Suddenly we are listening.
The reason the ears are pricked is mainly because Maserati is still an effortless cool brand. If you couldn’t fit a Merak or a Khamsin into your retro fantasies, there would at least be a place for a twin-turbo block. Less flash and more cheerful than Ferrari, more character than McLaren, without the debauchery – but happy – aggression of a Lamborghini.
Granted, things have been a bit fallow in recent years, with the GranTurismo and GranCabrio twins feeling overwhelmed before their deaths, with the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans not capturing the imagination as they should. The Levante may be a decent SUV, but the company’s soul doesn’t live two feet off the ground, has four-wheel drive, and can accommodate five more pieces of luggage. Maserati, despite all of this, has a history and a reputation, a mystique and a history. And now, once again, he has a supercar. A supercar called the MC20.
The 2020 Maserati Corse, if you’re expansive, and that marks a big step for the Italian automaker. Why? Because it’s a throwback to tough, competition-sharpened Maseratis, rather than original alternatives to vastly objectively better cars. It’s an unlimited production supercar built entirely and proudly in Italy by Italians, and ready to take on the best. A car filled with technology, speed and notions of future development, the design already pre-tweaked for Spyder and fully electric variants. A serious investment in infrastructure in Modena in uncertain times, a declaration of intent.
But first, take a closer look at why Maserati thinks it stands a chance in the shark-infested waters of two-seater fast things. The design is obviously that of a mid-engined supercar, the shapes and volumes of the composite skin constrained by the skeleton and organs below, but it’s not an immediate clash of wings and naked aggression that you might find in other supercar manufacturers. Marco Tencone, Maserati Design Manager, says: “We had to be respectful of Maserati history, but advertise the brand in a new way. The temptation has always been to overcomplicate the car with a complexity that is simply not necessary …
“This is the first time that we have approached this architecture, this form,” he says, running his hands over an imaginary curve. “So we had to make the integration of aerodynamic characteristics natural. This means that there is no “style”. It’s “design”, not style. One of the most difficult things to do correctly, for example, was the placement of the engine intake (on top of the rear wheel arch) – in the wrong place, it gave too much importance to the rear wheel; 10mm of change made the whole car totally different. It is a matter of detail.
The challenges remained for any completely clean design. At first, the team just threw all the ideas in the jar, then refined the best ones to create the biggest hits of the things they loved. “During the process, we saw that constraints and problems can actually turn out to be opportunities,” Tencone says. “Take the trident vents in the rear window, for example. We had to cool down and bleed the engine, and it was an effective solution, but full of character. “
It’s not a spiky figure, pockmarked with aero spots and slashes. It’s a rapier rather than a cleaver
It’s not an explosive design, that. There will be endless comments on what it somewhat looks like, simply because of format constraints. But while this isn’t a grand entry into the supercar scene, it’s more of a polite innuendo. It’s not a prickly figure, crawling with stains and aero cuts, but a car designed to tease the air rather than tear it up, manage the airflow rather than force it. It is a rapier rather than a cleaver: more than two thousand hours in the wind tunnel of Dallara watched over it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not efficient – the car is essentially stacked; engineering slightly affected by aesthetic surfaces, while providing 100kg of downforce at just under 150mph. That engine intake Tencone mentions disappears from most angles, the hood ducts are subtle as well. There is a completely enclosed flat floor, ventilation channels at the rear of the front wheels, a large rear diffuser, a subtle rear spoiler. It’s both technical and organic. Not necessarily “pretty” in the strict sense of the word, but delicately defined.
To get the most out of this engineered aerodynamic profile, motivation comes from an all-new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 mounted very low and in the middle of the chassis, born from a proudly Italian new ‘innovation lab’ created for the project. Called Nettuno, it was named after the statue of Neptune in the eponymous Piazza del Nettuno in Bologna, where Maserati was founded in 1914, and produced prodigious numbers through a patented and surprisingly F1-related system called MTC, or Maserati Twin Combustion. .
Now, in essence, MTC is a smart pre-ignition system that allows for more regulated combustion throughout the cylinder, which gives – literally – more for your money. Combining a pre-chamber ignition and a second spark plug, the system can choose to use either or both, depending on the engine load. Increase efficiency or output, depending on what the operator demands, without resorting to valve timing or weird cam profiles.
It certainly has guts: horsepower should be around 621bhp at 7,500rpm, with the red motor at 8k. Turbos allow for an inflated torque curve of 538 lb-ft and, with specific horsepower of over 200 hp per liter, it looks like a very serious V6. And it is also a V6 which places itself directly in the territory of the V8 supercar.
Harnessing all of this is an eight-speed dual-clutch shifter with what are basically six fun gears and a pair of overdrives to give some cruising efficiency. Brembo ceramic carbon brakes are standard behind the 20-inch forged wheels, and connecting them are traditional double wishbones with “virtual” elements – essentially an independent steering axle that allows Maserati to separate the angle adjustment. camber and kingpin angle.
An expensive system more commonly used on race cars because you can keep a more consistent contact patch throughout a turn. In other words, he should manage. Maserati also claims that the MC20 is lighter than the competition, but at 1,470kg the 488 GTB weighs just 5kg (less with light options), and the McLaren 600LT at 1356kg a bit leaner. But Maserati maintains that the MC20 is something different, so there’s probably an argument to be made. In Italian, with a lot of arm gestures.
Inside, it’s a lesson in understatement, the two modest 10.25-inch displays centered on the driver, the ceramic drive-mode selector mounted on the center tunnel. You will be able to choose from four modes (Wet, GT, Sport, Corsa) as well as a full ESC outside of all-hope, shortcuts to different strategies for all the obvious things like engine map, pedal sensitivity , the firmness of the suspension, exhaust valves and the like. There is also an app, remote maintenance and software updates, and the car will send you an email with a monthly health status. Which could make owners drive their cars more, if nothing else.
The materials, as you might expect, seem top notch, the seats graceful and pretty – and all covered in carbon. There are optional Corsa carbon seats, a 12-speaker Sonus Faber audio system (you guessed it, another Italian company), and a new set of six colors specifically for the MC20, ranging from subtle gray ( Grigio Mistero) to dark blue with a yellowish flip (Giallo Genio), to a kind of white marble (Bianco Audace). There are also red, black and blue.
The elements seem to add up. Technology and craftsmanship, beauty and functionality. What Maserati calls “clothing engineering”.
But there is pressure and expectation here. Much like Alfa, the auto people seem to be cheering on Maserati – they want cars to be good. But we must be wary that the burden of waiting does not become a stifling pressure; this car must live up to the promise. Yet another mid-engined two-seater supercar? Not this time. Because while all Maseratis are super cars, not all supercars are Maseratis.
Photography: John Wycherley