In the swarm of SUVs, the new Maserati Levante is a class on its own, combining luxury with power, in a look that is unmistakably Italian, writes
or many years now, the hottest segment in the car market has been that of the sports utility vehicle (SUV), which originated in North America and the United Kingdom. Its phenomenal growth has forced traditional carmakers to sit up, take notice, and eventually design and produce their own versions.
There are basically two approaches to designing an SUV. The first has as its primary purpose to transport passengers off the beaten path, at the same time make it appealing to the mainstream car buyer who would never dream of driving off-road. The second approach builds an SUV onto an existing sedan platform, resulting in a vehicle with somewhat more limited off-road capabilities but more carlike (as opposed to truck-like) driving characteristics.
The first approach is exemplified by brands such as Land Rover, Toyota, Nissan, and Jeep: vehicles noted more for their ability to, as the song goes, “climb every mountain, ford every stream,” rather than the comfort of the ride or the luxury of the appointments. These carmakers began to notice in the late 70s and 80s that sales were spiking upward, and that most of their new buyers were not motivated by the SUV’s off-road capabilities as they were by the large interior space, load capacity, higher driving position, and ground clearance. As a result, they installed more amenities and creature comforts, tuned the suspension for a softer highway ride, and watched as sales took off.
Wanting a foothold in the North American SUV market but unwilling to spend the time and money to develop a true off-roader from scratch, BMW had the brilliant idea of installing a boxy SUV body and all-wheel drive on its bestselling 5- Series sedan chassis. With ground clearance raised and the suspension adjusted for some off-road use, the ground-breaking BMW X5 was born—and sold like hotcakes!