In 1989, Chrysler and Maserati celebrated their first love affair. The ensuing offspring was known as TC by Maserati, but customers ignored the LeBaron-based glitterati so stubbornly that production ended after only three years.
Fast forward to 2010, and we find that Maserati is looking to get into the SUV business. Last November, Sergio Marchionne added a large Maserati crossover to the two smaller Alfa Romeo crossovers that he'd announced earlier in the year. Trouble is, all three vehicles are based on Chrysler Jeep models, a bloodline that presumably doesn't bode well for premium European brands. In the case of Maserati in particular, the required genes will be siphoned from the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which is a decent vehicle but not exactly an eye-to-eye rival to the BMW X5/X6, Porsche Cayenne, or Land Rover Range Rover Sport.
According to Harald Wester, who oversees the entire passenger-car business for all Fiat brands, the still-nameless four-wheel-drive luxury trident gets its own exterior, its own interior, and its own engines. Only the body architecture, the suspension, the key safety elements and the electronic platform are to be shared with Motown's finest. To emphasize its ambitious position in the marketplace, insiders expect subtle content enhancements like additional air bags and driver-assistance systems, Brembo brakes with carbon-ceramic discs, and exclusive features such as Maserati's Corsa button, which stiffens dampers and quickens gearchanges. On the engine front, we should see a specially prepared version of the Pentastar V-6 reportedly rated at 350 hp. One rung up, there almost certainly will be a 3.9-liter V-8 designed and built by Ferrari. Featuring active intake and exhaust manifolds and a two-stage exhaust, this direct-injection twin-turbo unit is tipped to deliver 450 hp. For Europe only, there likely will be a high-performance 3.0-liter turbo-diesel good for perhaps 250 hp. The transmission of choice is allegedly an eight-speed ZF automatic.
Although Audi intends to bring the curb weight of the next Q7 down to 4400 pounds by using a body made of aluminum, the bilingual U.S.-made SUV will probably struggle to undercut the 5000-pound mark. In terms of presence and street cred, however, the all-terrain, four-seasons Maserati is unlikely to disappoint.