Maserati MC20 review

It’s a triumphant return to supercar ranks. It’s fast, thrilling, engaging and yet very approachable and easy-to-drive.

What is it?

Maserati is aware that this can’t be messed up. There is too much at stake. The MC20 is the beginning of a new era for the fabled Italian automaker, the performance figurehead of a new generation model that will cement its position among the very respectable competition and propel it into the future.

The way the car was developed reflects the importance it holds.

This isn’t a Maserati in traditional terms. It has been designed using digital processes. This two-seater can be produced in two years. They are largely borrowed from motorsport and allow for rapid prototyping using a combination computer-aided simulation as well as conventional road testing.

Federico Landini (MC20 vehicle line executive) says that when we began the project, it was decided to take a different approach than what we had done in the past. “Most of the development was done digitally, with many partners from motorsport. The development did not only involve the car but also a new engine. These processes were key in enabling us to deliver the car on schedule and within a time frame that was otherwise very difficult.

Maserati has a fresh start. However, the MC20 name follows a Maserati convention that was established early in this century. MC stands to represent Maserati Corsa (Racing), and the number designates the year that the new model was introduced.

It is priced at PS187,230 and targets mid-engined competitors with strong credentials such as the McLaren Artura, Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrari F8 Tributo and Lamborghini Huracan. Modena is the place where production has begun, with UK deliveries expected to begin in the middle of next year. Maserati expects to produce around 1500 units annually. This will be split between the road-going version and the upcoming racing version of the MC20. This is to leverage their position within the supercar and motorsport elites for the more volume-orientated Ghibli and Levante models. In the process, Maserati will establish a more engineering-led, sporting image.

Maserati has used this strategy before: The Bora was launched in 1971 and the first Maserati mid-engined Maserati.

A carbonfibre monocoque is the basis of the new car. It can support both pure-electric and petrol powertrains. There are substantial aluminium subframes at each end. It is said to be the most rigid structure Maserati has ever produced, surpassing even the very high engineering standards of Ferrari Enzo-based MC12 which was launched in 2004. The MC20’s kerb weight is 1475kg due to its relatively lightweight design.

The body is predominantly carbonfibre and carbonfiibre-reinforced plastic. You have to get up close to appreciate all the details of its styling. It takes cues from Maserati’s past including its low-set grille, and chromed trident emblem. The upper section is very sculptural.

The performance is influenced more by the lower portion. It is very technical and includes many measures that aim to ensure efficient cooling and downforce, without any active aerodynamic devices. The front splitter’s turned corners, the vertical fins embedded within the doors’ leading edges, the structured nature of sills, the vents at the top of the rear haunches, and the diffuser at the rear have a functional appearance. It is fully panelled beneath, and has vortex generators as well as vertical fins for managing airflow.

It isn’t a large car at 4669mm in length, 1965mm wide, and 1221mm high. This makes it 58mm shorter, 14mm wider, and 15mm higher than the F8 Tributo. It has a 2700mm wheelbase with 1681mm front tracks and 1649mm back tracks. 

The butterfly doors open forward on sturdy hinges and reveal a large opening and a simple to negotiate sill. You will find a simple, but highly effective cabin in dark colors. It doesn’t have a lot of flash. It’s minimalistic and functional, with just two high-resolution displays to display digital instruments and information functions, as well as a minimum of switchgear in the narrow central tunnel.

Sabelt seats with carbonfibre backs can be adjusted by an electric motor. These seats are race-grade in purpose and have a lot of lateral support. You can drive with great confidence, as you are positioned low and have excellent forward visibility. A camera mounted on the bootlid projects real-time video from the rear-view mirror. However, the car doesn’t have a lot of luggage space. The trunk has a 100-litre storage compartment in the rear, and a 50-litre space up front.

It’s what?

A press of the steering-wheel-mounted starter button brings the MC20 to life with a mild crackle of exhaust. The centre console buttons allow you to select the gears: D for automatic, and M for manual.

The MC20’s engine is a great example of how serious Maserati is about its return to mid-engine supercar ranks. The twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine, also known as the Nettuno (Italian name for Neptune), is completely new. It was not modified from an existing unit, but it has been designed around a 90deg architecture. This will play a major role in the new Maserati road-going models and support its return to motorsport. It is not connected to the old Ferrari partner. All engineering was done in-house at Modena’s Maserati Engine Lab.

The specifications are impressively bred with quad camshafts and variable valve timing. There are also two IHI turbochargers. Two Bosch-developed direction injectors. Twin-spark Cylinder heads. Pre-chamber ignition technology is a Formula 1 invention. Dry-sump Lubrication is another. A pure-electric MC20 is currently in development and will be available for production in 2023. However, there are no electrification measures beyond the operation the turbocharger wastegates.

Maserati has a long history of producing engines with high specific outputs. The MC20 621bhp is rated at 7500rpm and produces 207bhp per litre. Between 3000rpm to 5500rpm, torque peaks at 538 lb/ft. It is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox produced by US firm Tremec – the same unit used by the Chevrolet Corvette, with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles and a mechanical limited-slip differential. You can choose from four driving modes: GT (Sport), Corsa, and Wet. All of these are accessed via a rotating controller.

