Maserati to launch its first SUV

First it was Jaguar – now another luxury marque get its own crossover. Paul Horrell reports

(NOTE: Car pictured above is a render guessing at a potential Maserati SUV. Not an official release)
We told you recently that Jaguar was getting into SUVs. Even more surprising maybe, so is Maserati. And soon. The Italian-shaped crossover, imagined here by TopGear's ace render-meister Dougie Wood, launches early next year.

We say Italian-shaped, because it's actually American-boned. Underneath, it's based on the brand-new Grand Cherokee. But we had a quiet word with one of the designers, who swears you wouldn't be able to tell. The trademark Maserati patrician nose flows back into a wavy waistline, all chromed-up with somewhere muddy to go.

But only slightly muddy. Because indoors, you'll find a plush-upholstered three-piece suite in finest Italian leather, with wood strips all over the place.

As for engines, the Chrysler Hemi V8 will be the one if you need bragging rights against your mates who strap themselves into V8 Cayennes. Thank you, that'll be 6.4 litres and 465bhp. Why the Hemi and not the Ferrari-made V8 of other Maseratis? The PR spin will be that the Hemi has more torque, making it better for an SUV. The reality is it already fits the platform, and also Ferrari doesn't sell engines cheaply. Oh no.

If you're going to let sanity have any say, though, the rather good new Fiat V6 diesel will do just fine. It's also out of the Grand Cherokee.

This isn't an off-road crawler like the Grand Cherokees we've seen so far, but a speed merchant. So forget the air springs and extra low-ratio set of the normal Grand Cherokee.

The chassis is proper sophisticated independent, with adaptive damping front and rear. Electronically controlled diffs, in the rear and centre, keep the power going where it's useful.

The moment we post this story, we're expecting the comments section to light up. Maserati shouldn't make an SUV, some will howl. Maserati shouldn't make a Chrysler-based car, others will yelp.

We've every sympathy with those views. But maybe a couple of little reality-check points first.

One, Maserati needs to get its business up a notch. This is one way to do it.

Two, the Grand Cherokee is itself a derivation and improvement of Mercedes parts. (Just one of the many reasons why Fiat Group got itself a bargain when it picked up the Chrysler Group out of bankruptcy last year.)

All that said, dear commenters, it's over to you now.
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