Grand old Italian brand Maserati has a grand new plan to electrify its entire line-up. Some interesting and exciting EVs are coming, as the company moves to replace traditional exhaust-pipe braap with battery-pack zap.
These are some way from launch, but in the meantime the Levante Hybrid is ready to roll. It’s a second very small step in Maserati’s electrification program, and it will reach Australia in the second half of the year.
The petrol-burning engine of this high-end luxury SUV gets a low-voltage electric boost. In other words it’s a mild hybrid, just like Maserati’s first-ever petrol-electric production model, the Ghibli Hybrid.
Launched in Europe in late 2020 and just now arriving here, the Ghibli Hybrid has a four-cylinder engine. It’s closely related to the turbo 2.0-litre used in some of the other brands owned by new car industry giant Stellantis, recently created when PSA Group (Peugeot, Citroen and Opel) merged with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Though the same basic engine is also used by Alfa Romeo and Jeep, for the Levante and Ghibli Hybrids it’s thoroughly Maserati-fied. The big changes are an electric compressor to push air into the engine at low revs, where the engine’s normal exhaust-driven turbo isn’t effective, and a belt-drive starter-generator.
For the Levante Hybrid, there’s one more difference. It’s all-wheel-drive, not rear-drive like the Ghibli Hybrid, so the engine oil sump has been altered so the driveshaft for the SUV’s front axle passes through it. Both the Maserati hybrids use the same small 48-volt battery pack.
This doesn’t read like a recipe for excitement, but Maserati’s hybrid works really well. Driving a Ghibli Hybrid late last year, the powertrain was snappy and snarly.
Maserati engineers prioritised performance over efficiency. As in the Ghibli, the Levante Hybrid almost matches their base V6 for power. And it equals, they say, the fuel consumption of the V6 diesel-powered Levante it replaces in the line-up.
But the Levante Hybrid is really only a warm-up act for the group of all-new models coming later this year and in 2022, all of them to be produced with battery-powered versions. These include a replacement for the ageing-gracefully GranTurismo coupe, a smaller SUV called Grecale and, best of all, the lovely MC20 supercar.