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Maserati SUV to headline Geneva Motor Show

You know that SUVs have become a must-have vehicle when Maserati introduces a sport utility. That time is now, and the new Maserati Levante (pictured above) will be the headliner at the Geneva Motor Show, opening this week.

Aimed at competing with the luxury performance SUV Porsche Cayenne, the Levante will go on sale in the U.S. late this year. The sculpted styling of the Levante shares some features with existing Maserati models such as the Quattroporte.

Maserati says the Levante will come with both gasoline and diesel engine options. All models will be equipped with "intelligent" all-wheel drive that adjusts in response to changing road conditions. No price has yet been announced. But competitor Cayenne sells in the wide range of from just under $60,000 to over $150,000.

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Analyst Tim Urquhart of IHS Automotive points out that in addition to the Levante, two very small SUVs will get a lot of attention in Geneva. Audi is introducing the Q2, a subcompact SUV in the same size category as the Jeep Renegade and Honda HR-V. The Q2, less expensive than the bigger Audi SUVs, will be aimed at attracting younger buyers to the luxury brand.

In addition, Volkswagen will introduce an entrant among very small SUVs -- the category known in Europe as SUV B. The mechanical platform will be similar to the Audi Q2 since both are divisions of parent Volkswagen AG.

In addition to these SUVs, here are some of the other introductions planned in Geneva:

-- Mercedes-Benz C-Class convertible. Urquhart says the convertible follows the crisp lines of the C-class coupe and will come in a wide range of trim levels from the basic SE to the loaded AMG.

-- Alfa Romeo will reveal the makeover of its Giulia midsize sedan. The Giulia, a rival to the Audi A4 and BMW 3 series, will likely come with only a gasoline engine when it goes on sale in the U.S.

-- The Aston Martin DB11 supercar will please visitors who like their cars fast and flashy. This car succeeds the DB10 built for the James Bond "Spectre" movie. It will come with either a 4.0-liter twin turbo V-8 or a V-12 engine, which produces about 650 horsepower.

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