Maserati may beef up Levante SUV range with 500-hp GTS version


The SUV game in the auto world has been here for a while. With the demand for SUVs or crossover still growing strong, it was not surprising that carmakers were very quick to jump into the game. However, there were a couple of latecomers, one of which is Italian luxury vehicle maker Maserati.

In January this year, Maserati unveiled its fighter in the SUV segment at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show - the 2017 Maserati Levante. When the Levante SUV started arriving at dealerships around the world in the fall, it made a big splash.

In fact, the Levante was one of the main factors why the carmaker's sales for year to date jumped by 21 percent. In addition, Maserati posted a 65-percent year-on-year surge in sales for the month of November. The Italian carmaker is also on track to achieve its annual sales target of 40,000 vehicles this year - something that is very far off from the 6,000 units sold in 2013. It seems that Maserati's strategy to focus on SUVs and saloons was hitting the right sweet spot. After all, the Levante SUV is considered as the last missing piece for Maserati's aim to sell around 75,000 vehicles in 2018.

But Maserati isn't done yet, not when a 75,000-vehicle sales target is just two years away. While Maserati arrived late on the SUV scene, it surely knows how to tick the check mark on customers' "Yes" list. While it could create another SUV-like Porsche when it backed the Cayenne up with the Macan - Maserati is hell-bent on sticking with just one offering, the Levante to protect its brand DNA. Giulio Pastore, managing director of Maserati's European division, stressed that for the Italian carmaker, it will only have the Levante as its SUV offering. He added that the carmaker wouldn't dare offer a smaller SUV to fight the Macan.

Alberto Cavaggioni, global operations chief at Maserati, also added that the carmaker wouldn't create a coupe-SUV variant of the Levante. He noted that the Levante is already a GT SUV. Levante's S model is already providing 430 hp of output, so a coupe-SUV is already out of the question. Cavaggioni also added that Maserati has no plans to offer a new entry-level model that is less powerful than the 271-hp diesel Levante.

But Pastore disclosed the possibility that Maserati would be creating a Levante model that is more powerful than the 430-hp Levante S. This Levante could be powered by the V8 3.8-liter engine found in the Maserati Quattroporte GTS. This powerplant could deliver 523 hp (390 kW) of output and 524 lb-ft (710 Nm) of torque. A Levante with this V8 engine could be dubbed as a GTS. However, Cavaggioni noted that 500hp SUVs ha a small global market. So, before deciding on a possible Levante GTS, Maserati would have to study if it is worth it.

Pastore also divulged Maserati's plans to electrify in the near future - considering options like plug-in hybrids and 48-volt hybrids. He confirmed that Maserati's first electric car would arrive by 2020. This could be an EV version of the Alfieri sports car concept unveiled at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. Maserati is ending production of the GranTurismo and GranCabrio next year, although their replacements aren't expected until the end of the decade.