Maserati SUV

HAS THE Italian automotive world gone crazy? Ferrari’s new flagship V12 supercar is a four-seat, all-wheel-drive hatchback and now Maserati is set to join Porsche, Range Rover and BMW by offering a luxury SUV.

If this news isn’t shocking enough for red-blooded enthusiasts, the Maserati SUV will be based on Jeep’s recently released Grand Cherokee, thanks to Fiat’s 35 percent stake in the once-bankrupt Chrysler Group.

Keen to dissuade adverse reaction by Maserati tifosi, brand management is claiming the new luxury SUV, due for launch in 2012, will share only basic DNA with the hulking American off-roader.

According to Harald Wester, who oversees the entire passenger- car business for all Fiat brands (including Maserati), the still- nameless SUV gets its own exterior, interior and engines.

Only the basic architecture, suspension, key safety elements and the suite of electronics are shared with the Grand Cherokee.

Having said that, the entry-level engine will be a highly-developed version of the Chrysler Pentastar V6. Word is, the 3.6-litre petrol V6 will produce around 260kW and 400Nm – up from 210kW/347Nm in the Grand Cherokee.

The engine that will interest enthusiasts and the target American market is a 3.9-litre V8 developed and built by Ferrari. Don’t worry about the small capacity; the direct-injection V8 is twin-turbocharged and will pump out 335kW and 600Nm – more than enough to deal with the SUV’s likely 2200kg mass.

For Europe only, VM Motori will supply a version of its A630 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 with around 190kW and 550Nm.

All engines will be backed by an eight-speed ZF automatic.

Other Maserati-specific hardware includes carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes and a Corsa button to sharpen engine and gearbox responses as well as firm up the adjustable Skyhook dampers.

What's your say? Do you like the design?

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.

Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!