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Maserati Levante starts from $140K

Wait and see: The Levante – Maserati's first SUV – is already proving popular in Australia with an order bank in place.

New Levante SUV expected to nearly double Australian Maserati sales

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Maserati logo29 Jun 2016

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

MASERATI Australia will aim to double its sales next year to around 1000 units on the back of the Levante premium SUV that was unveiled locally this week with a three-tier line-up priced from $139,990 plus on-road costs.

The Levante will arrive in January only with a 202kW/600Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 and eight-speed automatic because turbocharged petrol variants of the same cylinder count and engine capacity, delivering 260kW or 320kW, are not produced in right-hand drive.

Above the standard Levante are the identically priced $159,990 Levante Luxury and Levante Sport model grades.

Speaking at the local reveal of the Levante in Sydney, Maserati Australia chief operating officer Glen Sealey confirmed the new SUV has already accrued a sizeable order bank and would next year make up 55 per cent of the brand’s total sales.

“Of the 1000 cars (Maserati plans to sell in 2017) if we can get between 500 and 600 cars (Levantes) that’s a good number,” he said, adding that 10 per cent of that production would be New Zealand-bound.

“We’ve not shown the car (locally), we’ve not given a real price and we’ve not been able to finalise specification and already we have orders in the triple digits. Production (Australian bound) certainly for the first few months is already spoken for.” Last year Maserati sales totalled 519 in Australia, including 345 Ghibli mid-size sedans.

Mr Sealey said he believed the Levante would mirror the similarly priced Ghibli sedan’s 35 to 50 year-old buyer profile, with an increasing number of female buyers while an estimated 84 per cent will be new to the Maserati brand.

But he stopped short of saying the new SUV would poach buyers of its sedan sibling.

“There will be people who have that much money to spend who will perhaps move from one to the other (Ghibli to Levante) but we genuinely expect the Levante will introduce people to the Maserati brand who have never thought of a Maserati,” he said.

“The price points are very similar (Levante to Ghibli) but the driving and emotion is very different, particularly because Levante is a diesel only and that’s what the market wants and the majority of Ghibli sales is petrol.

“The petrol experience … is quite loud, it’s quite raucous, and that’s what you get in Ghibli, and it’s a different experience in the Levante SUV.” While Mr Sealey claimed that sound is a “core brand value for Maserati” he stressed that the diesel’s soundtrack mimicked that of an “old rumbling V8”.

He added that the lack of right-hand-drive petrol Levante availability was not a deal-breaker given that in the premium-SUV segment (which he defines as larger than 3.0-litre engine capacity) 11 per cent of buyers select a petrol engine.

“Diesel is available in right-hand drive (and) this engine is the right engine for this market,” he said.

“If I look at the bit that we’re missing (petrol), it’s still substantial and we’d like to take advantage of that, but today the priority is to maximise our potential in the majority of the market.

“We’ve got our hand up for every variant I can get (and) I’d like to be playing in that other 10 per cent of the market. But if I was sitting here and saying we had a petrol and no diesel, I’d be very upset because it’s 90 per cent of the market.” He said the Levante aims to blend attributes of its two main rivals – the sportiness of the Porsche Cayenne with the comfort of the Range Rover Sport.

Standard equipment in the entry variant includes 19-inch alloy wheels (or no-cost option 18s), front and rear cameras and parking sensors, bi-Xenon headlights, blind-spot monitor, 8.4-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation/digital radio/Apple CarPlay connectivity, leather trim with 12-way electrically adjustable and heated front seats and an electrically operated tailgate.

The Luxury model grade of Maserati’s 5.0-metre-long SUV adds 20-inch alloys, ‘fine grain’ extended leather trim, Alcantara rooflining, chrome boot sill, an electrically adjustable steering column and a 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system, with the latter two features shared with the identically priced Sport.

The Sport – expected to snare 40 per cent of sales, the same as the entry-level variant and leaving the Luxury at 20 per cent – instead has 21-inch alloys and adds a black front grille, rear spoiler, sports steering wheel, front seats and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

An extensive options list across the three model grades includes adaptive headlights, surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision and lane departure warning, silk and leather ‘Zegna’ edition cabin, heated steering wheel and rear seats, ventilated front seats, four-zone climate control, keyless auto-entry with alarm system and 1200-watt Bowers and Wilkins audio system.

The 2205kg premium SUV has a 6.9-second 0-100km/h and combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres.

Every Levante claims to feature the lowest centre of gravity (at 610mm) and slipperiest aerodynamics (at 0.31cd) in its segment, and includes a 50:50 weight distribution, mechanical limited-slip differential and Intelligent Q4 Traction System that typically portions drive to the rear wheels only.

Four drive modes – Normal, Sport, Offroad and Intelligent Controlled Efficiency (ICE) – combine with five individually selectable ride heights (raising the SUV by 40mm or lowering it by 45mm) for the standard air suspension.

Sport includes a torque vectoring system dubbed Active Torque Control (ATC). The Levante’s front suspension is modelled off the Ghibli sedan’s multi-link structure, but overall torsional rigidity increases by 20 per cent.

Mr Sealey confirmed that while the wait list for the Levante was growing, if an order was placed today the buyer could still expect delivery in the first quarter of 2017.

2016 Maserati Levante pricing*
Levante (a) $139,990
Levante Luxury (a) $159,990
Levante Sport (a) $159,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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