New Durango-based Maserati SUV Debuts in Frankfurt, Will it Be Built in the USA?

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maserati_kubang_concept_2.jpgby Patrick Rall

The 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show officially opened today, and with it comes the grand debut of the new Maserati Kubang, a sport utility vehicle based on the 2011 Dodge Durango (and named after Maserati’s 2003 concept). But just how much will it differ from the Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee? 

While the new Maserati will be based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee platform, we certainly see a heavy dose of sheet metal (and
plastic) changes around the outside of the new Maserati SUV. But can we assume it’s more than just an expensive, rebadged Dodge or Jeep? Will the new Maserati SUV be powered by the
same engines as the Dodge Durango? Will we see an Italian
luxury-sport SUV with Hemi power?

maserati_kubang_concept_01.jpgAfter much speculation, now we know that engine choices for the Kubang, including a 4.7-liter V8, will be designed Modena by Paolo Martinelli, who has been the Head of the Maserati Powertrain Department for almost 30 years at Ferrari. While there, he was also the engine chief of the Formula One racing team. We also know that the engines will be produced in Maranello by Ferrari.

So why, if the Kubang is likely to be made in America, wouldn’t they use engines made in America?

The current Maserati lineup of coupes, convertibles and sedans range in
power from just shy of 400 to over 450 horsepower – all relying on
Ferrari engine architecture to make those impressive numbers.  The Dodge
is available with the 3.6L Pentastar V6 producing 290
horsepower while the 5.7L Hemi V8 makes 360 horsepower, so if the
Maserati SUV were to use either of those engines it would have been underpowered
compared to the rest of their lineup – as well as the rest of the
luxury sport SUV segment. 

The Pentastar V6 with a little tuning work
could have allowed the Maserati SUV to keep up with the lower level competition
(like the entry level BMW X5), but relying on the 5.7L Hemi in the same
form as the Durango would have been a tough fight for the Italian sport ute.
For instance, the current BMW X5 xDrive50i offers 400 horsepower, so even
the Durango’s Hemi may have fallen short compared to the competition. But at
the same time, we should all keep in mind that the same 5.7L Hemi is
offered in the Ram 1500 with 390 horsepower. Packing that more-powered
5.7L Hemi into the Maserati SUV would have put it in close competition
with the rivals around the world.

maserati_kubang_concept_3.jpgThen, of course, there is the 6.4L, 392 cubic inch Hemi that is
currently offered in all SRT brand vehicles including the 2012 Jeep
Grand Cherokee SRT8.  The
new Jeep SRT8 is easily the best handling sport ute of all time…but in the end,
Chrysler decided not to create competition for the high performance Jeep by shipping
its drivetrain into a European model. 

However, the Kubang’s transmission is an eight-speed automatic, which likely has its roots in the ZF, which Chrysler is already using in the 2012 Chrysler 300 and the 2012 Dodge Charger.

While we’ve answered the drivetrain question, some mysteries persist. A Maserati spokesman declined to officially confirm where the SUV will be built, but Maserati CEO Harald Wester did say this: “Potential synergies with our sister brand Jeep are the important catalysts for this sport/luxury SUV project.” A statement which leads one to guess whether or not this beaut of a ute will be made in Detroit?

What do you think? Will the Maserati Kubang be made in Detroit? Would it be better served by a HEMI? Voice your opinion here!

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