This engine is truly exceptional. It is equally rewarding below 4000rpm when it’s in GT mode. The heady torque loading allows it to provide incredible cruising capabilities and it can chase the 8000rpm redline in Sport mode.

The ignition system is highly responsive and elastic across all rev ranges. The MC20 has a broad, instant thrust that responds to driver demand. It builds rapidly and with great force in lower gears. This provides the MC20 with explosive midrange acceleration and outstanding top-end characteristics. It is linear in its delivery and, like the best combustion engines it, becomes more determined the harder it is worked.

The gearbox is not always up to the mark with the V6’s efficiency, which is a shame. It is easy to shift up, no matter how much you load it. The dual-clutch unit can sometimes be a little rough, which sometimes causes a moment of hesitation when downshifting in automatic mode. This is a minor criticism that will be noticed by discerning customers.

The engine’s sound is another important point for the tester. Although it sounds authentic, the engine does not have any synthetic enhancements unlike supercars competitors, it isn’t as exciting as the MC20’s other features. It’s a great car in all other areas. You can expect the new Maserati will deliver an incredible aural experience on the overrun. Although it can be melodic in Sport mode at times, I feel that it needs to be more sound tuned to really express its purpose. The exhaust has a distinct raspy tone and there is also a whine from the turbochargers when the V6 is being pushed. It lacks the distinctive aural sound of its rivals.

It is evident in the straight-line performance which is unsurpassed by any standard. The MC20 is one of a few rear-wheel-drive road vehicles that can reach 0-62 mph in less than 3 seconds. The launch control system makes it incredibly fast. It is a combination of the powerful engine and high levels of traction that keeps it going until you reach three-digit speeds. Maserati claims that it can reach speeds of 124 mph in 9.0 seconds. Maserati claims a top speed of 203mph, which is 2mph less than the earlier MC12.

Although it is fast when it needs to be, the MC20 can be ridden in a lower gear. You can still enjoy the power of the mid-range with taller gears, but there’s so much torque. You can easily overtake a car in GT mode with a quick downchange and stab of throttle. It is still able to offer a wide appeal, despite being so focused.

Maserati claims that the new mid-range model is as suitable for daily driving as it is for racing on track. This is evident in the ride. This was discovered on the roads that were extremely rough through the villages and hillsides to the south Maserati’s hometown of Modena.

Each driver mode has two levels of damper stiffness. Although it’s not perfect, the MC20’s road qualities are impressive in more relaxed settings. The small-bump compliance is impressive as well as the isolation of road shock from larger bumps. It is remarkable how the front and rear double-wishbone suspensions are tuned. This allows for a fine combination of control and compliance.

The steering is what really makes the difference. The electromechanical system is extremely efficient, with 2.2 turns lock-to-lock. It is easy to use. It is completely free of any drive forces and it feels very consistent. You can feel the suspension load and the adhesion limits during cornering.

It is quite impressive to see the overall involvement. It’s easy to establish a flow. The body moves very little on turn-in and there is very little diving under braking. The centre of gravity and inertia feel very low. You can place the Maserati with ease thanks to the steering, and the rear end is grippy enough to provide great traction when you accelerate at the exit.

The Maserati’s new Maserati is most effective when it’s on a circuit. Corsa mode has more intent in terms of the characteristics of the steering and throttle, gearbox, and damping. The MC20 is still a very approachable car. Bridgestone has developed the standard 245/35 ZR20 front and rear tyres for the Maserati. They are great on smoother roads and offer excellent purchase.

When you are really pushing, there is a little understeer in high-speed corners. You can still carry a lot of speed up to the apex, and you can adjust the line quickly. It responds well to the throttle. It rotates and tucks in the rear with great precision. It communicates the actions clearly and is progressive and reliable. This makes it a very playful car, something I wouldn’t have expected to say about a supercar with 621bhp.

They are also quite impressive. The brakes combine 330mm front discs made of carbon-ceramic with 350mm rear discs, and six-piston and four piston calipers. Although the pedal feels initially a bit firm, once you heat them up, they provide tremendous stopping power. They don’t switch on and off. The pedal has a lot of modulation, which is very useful in everyday driving conditions.

Do I need one?

Maserati’s triumphant return to supercar ranks is a joy. Maserati’s return to the supercar ranks is a triumphant after a time when its future was tied to a range volume-market saloons or an SUV. It has created a supercar that perfectly captures the brilliance of its past. This supercar sets a new standard of performance and puts it in direct competition with McLaren, Lamborghini, and Ferrari for supercar supremacy.

The MC20 is a world-class machine. It’s fast, exciting, engaging, and quite special to behold. The MC20 is the ideal foundation on which the company can build as it strives to be a force in premium brands under the tutelage of Stellantis. Let’s just hope this isn’t a sudden burst of brilliance.