500bhp Maserati Levante super-SUV under consideration

The Maserati Levante line-up could get a hot version with more than 500bhp later in its lifecycle to rival models such as the BMW X6 M.

A souped-up version of the Levante might echo the Quattroporte range-topper, which uses a 3.8-litre V8 engine delivering 523bhp and 479lb ft. At a similar weight to the luxury saloon, the Levante could cover 0-62mph in around 4.5sec, more than 2.0sec faster than the current 3.0-litre V6 diesel.

Maserati global operations boss Alberto Cavaggioni said: "For sure, we have the engine on the Quattroporte so there is potential, but it has to be justified by volumes." He went on to cite the modest sales of rival cars as reason for caution.

However, he added: "If you mirror what we do with the Quattroporte, we could do the same on everything we do."

Cavaggioni said there were "lots of improvements" to be made on the standard Levante and this would be Maserati's focus but it "still has to have something in the pocket" for the future, hinting at a hotter version that would be likely to buoy sales later in the model's lifecycle.

In the shorter term, the 3.0-litre V6 petrol-powered Levante could still make it to the UK, with a decision expected by the Geneva motor show next March. Although petrol sales of the model are most popular in the US and China, the brand is currently investigating the possibility of bringing it to the UK, with European general manager Giulio Pastore sayng he is "in favour" of the idea.

Levante sales are ramping up for the brand, with the SUV expected to account for 50% of its UK volume next year.