Levante to Give Jeep Italian Flavor

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Maserati is looking to the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6 for its upcoming Levante, but plans to give it more Latin character than either - or the Jeep Grand Cherokee on which it will be based.

With the new Quattroporte and Ghibli already released, the focus in Modena is turning to the next model that will help Maserati catapult from 6,300 sales per year to 50,000 by 2015. That model, of course, is the Levante. But while the SUV will be based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Maserati is taking some significant steps to make it look and feel like a Maserati should. For starters, its name is taken from the street where the Maserati brothers started out in Bologna (and not the Middle Eastern region like the Khamsin and Karif that whose names were taken from Arabic).

There'll be more Italian to the Levante than the name, though. While production was initially expected to take place in Detroit alongside the Grand Cherokee is built, the new plan is to build it in Italy. There it will be fitted with the turbo V6 and V8 engines that have already been launched for the Ghibli and Quattroporte, paired to an eight-speed automatic and Maserati's new Q4 all-wheel drive system (instead of Jeep's). The Levante is being benchmarked against the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6, but promises to offer more Italian flavor in its look and feel. With as much as 530 horsepower on tap, here's hoping it can keep the pace, too.

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