Italians love their espresso.
Powerful. Pure. Intense.
And they love their cars the same way. Particularly the sports cars for which the country is so well known.
So what happens when an Italian car maker decides to dilute that famous, passionate recipe?
Well, we're about to find out. This week, Maserati unveiled its latest, and most affordable model ever offered in Australia with a new, entry-level version of its Levante SUV.
The Levante 350 (the number represents its engine output in horsepower) is an ever-so-slightly decaffeinated version of the ground-breaking Italian luxury SUV, which hit our shores early last year. It comes with a significantly watered-down price - starting at $125,000 it's the cheapest Maserati ever offered on the Australian market.
Going down-market? Hardly. If Ferrari is the king of Italian sports car brands, then Maserati is the prince - their common DNA extending well past their common ownership by the giant Fiat Corporation.
Ferrari builds most of the engines used by Maserati, including the twin-turbocharged petrol V6 at the heart of this latest Levante model. And Maserati are making sure we don't forget, boasting that this new Levante "takes Ferrari power to a whole new sector of the market".
So, is this a poor man's Maserati or merely a chance to take Maranello magic to the masses?
Well, having tested the full-strength Levante S only a few weeks back, we were well-placed to pass judgement when Maserati rolled the covers off the Levante 350 this week.
The verdict? It's a bargain - a word rarely associated with high-end Italian sports cars.
Yes, it still costs more than most Aussies earn in a year. But this new 350 is a full $50,000 cheaper than the equivalent Levante S - yet feels every inch a genuine Maserati, down to its famous trident badge.
In fact it's doubtful that the majority of buyers would be able to tell the two models apart.
Both cars look identical, save for the larger alloys on the full-spec model. They enjoy the same classy, plush interior - the dash clad in the same supple leather - the same 8.4-inch colour touch screen controlling the cockpit. Both put power to the ground via the same eight-speed automatic and full-time, all-wheel-drive system. Both deliver the same potent bark from the quad exhaust pipes.
Yes, the Levante S is more powerful, with a scowling 321 kilowatts on tap, compared to the 350's still very adequate 257kW.
Importantly, the new 350 uses the same chassis - and rides upon the same air suspension system as every model in the Levante range - even the soon-to-arrive flagship GTS model that will bring with it an even more powerful twin-turbocharged V8.
So what's not to like about this $125,000 Maserati?
Well, not much, as a 396km sprint through the Snowy Mountains Highway proved this week.
In sport mode, with the air suspension hunkered down to its firmest level, the Levante gobbled up the sweeping curves and steep inclines of Namadji National Park, its 257kW complemented by a hefty 500Nm of torque.
Then the Levante's surprisingly nimble handling had it dancing delicately down the twisting turns of the descent to Tumut. Where we stopped for coffee, of course.
As you'd expect, the Levante is impressively refined, delivers stunning levels of grip and ride quality, and surrounds the driver in technology and luxury.
While the arrival earlier this year of the turbocharged petrol S model was highly anticipated, this latest iteration has landed at the perfect time for Maserati, with luxury car sales under pressure on the tail of worldwide economic wobbles.
Maserati sells about 700 cars a year in Australia, of which about 400 are Levantes. Given that nine out of 10 Levante buyers are new to the Maserati brand, the new model promises to bring even more buyers "into the tent".
So you get the picture.
The marque's Australian/NZ boss Glenn Sealey predicts that the cut-price model may account for as many as half of Levante sales moving forward. He concedes that some of those will be cannibalised from its Levante S market - and also from the substantial number of people who've bought the diesel-powered version that sits halfway between the two.
The range will be completed by the arrival of the flagship Levante GTS - featuring a twin-turbocharged petrol V8, as also used in the Quattroporte sports limousine - in the new year.
"These two models will bookend the Levante range at the top and bottom end of the spectrum," Sealey said.
Clearly Maserati sees the German thoroughbred brand Porsche as its main competitor in this space. And while Porsche's Cayenne will still arrive at a lower starting price than the Levante, Sealey insists his machine adds value through improved equipment levels, most notably the Levante's air suspension.
"It's an Italian car, built in Italy," Sealey says. "The leather is Italian, the workmanship is Italian. The engine, designed by Maserati and built by Ferrari, is Italian.
"It's got the sound that you expect from a Maserati and it's got the performance. This new entry-level model is an authentic Maserati and authentically true to the Maserati heritage."
For the record, it has a slightly lower top speed than the $179,990 Levante S - taking six seconds to reach the speed limit rather than the 5.2 of the more powerful version.
But it's still wickedly, delightfully quick, as evidenced by its performance this week.
It's well equipped with a full suite of electronic driver aides, including radar cruise control and a 360-degree parking camera system, and is lavishly finished in supple leather and bespoke materials. The lack of a head-up display was one of the few criticisms.
It sounds just like it should, with a slightly unpolished bark from its quad exhaust pipes.
There are even no tell-tale badges to set it apart from its more expensive siblings - so your neighbours need never know you've opted for the slightly less expensive version.
Maybe you can even afford to take them out for some nice Italian coffee.
Espresso, of course.
MASERATI LEVANTE 350
HOW BIG? It's a full-sized luxury SUV, with space for four adults in plush leather comfort, plus a decent sized cargo area below that sexy sloping rear window.
HOW FAST? O-100km/h in six seconds flat - not as quick as its sibling but fast enough to dust all but the most powerful of its competitors. It enjoys 257kw and 500Nm of torque.
HOW THIRSTY? Detuning the engine slightly has not dampened its thirst much - at 11.6L/100km it's not the most fuel-efficient on the market. It's the price you pay for all that performance.
HOW MUCH? Here's the good news (well, for the lucky few). Prices start at $125,000, plus on-road costs, for the entry-level 350 model. Add the GranLusso (luxury) or GranSport (sport) trim and that jumps to $159,990. The current flagship Levante S costs $189,990.