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Maserati SUV to be Sibling of Jeep, Cousin of Mercedes

Maserati\'s Jeep/Mercedes-Benz-based crossover has finally arrived.

Troubled economic times and a convoluted web of corporate mergers and divorces have resulted in one of the more uniquely international vehicles in recent memory: the Maserati Kubang, a sleek Italian luxury SUV built off a platform co-developed by America's Jeep and Germany's Mercedes-Benz.

The Kubang's genesis can be traced to Chrysler's struggles following the global financial meltdown in 2008, when the company (along with its Dodge and Jeep brands) was saved from Chapter 7 liquidation by a major investment from Fiat, an Italian automaker that owns Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

Several years later, Fiat decided to expand Maserati's lineup by developing a new SUV. Lacking suitable underpinnings of its own, Fiat tapped SUV specialist Jeep for the platform used by the Grand Cherokee, which itself was jointly engineered by Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz when both automakers were part of an unsuccessful nine-year partnership known as Daimler Chrysler.

Slated to launch in late 2013 with a starting price of about $70,000, the Kubang will be powered by both a Ferrari/Maserati-sourced 4.7-liter V8 and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel. The V8 should put out at least 450 horsepower, while the diesel offering will crank out more than 300 ponies. Both engines will be mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, the same unit that's currently used in a number of Chrysler products.

Despite the Kubang's diverse ancestry, the SUV will be "100 percent Maserati," the company says. Designed by Lorenzo Ramaciotti in Italy, the Kubang shares little more than a vague windshield angle profile with its Jeep sibling. Where its Mercedes-Benz M-Class cousin features more upright D-pillars, the Maserati goes in a direction more like the Infiniti FX.

From the front, the Kubang is aggressive with a pronounced Maserati grille and bright, wide headlamps that run across much of the fascia. Underneath its body, the Kubang features a Maserati-developed suspension and brake system that the company says will give it top-notch on-road performance befitting the legendary brand's trident logo.

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