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Could a V8-powered Maserati Levante topple the Porsche Cayenne Turbo?

The Levante, Maserati’s first-ever SUV, will launch in the fall with a pair of turbocharged V6 engines under the hood, but the Fiat-owned company is looking into introducing a range-topping model powered by a V8 engine.

The twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 mill that powers the range-topping Quattroporte fits neatly in the Levante’s engine bay, according to Maserati. It delivers 523 horsepower and 524 pound-feet of torque, and it spins the big sedan’s rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission controlled by shift paddles. The Levante V8 would ditch rear-wheel drive in favor of a more winter-friendly all-wheel drive system.

The V8-powered Levante isn’t merely a vague idea that gets discussed during the company’s board meetings. Maserati told Autoblog that its engineers have already started testing a V8 prototype, though the company warns that the model hasn’t been approved for production yet. Davide Danesin, the head of Maserati vehicle programs, explained that the super-SUV segment is fairly small, so Maserati will only compete in it if the project makes perfect financial sense.

A V8-powered Levante would face stiff competition. Its main rivals would include the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR, which uses a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 rated at 550 horsepower, and Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo and Cayenne Turbo S, which are equipped with a turbocharged 4.8-liter V8 tuned to 520 and 570 horsepower, respectively.

In addition to a V8-powered Levante, Maserati is also preparing to introduce a fuel-sipping variant powered by a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain. Full technical details aren’t available, likely because they haven’t been finalized yet, but company boss Harald Wester recently told Motor Trend that the plug-in Levante will share a handful of electric components with Chrysler’s Pacifica hybrid. The SUV will be capable of driving on electricity alone for short distances.

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Maserati will introduce the plug-in hybrid Levante in select markets in either late 2017 or early 2018. Even if it’s approved for production, the V8-powered model is also at least a year away from making its debut.

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