Maserati makes classic impact on SUV market
The historic racing marque brings style and luxury to the roads, and to mud, writes Martin McCarthy
It was fitting that Maserati used Belfast last week for the biggest ever display of its model range in Ireland. Because it was in the Belfast suburb of Dundrod that the greatest sportscar race in Ireland took place - the 1955 Tourist Trophy, in which the marque featured heavily in an era when the Maserati 250F was the dominant F1 car.
Maserati is arguably the greatest name in motorsport as it designed, built and ran the legendary 250F which Juan Manuel Fangio drove to F1 World Championships success in 1954 and 1957.
At Dundrod in 1955, future F1 stars Jo Bonnier and Luigi Musso drove for the Modena firm - as did Sunday Independent motor correspondent Cecil Vard. Luckily all three survived but others died in an event which starred Fangio and eventual winner Stirling Moss, and marked the swansong for the race circuit.
Last week, the general manager of Maserati UK and Ireland, Mike Biscoe, discussed the essence of Maserati today - grand touring. Sportscars are for solo driving and short bursts of fast driving, whereas the essence of a GT is two or more covering distances in style, stopping along the route to soak up the culture.
Maserati has added a tremendous new SUV, the Levante, which brings the core values of Maserati - gorgeous design, great sound, performance and heritage - into the big SUV sector.
Interestingly, 70pc of Levante buyers in Europe have owned another SUV before, while 90pc of Levante buyers are new to Maserati. This is a luxury steed but well able to enter mud-plug stages, an art of which Cecil Vard was a master.
Affordable exclusivity, Mike Biscoe called it. The entry level four-door Ghibli is pegged at £51,165 in Ulster, whereas the bigger, more luxurious Quattroporte GranLusso diesel lists at £79,930. The two-door GT, complete with fantastic 4.7-litre V8 460bhp powerplant, costs £109,920 while the agile, uber luxurious, air-suspended Levante starts at £76,995.
Charles Hurst are the dealers for Maserati in Ireland and now have outlets in Dublin. With sterling weakening but higher VRT in the Republic, the on-the-road price of a car here will be between 10pc and 20pc higher than in Belfast, the smallest price differential ever between the jurisdictions.
Classic Maseratis fetch tens of millions at auction, but the benefits of modern production methods bring Maserati design excellence to a much wider audience - including a few here in the Republic.