Expected to debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show in September, the 2016 Maserati Levante has yet to show its production face in public, with only the Kubang remaining the only indication as to how the performance crossover may look. SUV enthusiasts shouldn’t worry though, as the Italians have been testing what will eventually become the Levante since late 2014, albeit only as a deformed mule with a perched Ghibli body. Seen for the very first time in November 2014, the prototype was spotted once again by our skilled paparazzi, this time around undergoing cold-weather testing in wintery Sweden.

The mule’s destination is not at all surprising. This SUV needs to be both reliable and fun to drive in just about any conditions, especially since Maserati plans to sell it all over the world. The Levante has the Porsche Cayenne to bark at once it hits showrooms and it seems the Italians are willing to test it in the most harsh conditions before moving onto the next stage of development. The SUV is likely to travel to the warmer areas of Europe as spring kicks in, but for now, the folks in charge of the project are stuck in a sub-zero climate.

Click past the jump to read more about Maserati Levante.

2016 Maserati Levante - Spy Shots

Spy Shots: Maserati Levante Testing in Cold Weather Exterior Spyshots
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Spy Shots: Maserati Levante Testing in Cold Weather Exterior Spyshots
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Spy Shots: Maserati Levante Testing in Cold Weather Exterior Spyshots
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There isn’t much to say about this prototype, as it’s identical to the one our paparazzi caught on German streets back in 2014. I could point out that the Ghibli shell is now blue instead of dark-red and that all four wheels are finished in silver, but that’s not exactly revealing, isn’t it?

In case you missed our first batch of spy shots, there’s an increased ride height, wider tracks, and a fake roof to gaze at, all of which are strong indications that the Ghibli-sourced body is for testing purposes only. A revised suspension system is also hidden beneath the sedan’s fenders, along with other chassis upgrades that are unknown as of January 2015.

If you’re curious about what’s under the hood, my bet is on the Ghibli’s 3.0-liter V-6, with either 345 or 404 horsepower. Output isn’t that important right now, as the Levante’s six-banger will receive specifications of its own. A twin-turbo, V-8 version with more than 500 ponies is also planned, with the engine coming from the Quattroporte sedan. Lastly, Maserati could transfer the 3.0-liter diesel from the Ghibli to the Levante as well, but there’s no word on whether the oil-burner will come to the United States or not.

Why it matters

As things stand, we’re still a few months away from seeing the actual body lines of the Levante. Hopefully the presence of a Ghibli-sourced body doesn’t mean the development process has been delayed, but we won’t know for sure until an updated mule crosses paths with our spy photographers. If everything goes as planned, the Levante should become official by the end of the year, with more revealing spy shots to surface over the next couple of months.

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