

Italian stallion: Leaked Frankfurt show pocket guide image of Maserati’s first SUV has emerged five days early.

Leaked image of Maserati’s mould-breaking SUV concept emerges ahead of Frankfurt

9 Sep 2011

FIAT CEO Sergio Marchionne has made no secret of his desire to cash in on global demand for high-end SUVs by producing a high-riding Maserati wagon based on sister brand Jeep’s successful new Grand Cherokee.

Now, if this leaked image – which appears to have been scanned from the official 2011 IAA Frankfurt motor show pocket guide – is any guide, it appears the Italian luxury car brand is about to reveal the first evidence of just such a mould-breaking model.

Although we cannot vouch for the authenticity of the image, first published by autospies.com, the imposing Maserati appears to have similar hard points as the big Jeep and the accompanying text seems entirely plausible.

According to the IAA pocket guide, the concept car hints at an all-new Maserati model that will be produced alongside the Grand Cherokee at the Chrysler group’s Jefferson North plant in Detroit, before it goes on sale in 2013.

That publication says the Jeep-based Maserati, which will wear all-new sheetmetal and a unique interior, may only be sold in Europe. That would be a great disappointment for Maserati’s distributor and fans in Australia, where the luxury SUV sector is up almost 20 per cent in a static new-vehicle market so this year.

The pocket guide goes on to say Maserati’s first ever SUV – and first all-wheel drive model - will be powered by a circa-335kW version of the glorious 4.7-litre V8 that graces the GranTurismo and GranCabrio two-doors, and the four-door Quattroporte, which is due to be replaced next year, before a smaller new Maserati model joins the line-up.

32 center imageLeft: Maserati's 2003 Kubang concept. It said “Maserati declined to give a price target” for the SUV that will be a direct rival for Porsche’s super-successful Cayenne, which is now in its second generation and continues comprise half of the German brand’s global sales volume, but expects the five-door wagon to cost more than the equivalent Grand Cherokee in Europe.

While a Ferrari-sourced V12 is not out of the question for a top-shelf version of the Maserati SUV, it could also share its donor model’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 from MV Motori, with a performance boost from the 177kW/550Nm 3.0 CRD engine that became available here this month in the new Jeep flagship.

Jeep’s latest Grand Cherokee platform was originally designed by DaimlerChrysler for the Mercedes-Benz GL, R and MkIII M-class, which has just been launched in the US – where it is produced - and will also make its official debut at Frankfurt.

Featuring Maserati design hallmarks including three-hole front quarter vents and a large oval shaped grille with vertical ribs and the Trident badge – but little else that links it with other Maserati models, past or present – the SUV represents a key plank in Mr Marchionne’s drive for Fiat’s ‘other’ Italian sportscar brand to eventually achieve 50,000 global annual sales – almost ten times the 5675 it sold last year, including 141 in Australia.

“This is just a great architecture,” said Mr Marchionne of the new Grand Cherokee when he presented Fiat’s five-year business plan in April. “Why wouldn’t I put a Maserati on it?” he told The Wall Street Journal.

“One of the things we are now looking at in some detail is utilising this architecture and extending its application for future products both within Chrysler and outside Chrysler.” As sacrilegious as the concept might seem to some, Maserati flagged its intention to produce an SUV by showing the smaller and vastly less attractive Kubang concept in 2003 – the same year sister brand Alfa Romeo presented its conceptually similar Kamal show car.

Now, not only will Alfa follow suit, but Bentley has also confirmed its intention to build a full-size BMW X5-rivalling luxury-performance SUV, breaking similar new ground for the bespoke British brand as part of its drive to achieve 15,000 annual sales – more than double the projected 7000 units for this year.

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