Maserati LevanteThe Maserati Levante SUV has at last been officially revealed by the evocative Italian firm – its first-ever SUV that will make its public debut at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show.

A key part of Maserati’s future strategy, the Levante will go head-to-head with the Porsche Cayenne; drawn from the Quattroporte platform, the firm will be aiming to give it a similarly sporting setup.

Maserati Levante

Indeed, this is partly why the much-anticipated Levante is so late to market: earlier iterations were based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee platform, but Maserati felt this simply couldn’t be made sporty enough. Hence, the switch to the air-suspended, all-wheel drive Quattroporte, making it 100% Maserati (and a year late).

Maserati is stressing this is just an exterior styling reveal for now, possibly influenced by leaked images of the car being published earlier today. We’ll have to wait for Geneva to see the interior and find out confirmed stats from what’s under the bonnet (and thus just how high-performance this sporty SUV really is).

Maserati Levante

We know mechanically what’s behind that big, bold grille though: the V6 turbo petrol and diesel engines, and the V8 turbo petrol, of the Ghibli and Quattroporte. All-wheel drive will be standard too, although Maserati will not wish to pitch this as a go-anywhere alternative to a Range Rover. Its natural home is on-road.

The styling? This is likely to be the controversial bit. But Maserati insists the associations with brand heritage are clear: the three air vents on the front wings, trapezoidal C-pillar with Saetta logo and frameless door glass.

It has a sporting-look rear with tapered roofline and bulging arches, although the front end appears more bluff and upright in images. We look forward to seeing it in the metal.

Maserati Levante

Customers won’t have to wait long for it either. Surprisingly, Maserati has revealed production of the first cars has already begun – and deliveries in Europe are scheduled to begin in the spring, with the rest of the world following later in 2016.

Maserati is desperate for the Levante’s arrival. It previously set an ambitious goal of reaching 50,000 sales in 2015, a remarkable turnaround after years in the doldrums. It missed this by more than 15,000 cars – because the Levante was a year late.

Sales predictions have thus been revised but the Levante will have to perform straight out of the box if Maserati’s plans are to get back on track.

For now, all we have to go on are the looks. Over to you: does it seem like a winner, or would you rather take a Porsche Cayenne or Jaguar F-Pace instead?