The unfamiliar Rayton-fissore Magnum – and, contrary to popular belief, not the Lamborghini LM002 from 1986 – was the first luxury SUV from an Italian vehicle manufacturer with supercar power. The Magnum, designed by Tom Tjaarda and built in limited numbers in Italy from 1985 to 2003, was sold in Europe with a range of 4-, 6-, and 8-cylinder engines as a competitor to the Range Rover. However, the more powerful United States version, marketed as Laforza, used American V8 muscle (some supercharged) from Ford and General Motors, while the Rambo Lambo with its Countachderived 5.2-litre V12 was the first to use Italian horsepower in this application.
Now, three decades later, Laforza is back – in the form of the latest petrol-driven Maserati Levante S.
Endowed with a Ferrari-designed 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine, with direct injection delivering a healthy 316 kw of power and 580 Nm of torque, it is (for now) the most powerful mid-sized Italian SUV available.
The Levante, named after a Mediterranean wind, was developed by the FCA Group following the market success of luxury SUVS such as the Porsche Cayenne and Jaguar F-pace.
The first four-wheel drive Maserati, introduced last year, proved an immediate success. The Modenese manufacturer sold more than 25,000 Levantes in 72 countries around the world in just over a year, quadrupling its sales and making it the highest-selling Maserati in that time. It blew into South Africa last year, but only in diesel guise. And while the VM Motori V6