As Maserati celebrates its official centenary, the Italian marque, which made its name in racing, has officially announced that it will be marking its 101st year in business with the launch of the Levante, its first off-roader.
It's no secret that Maserati has been toying with the idea of building an SUV that combines Italian style with potent performance. Way back in January 2012 it even showcased an SUV concept, the Kubang, at the Detroit motor show.
Three years on, the car, now called the Levante, is ready for launch and will be hoping to compete with the Porsche Cayenne and the BMW X5 and X6.
Despite the heft of its existing rivals in the market, Maserati has very high hopes for the new car, with the company's marketing director, James Cowan, describing the Levante as a "game-changer." "It will be our biggest seller in many markets and will attract almost universally new customers to the brand," he told Autocar.
As such, 2015 is shaping up to be a very busy year for new SUV launches, particularly those with a premium Italian flavor. Maserati's sister company Alfa Romeo will also be unveiling its first SUV next year which will be positioned to challenge the Audi Q5 and the Range Rover Evoque when it goes on sale in 2016.
At the ultra-premium end of the scale, the 2015 Geneva Motor Show in April is also expected to be the venue where Lamborghini takes the wraps off the Urus, a car it claims will be the fastest SUV in the world when it goes on sale.
But not all sportscar companies have been bitten by the SUV bug. Speaking to Drive last week, McLaren's director for global sales and marketing, Jolyon Nash, confirmed that it has absolutely no plans to move off-road. "We're a sports car company," he said. "I don't think we'd ever do an SUV, I just can't conceive an SUV. I don't imagine that McLaren would produce such a car, or a four door car or even a three door car."