Maserati enters SUV market with 2017 Levante

Maserati has been making attractive, luxurious Italian cars for decades.

But their newest car isn't exactly a car. It's the 2017 Maserati Levante, the latest upscale crossover SUV.

It has a base price of just over $72,000.

"First and foremost, the Levante is a proper Maserati. In fact, we like to call it the Maserati of SUVs," said Matteo Sardi, head of communications for Maserati North America.

Yes, it has the SUV shape, but in a distinctly Maserati way. The interior, especially, has that unmistakably Italian look, with a combination of comfort and sportiness.

Speaking of sporty, that's there in spades underneath as well. Two V6 engines are available, both offering big power and that great growl from the exhaust pipes.

Maserati's the latest high-end car company to jump into the SUV market. Players now include Porsche, which has two offerings, the Cayenne and Macan. British luxury brand Jaguar launched the F-Pace SUV last year, and even super-luxury brand Bentley has an SUV called the Bentayga. Buyers can't seem to get enough of them.

So why all the luxury SUVs on the market today?

To many, they represent the best of both worlds: A big cargo area out back for occasional needs, but up front, you're driving what is essentially a luxury car.

And that's why these premium sport utility vehicles have been so successful.

One problem for the auto industry: Many people who buy them do so instead of buying a sedan, and that has hurt sedan sales a bit.

In Jaguar's case, the F-Pace was launched at about the same time as their XE sport sedan, and the F-pace is way ahead so far in sales.

But Maserati is definitely sticking with cars as well, and doesn't see a reason right now to have more SUVs than the Levante in their showrooms.

"We feel like our portfolio is complete right now, though we are concentrating on Levante in this first year for it," Sardi noted.

So if you always wanted a Maserati, but don't like SUVs, don't worry. The Levante isn't replacing anything in their lineup. But if you like the idea of an Italian luxury car with a whole lot of cargo space, you're now in luck.
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