Electrification of Maserati is recharging the boutique auto brand. Breathing new life into its American and Chinese markets.
Italian luxury sports brand Maserati will score two new models next year after five years with the same three-model range. Photo: Getty Getty
Seemingly asleep for too long, Italian boutique automaker Maserati is about to rejoin the auto game. But not just any game, Maserati is making the leap into battery electric vehicles with a new BEV sports car.
Having put its jaw-dropping Alfieri two-door coupe on the backburner, it has switched tack and will now deliver its new sports car as soon as next March’s Geneva auto show.
It’s also prepping a Porsche Macan-sized crossover SUV to begin sales next year, after its new-model pipeline being clogged up for the last five years.
Maserati’s head of communications, Maria Conti, told Australia’s carsales.com.au that it would launch an all-new sports car next year – and promised that this time it would make it to production.
“We will have a special surprise in the first quarter of 2020, probably at Geneva, a new generation sports car to be built right here in Modena,” she told the news-breaking website.
The carmaker didn’t furbish further details, but insiders insist it will be a plug-in hybrid two-door – and that the Geneva car will be the final production version rather than another concept.
It will be the first Maserati off an all-new electrified platform and should boast a two-second sprint to 60mph, thanks to a three-motor powertrain and an 800-Volt battery system.
It’s the same system announced for the Alfieri, which was largely developed but then had nowhere to be housed.
It will usher in a range of plug-in Maseratis, with the company’s parent, FCA, signing a contract for hybrid-ready transmissions with Germany’s ZF this month. It will receive exactly the same eight-speed transmission system (codenamed 8HP) that BMW plans to use, complete with an integrated electric motor.
The volume push for Maserati will come from the new, unnamed small SUV, which will give the pudgy, uncompetitive Levante a little brother.
A concept version of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio-SUV/crossover should appear at September’s Frankfurt auto show before going into showrooms next year as part of a push to 100,000 cars a year by 2022.
The Italian brand promises the SUV will have 50:50 weight distribution, a class-leading power-to-weight ratio and Level 3 self-driving capability.
It will use the Stelvio’s Giorgio platform to allow a 3.0-litre V6 to fit, along with a new plug-in hybrid powertrain system.
The twin-turbo V6 is tipped to power the entry-level version, with at least the 257kW and 500Nm from the same engine in current Maseratis, while there is also a 321kW/580Nm version of the motor in current Ghibli, Levante and Quattroporte S models.
With the Turbo version of the Porsche Macan sitting at 294kW and 550Nm, the Maserati baby SUV should be right in the power hunt.
But the upcoming plug-in hybrid Maserati squadron could potentially be even faster than the new EV sportscar, with the electrification of Maserati’s entire range, including the Ghibli, the Quattroporte and the Levante, due in the early 2020s.
The successors to the Levante, the Ghibli and the Quattroporte could feasibly combine those same three electric motors with the 440kW/730Nm version of the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 engine from the Levante Trofeo.
Ferrari’s SF90 Stradale plug-in has 1000 horsepower with this exact configuration, but (as ever) it’s doubtful that Ferrari would let Maserati challenge it on power.
The other area of doubt is whether there would be a market for that much Maserati. The plug-ins are aimed at Chinese and American customers, who are more likely to ask for the cost advantages of mating the electrical system with a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6 gasoline motor.
Maserati (and the internally twinned Alfa Romeo brand) brought former Ferrari technical boss Roberto Fedeli back from BMW in 2016 to oversee the electrification of the brands.
He brought the hybrid hypercar, the Ferrari LaFerrari, into production and left for BMW, where he was deeply involved in carbon-fibre chassis development and the EV powertrain for the stillborn i5 electric car.
The Levante SUV was Maserati’s last new production car, launching in 2014, and it showed the Alfieri concept car in the same year, promising it for production in 2016, then delaying it to 2022 before killing it completely.