Maserati Levante could get a V8 to battle the Cayenne Turbo

Even better news: A prototype already exists.

Maserati's new Levante crossover is based on the platform shared by the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans. The Quattroporte's top engine is a 523-horsepower, twin-turbo 3.8-liter V8. When asked if that engine would fit in the Levante, a Maserati engineer gave the answer we were hoping to hear almost immediately.

"Yes, it fits, and we have a prototype already," said Davide Danesin, the head of Maserati vehicle programs. The Levante will launch with two models, both of which use the 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that Ferrari builds for Maserati, but in two different tunes. The first generation of the V6 launched in the Ghibli and Quattroporte. While the V8 is only currently used in the rear-drive Quattroporte GTS, Danesin assures us that packaging the V8 and an all-wheel-drive system works. There is that prototype, after all.

The fact that Danesin volunteered that a V8 prototype exists leads us to believe it's being very seriously considered, since manufacturers reluctantly acknowledge that there will even be a future, let alone one that will bring new, as-yet-unannounced products. Maserati officials caution that it may be tough to make a case for such a vehicle, however, as the over-500-hp SUV segment is pretty small, at about 12,000 units per year by their estimates. It's also relatively crowded, with the logical bogeys being the Porsche Cayenne Turbo (520 hp) and Turbo S (570 hp) and the Range Rover Sport SVR (550 hp). None of them will touch the Levante's upcoming American cousin, the Hellcat-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, but that's cool.

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We'd guess that the yay/nay on a V8 Levante will hinge on the overall popularity of the new model as well as the mix of 345-hp Levante versus 424-hp Levante S models once customers start ordering. Which is to say, if you think you'll want a V8 Levante eventually, get out there and buy a few Levante S models when they hit dealers this October.

In other Maserati powertrain news, we're told the second-generation V6, which makes 20 more horsepower in its angriest tune and debuts in the Levante, will show up in the Ghibli and Quattroporte "soon." We'd peg that at mid-cycle refresh time, which should be in a year or so. The second-gen V6 gets its extra power from re-profiled camshafts, some redesign work on the heads, and other tweaks, likely in software.

Oh, and for more on the first Maserati crossover and that updated engine, watch for our first drive of the twin-turbo V6 Levante very soon. It might turn out that it doesn't need a V8. Maybe. Probably not.

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