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Australian-spec Maserati SUV to arrive only in high-grade guise, making it an expensive proposition here

Maserati's fifth model, and its first SUV, will not arrive in Australia until late 2016, and then only with turbo-petrol power. The high-riding, mould-breaking wagon, dubbed Levante, which is based on the same platform as the Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans, is to be Australia's first taste of Maserati all-wheel drive, and won't be cheap.

Speaking to at the launch of the Quattroporte S this week, a spokesperson for the brand's local importer, ATECO, said the Levante will remain a prestige proposition, and will not compete on the same footing as Porsche's lower-end Cayenne variants.

"The Levante will remain an exclusive vehicle," stated Maserati's local spokesperson. "The bulk of Cayenne sales come from lower models that we won't be competing with, and have no great desire to compete with."

The statement indicates that only higher powered versions of the Levante are likely, which will preclude both the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel and low-output 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol found in European versions of both the Ghibli and Quattroporte ranges. That leaves the 310kW/550Nm twin-turbocharged V6 and 390kW/710Nm twin-turbo V8 as the most viable options, which would place the Levante on a similar footing to Porsche's Cayenne GTS and range-topping Cayenne Turbo.

With that in mind, and considering the importer's promise of exclusivity, the Levante is likely to be priced north of $150,000 when it lands in local showrooms, the same which are already bracing for an influx of conquest buyers.

ATECO says that, like the Quattroporte S, the new Ghibli small sedan (due in July 2014) and Levante SUV (due Q4, 2016) will prompt "a significant transformation for the business as a whole", and that Maserati dealerships are already bracing for a surge in sales.

The Quattroporte S has driven a 57 per cent uptick in sales of the marque, rising from eight per cent (year-on-year) in 2012-13. The brand's local spokesman says the issue has already placed the importer in the enviable position of selling every car it can get its hands on, but warns supply is starting to present an issue.

"The issue is that our sales figures will be determined by what we can get, rather than what we can sell. We will be on restricted supply for the rest of this year," he said. "[But] because Maserati volume is going to increase, you're going to see more Maserati free-standing dealers, and that's already started."

"Adelaide separated [from Ferrari] late last year, quickly followed by Auckland, and that's because we needed a much bigger dealership [representation] in anticipation of Ghibli and Levante. Sydney and Melbourne are set to follow and south-eastern Queensland when Levante arrives."

The Levante is slated to make its European launch towards the end of next year (2015) with an Australian arrival anticipated "towards the end of the following year (2016)". Full pricing and specifications will be confirmed closer to that time.

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According to my dealer here - They are attempting as a company to go against Cayenne and BMW X5/X6 markets. Pricing in the U.S. is expected begin slightly above where the Ghibli starts which would place it head to head with the middle to upper Cayenne models which makes sense in order to survive. Additionally, the three dealers I have spoken with have all verified that if all goes well, Maserati is primed and likely to move to lower priced luxury models in the next few years to compete against the new Macan, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, and Audi offerings... This can be done without diluting the higher end models if approached correctly. I don't hear anyone saying Porsche is a cheap, diluted brand - .etc.
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