Maserati MC20: a powerful engine in a new supercar

The Maserati name tends to conjure up images of low-slung Italian coupes, but in reality the famed marque hasn’t offered a true sports car since the launch of the limited-production MC12 in 2004. The company debuted in as a car manufacturer in 1926 with the Tipo 26 racing car and quickly became a formidable competitor in motorsport, but the decades that followed were tumultuous and the company changed hands several times before Fiat took over. became its owner in 1993, then handed over the reins to Fiat. belonging to the Ferrari brand.

Maserati would apparently become Ferrari’s luxury division when it took full ownership of the company in 1999, and the years that followed saw Ferrari supply more conventional versions of its high-wound engines to Maserati for use in vehicles like the Ghibli sedan and the Levante sport utility. . But under the larger Fiat-Chrysler banner, Maserati’s models have also inherited plenty of second-hand equipment from elsewhere in the group’s portfolio, and glacial development efforts have added to the marque’s recent struggles to maintain its racy reputation.

The introduction of the MC20 marks a whole new chapter for Maserati, which is now part of Stellantis. A true clean sheet, the two-seater is supported by an all-new carbon fiber monocoque chassis that has been developed in-house and is built in Modena, Italy. Double-wishbone suspension configurations at the front and rear of the car are linked to the chassis by means of aluminum subframes, and the streamlined carbon fiber body and aerodynamics are the result of more than two thousand hours of testing in the Dallara wind tunnel. , as well as an extensive numerical simulation of fluid dynamics.

The MC20. maserati

Nettuno engine

The powertrain is where things start to get really interesting. The motivation comes from Maserati’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter “Nettuno” V6 engine, an all-new power plant that was also developed in-house at Maserati. The new power plant features Formula 1-inspired on-demand dual-combustion technology, which places a combustion chamber between the center spark plug and the conventional combustion chamber to provide more precise combustion, improving in turn the efficiency of the engine as well as its performance. .

[Related: Maserati’s new luxury SUV transforms from hot rod to off-roading beast]

The result is one of the most powerful engines in the automotive industry today, and a peak output of 621 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque give this 3,330-pound coupe the best power-to-weight ratio in the industry. its class among rivals from brands like Lamborghini, Porsche and McLaren. That bodes well for the here and now, but Maserati also wisely took a long-term view when developing the MC20 platform, which was designed from the start to support an all-electric variant. The EV should hit the streets within a few years.

inside a Maserati supercar
Inside the MC20. maserati

Driving

Sitting at the helm, it’s immediately apparent that the MC20 is targeting those looking for a fast grand touring sports car like the 911 Turbo S rather than a stripped-down track toy. Gone is the Maserati interior mechanism of past models that could often trace its origins to vehicles like the Dodge Durango. Instead, the MC20 features a completely bespoke cockpit covered in carbon fiber, alcantara and brushed steel.

A high-resolution 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster provides the real-time data and performance information required, while a 10.25-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility handles driving tasks. infotainment with crisp graphics and quick response. Along the center tunnel are controls for the drive modes (Wet, GT, Sport and Corsa), as well as suspension stiffness, gearbox modes, window and door locks and physical controls of the audio system. Meanwhile, the flat-bottomed steering wheel houses the ignition and launch control buttons as well as cruise control and media settings. The layout is clean, intuitively designed and chic. And unlike most mid-engined sports cars, the MC20 is surprisingly easy to get in and out of, thanks to the monocoque’s relatively slender side sills, gullwing doors and generous headroom for it.

[Related: Anyone can drive a supercar, but truly tapping its potential is another matter]

The engine springs to life with a lively growl that quickly fades into the background. Maserati has done a great job of making this new V6 look genuinely exotic but, like many of today’s engines, its personality is masked by the inherent choke effect of its turbochargers. Switching from GT mode to Sport or Corsa mode will open an exhaust valve for more sonic drama, but it’s still a bit too quiet for our tastes. Even on the boil, road and wind noise often dominate the engine soundtrack, which can make it difficult to synchronize upshifts when manually managing the cogs with the paddles.

Fortunately, the dual-clutch transmission is programmed well enough to be left alone in most situations. Left in GT mode, it works in the background to quietly deliver near-smooth gear changes in normal driving situations. It also puts the suspension dampers in their most compliant setting, which is firm for sports cars but still pleasant for regular use, even on the pockmarked streets of Los Angeles.

A new engine
The Maserati MC20. Bradley Iger

A digital rear view mirror

The MC20’s everyday usability is also greatly enhanced by its digital rear-view mirror, which displays real-time feed from a camera mounted on the car’s rear deck. Traditional mirrors on mid-engined cars usually offer a glimpse of sunlight through the rear window and not much else, but the digital rearview mirror’s unobstructed view of the outside world behind lets you effortlessly check your angles. dead when you position yourself on LA’s unforgiving freeway systems. What’s more, the MC20 even has two storage compartments, one at the front of the car and a larger one just behind the engine compartment at the rear. It’s almost practical!

Of course, it should come as no surprise that the MC20 really shines on the winding tarmac that blankets the Angeles National Forest about an hour northeast of downtown. Secure balance, confidence-inspiring stopping power and blazingly quick acceleration are all on the menu, as is precise response from the fast-ratio steering rack. Specially developed Bridgestone Potenza Sport summer tires offer plenty of grip for back-road outings without the compromise in noise and harshness that track-focused rubber often accompanies, but we expect to see the latter on more hardcore iterations of the MC20 that are likely to come down the line.

These fast, twisty stretches of road allowed us to test out the MC20’s Sport and Corsa modes. Setting the former is great for work (as the name suggests, Corsa is best suited for hot lap pace on a closed course), but we really wish the MC20 also offered a custom ride mode that allows potential owners to mix and match the various adjustable vehicle settings to their preference. Either way, the MC20 is a thrilling dance partner in the hills and a surprisingly civil machine around town. But again, a starting price of $212,000 ($256,050 as tested) tends to raise high expectations.

Fortunately, Maserati also has plans that go beyond quarter-million-dollar supercars like the MC20. The recently announced Grecale sport utility, for example, is aimed directly at Porsche Macan buyers. The crossover will contain many of the technologies featured in the MC20 (including the Nettuno V6 in higher trim levels), and it will also likely play a fundamental role in the brand’s transition to electrified powertrains.

In the meantime, well-heeled sports car buyers looking to savor the moment while avoiding the usual suspects would be wise to keep the MC20 on their shortlist.

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