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Maserati's Levante SUV is here

And its looks may divide. Official pics and details of the Italian Cayenne rival here

This, ladies and gents, is the Maserati Levante.

We knew a trident-badged SUV was on its way, and here it is at last. It has certainly brought some styling with it.

You’ll know your own eyes better than us, but there’s plenty to digest: a bold snarling grille, a sculptured bonnet and those familiar Maserati side vents all lead towards hindquarters which are somewhat reminiscent of the Porsche Cayenne’s.

The interior is familiar. You’ll recognise it from Maserati’s saloon cars, the Ghibli and Quattroporte. This is fine by us. And of course, there’s all the tech – adaptive this and active that - you’d expect from such a car.

There are unashamed links to Maser’s sports cars up top, then, but what about underneath? Well, we’re being promised “unrivalled handling even on very low-grip surfaces”, and given this class is now thronging with absurdly sharp contenders - thanks largely to the Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Pace and Range Rover Sport - that’s a strong claim.

To make sure it delivers, Maserati has used heaps of aluminium to keep the weight down. It claims the Levante has the lowest centre of gravity (and drag coefficient, for that matter) of any car in its class, and what weight there is, is distributed perfectly front to back. It’s the only car in its class with a mechanical limited-slip differential, too.

All versions get air suspension, all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and there’s a choice of petrol and diesel engines. The one everyone – at least in Europe – will buy is the V6 diesel. It has 271bhp and 443lb ft of torque, and 0-62mph takes a little under seven seconds. Progress will be unruffled, then, if not outrageously rapid. But Maserati has fitted a couple of sound actuators down by the exhaust, so the Levante diesel will at least sound quick. In theory.

Those in pursuit of actual speed will require the V6 petrol, with either 345bhp, or 425bhp in the Levante S. The latter hits 62mph in 5.2secs.

No V8, at least not yet. A plug-in hybrid version likely lies on the horizon though, to help the Levante keep pace with its many posh SUV rivals.

It shouldn’t be long before you see one for real, either: following its Geneva motor show reveal, deliveries start in the spring.

Simple question, really: like it?

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