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FRANKFURT MOTORSHOW 2011
Maserati guns for Cayenne n Kubang SUV due late 2013 n Next-gen 4.7 V8 n Performance to rival Porsche Cayenne Turbo n Grand Cherokee chassis n Bespoke cabin
A400bhp-plus Maserati SUV powered by a Ferrari-built V8 will enter production in late 2013. The five-seat Maserati Kubang — one of the stars of the Frankfurt motor show — will carve out a new niche for a thoroughbred-powered SUV with the performance to take on the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Range Rover Sport Supercharged.
“The Kubang will be a true Maserati, with strong performance, sports handling and elegant styling,” said Maserati boss Harald Wester.
The Kubang shares its unibody platform and independent suspension with the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee, itself a version of the new Mercedes ML.
At 4.85m long, the Kubang is about 20mm longer than a Grand Cherokee but the roofline is 10mm lower, giving it a slightly squatter stance. The shared understructure is clothed in unique panels and the Kubang’s windscreen is raked more aggressively.
The styling is the work of Fiat’s Turin-based Centro Stile, headed by ex-Pininfarina chief designer Lorenzo Ramaciotti.
He and his team have created an imposing design centred around a hallmark Maserati grille and dominant trident badge. They have also ensured that the Kubang features the Maserati ‘triangle’ D-pillar, first seen on the Ghibli in 1966.
Apart from the concept headlights and tail-lamps, the design is “95 per cent” the production car, Ramaciotti said, although it still awaits final board approval. However, Fiat-Chrysler chief Sergio Marchionne and Ferrari boss
KEYQUESTION Will it succeed?
There are few dead-cert sales successes, but a luxury SUV wearing a premium badge seems to one of them. From the 1999 launch of the BMW X5, whose pre-launch sales prediction fell woefully short, to the Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover
Sport, the formula rarely fails. Understandably, Maserati has been desperate to get in on the act, but only now has it gained access to the base technology it needs. HILTON HOLLOWAY
Luca di Montezemolo were openly admiring the design at the launch.
Ramaciotti said, “I can have the design ready for approval before the end of the year.”
An all-new interior will have a unique instrument panel and be trimmed in Maserati’s range of leathers and carpet.
“Everything the customer touches and smells must be unique to Maserati,” he says.
Given the Jeep underpinnings, Maserati has lowered the seats by about 10mm for a slightly sportier driving position.
And although the sloping roofline looks like it might
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Roofline is lower than Grand Cherokee’s and screens are more raked
Maserati’s 4.7 V8 is expected to slot behind prominent trident grille
Maserati guns for Cayenne n Kubang SUV due late 2013 n Next-gen 4.7 V8 n Performance to rival Porsche Cayenne Turbo n Grand Cherokee chassis n Bespoke cabin compromise rear cabin headroom, Ramaciotti says adult passengers can comfortably sit in the rear.
Details of the running gear and four-wheel drive system were being kept under wraps at Frankfurt. But Wester did say that the “suspension, brakes and handling will be 100 per cent Maserati”. That’s understood to mean the hardware in the suspension will be shared with the Jeep and Merc but the chassis tuning will be different. The brakes are likely to be unique hardware.
Also available from the parts bin is a rotary controller for selecting programs that tailor ride height, traction control and centre diff operation, like Land Rover’s Terrain Response system.
‘The design is 95 per cent the production car, says chief designer Lorenzo Ramaciotti’
The engine is expected to be the next-gen Maserati 4.7-litre V8 mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic with stop-start.
Maserati’s charismatic 4.7 engine is due for an upgrade and the work will be the responsibility of engine chief Paolo Martinelli, formerly of Ferrari. Assembly of the engine will continue at Maranello.
Given the 4.7’s fabulous exhaust note in the GranTurismo S coupé, particularly its exotic snarl at start-up, the Kubang could emerge as one of the most exciting enthusiast’s SUVs ever. JULIAN RENDELL
The SUV shown at Frankfurt is the second Maserati to be named Kubang. The first was an SUV designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro that appeared at the Detroit show in 2003, just months after Porsche had shocked the world with the Cayenne.
But that car’s production future instantly hit trouble, despite plans for 10,000 units a year. At that time, Maserati was under Ferrari’s control, but a four-wheel drive platform couldn’t be found.
So a tie-up with Audi for the quattro drivetrain was discussed, prompting Ferrari to predict at the end of 2003 that a production announcement was imminent. However, the Audi deal stalled and by spring 2004 the Kubang was dead.
Ferrari-Maserati then underwent a major organisational change, with high-profile Brit Martin Leach taking the top job at Maserati. Shortly after, Maserati was paired with Alfa Romeo.
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