Make Mine...Maserati

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

Philippine Tatler - - LIFE -

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!

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