MC20, Maserati’s non-‘lecky’, old-skool supercar
If you were a small volume specialist carmaker, suggests Iain Robertson, would you really want to tumble headlong into an uncertain electrified territory, when creating a sportscar possessing maximum soul could be the tidy earner your brand needs?
There’s nothing to see here! Move on EV fans, you’ll only become agitated and more confused than you are already. Go join the Black Tyres Matter cause. Besides, you have a plethora of battery-powered hypercars from which to choose, most of which demand a numbered bank account held in Zurich to fund their ambitious range-anxious plans.
While the dreamers await the bursting of the bubble, a renowned Italian practitioner in the art of form and function has popped down a route more familiar to enthusiasts, the real motorists, who appreciate positive feedback, lively dynamics and controls capable of telegraphing honest reactions to head, spine and fingertips…not electronically enhanced faux messages. This is a carmaker with viable history represented gloriously by the Trident symbol: Maserati.
The last time the company produced a supercar, it was the Ferrari-controlled MC12. While not suggesting that the MC20 avoids leaning on its successful sister, it can boast a personal racing heritage like few other brands in the world. Unlike the MC12, the newcomer is compact, taut and utterly devoid of excesses of any kind. It utters a race-bred purity, of which Lotus of old could have been proud, and it shows in its lightweight construction, with glimpses of raw carbon that afford it total structural integrity.
Power is stated as 630bhp at 7,500rpm, from a precisely measured 3.0-litre capacity, 90-degree V6, bi-turbo, twin-spark, dry-sump Nettuno engine; it is Maserati’s first home-built unit at its historic Viale Ciro Menotti factory, Modena. It delivers a sophisticated blow, all the way to a maximum velocity of 202mph, despatching the 0-60mph dash in a mere 2.6s (0-120mph in 8.4s), more than enough to trounce a 911 Turbo, at probably around the same investment level. Driving the rear wheels alone, through an 8-speed twin-clutch, automated-manual transmission, underlines its intent and, with the kerbweight pared to just 1.5-tonnes, it needs the 245/35 section front and 305/30 section rear tyres on 20.0-inch forged alloy rims to maintain the status quo.
Access to the surprisingly spacious cockpit is through butterfly-opening doors, where the driver is greeted by a focused driving position, with minimal switchgear, a pair of 10.0-inch LCD screens (configurable one ahead of the driver; the second a touch-activated device in the centre of the dashboard) and most of the minor controls grouped on Maserati’s version of the infamous ‘Mannetino’ steering wheel, clad in brushed Alcantara, as are the sportingly bolstered seats. Carbon-fibre gearshift paddles are located behind the tiller, which has a gently flattened lower edge to its carbon weave construction and require little more than thought transference to flick through the ratios. Cabin distractions have been minimised purposefully, to ensure that driving purity is at pinnacle levels.
Working in space vacated by the former GT and Cabrio models, Maserati has invested heavily in its paint shop and engineering facilities, as part of a bespoking process that strengthens the brand image and prioritises Maserati for the first time in well over two decades.
MC20’s aerodynamics were designed through more than two thousand man-hours spent in the Dallara Wind Tunnel and more than a thousand CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations, all intended to create a genuine work of art, while also reducing the actual model development time to around two years. The resultant sportscar has lines of such unerring beauty, without the near customary foils, gurneys, splitters and appendages. Instead, a discreet rear spoiler improves downforce without detracting from the MC20’s purity of form, which results in a drag coefficient significantly less than 0.36Cd. It is designed to enable both close-coupled coupé and convertible versions to be developed but also, should the future demand exist, for full electrification.
While efficiency through simplicity was the key tenet for the design team, Maserati is a brand recognised for its luxury tweaks and the MC20 does not disappoint, considering its near-naked sportscar remit. A wireless mobile-phone charging mat is in the centre console, alongside the 5-mode (GT, Wet, Sport, Corsa and ESC-off) electronic drive selector. Yet, there is also a comprehensive selection of connected technology that includes the hi-fi controls (the system is made by Sonus faber, an Italian artisan sound specialist), sat-nav and even Alexa and a wifi hotspot, all of which can be managed by a smartphone, or smartwatch app.
Maserati has also developed a choice of six new colours to enhance the character of MC20: Bianco Audace (white, as pictured), Giallo Genio (yellow), Rosso Vincente (red), Blu Infinito, Nero Enigma (black) and Grigio Mistero (green). Each of the colours has been conceived, designed and developed exclusively for MC20 and they are unmistakably Italian in identity, while being linked inextricably to Maserati tradition. Naturally, in both visual and conceptual terms, there are blatant references to the MC12, the car that marked Maserati’s racing comeback in 2004. In the same way as its predecessor, MC20 wears its racing soul on its sleeve and announces simultaneously an intention to return to the world of motor racing.
Yet the most vital aspect of MC20 is its determined approach to traditional sportscar engineering, while engaging with modern construction materials and advanced computer design. When relating with the team at Modena, they talk excitedly about the speed with which they have brought MC20 to market. Almost all team members have been involved in the development driving exercises, which also exemplifies a return to the traditions of sportscar manufacturing. Maserati can do it, because it is small and agile enough to move speedily, without interference from committees and cost accountants. MC20 is what it is and is all the better for it.
Conclusion: Confounding the actions of much of the rest of the sportscar industry, Maserati is not racing into electrification, even though the foundations have been laid. The company realises that its repute can create classicism and a stance of relative affordability (£187,000) will draw positive attention, with first deliveries anticipated by the end of 2020.