Following the likes of Jaguar and Bentley, Maserati has become the latest luxury automaker in recent months to launch an initial foray into the luxury SUV marketplace. As shopper dollars continually push the luxury utility vehicle to new levels of popularity, more automakers are making their initial venture into the scene, and the Italian brand plans to get in on the action with a new model called the Levante.

Named after a warm Mediterranean wind that’s said to change from a light breeze to an irresistible force in instant, the marquee’s first dip in the luxury utility ocean joins the Quattroporte, Ghibli, GranTurismo and GranTurismo Convertible, forming a complete model line which Maserati says now covers the entire global luxury marketplace.

Like its siblings, the Levante boasts signature brand design cues, with unmistakable wheels, fender vent ornaments, a deep and dramatic concave grille, and an athletic stance and scowling face. A moderate rake to the rear windscreen and relatively flat beltline remind us a little of the Porsche Cayenne or Infiniti QX50 – and Maserati says the coupe-sleek lines help achieve best-in-class aerodynamic slipperiness.

On board, the automaker says shoppers can expect a full array of luxury accoutrements, including premium leathers, and silk from Ermenegildo Zegna, a clothing manufacturer who sells $900 cardigans, and creates special silk for Maserati at their own mill with a patented process. Shoppers can also specify extended feature packages, including both Luxury and Sport packages, which allow further fine-tuning of the Levante to individual needs and tastes. Various roof-carrier, trailering and cargo-related accessories are available to tailor the Levante to virtually any need or lifestyle.

The Levante is capable of hauling some cargo, though it’s perhaps best set up to haul….something else… given the engine options. Specifically, a 3.0L, twin-turbo V6 gas engine that delivers 345 or 424 hp, in the Levante, or Levante S, respectively. No word on whether the Levante’s diesel engine, available in other markets, will come here. With twin-turbo gasoline power, drivers can expect 0-100 km/h in as little as 5.1 seconds.

Maserati’s Q4 intelligent AWD system will be standard, maximizing traction and agility across a wide range of driving conditions and answering the call of shoppers who demand all-season access to confident performance motoring. An eight-speed automatic and an idle-slashing Start/Stop system are both standard kit.

Furthering the Levante’s promise of pleasing performance is a 50/50 weight distribution, and suspension with double-wishbone architecture up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. A so-called Skyhook damper system optimizes ride quality in real time, and air springs enable six ride height positions that can be dispatched in response to changing terrain. A seventh ride height position can be activated while the Levante is stationary, easing passenger entry and exit. A mechanical, self-locking rear differential is included with all models, because open differentials are for peasants.

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All safety and communication must-haves typical of the segment are fitted as well, including outward-looking hazard-detection systems, a camera-based parking monitor system, and a central display screen controlled by a command dial positioned at the driver’s fingertips.

The Turin-built Levante is already in production, with a springtime launch planned for Europe, and a global roll-out scheduled for later this year. Pricing for the Levante should start around $72,000 (USD).

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