► Maserati MC20 supercar driven
► Supercar kickstarts new era for Maser
► Is it more a sports car or GT?
Although this isn't the first MC20 I've been in, it's the first full production-spec version I've driven, and it's still quite early in the day.
Leaving this brand new V6-powered sports car from Maserati in Corsa mode as I get a feel for it on track, I've sensed that this mid-engined Maser has more to give than the allegedly ambitious Corsa drive mode is letting out to play.
I need to bide my time. I'll have opportunities later, on the roads between Modena, Reggio Emilia and Parma, sans minder. Even so, it's already clear that this luck-pushing late arrival at the petrol party is pretty awesome.
How about 0-62mph in 2.88sec, 0-125mph in 8.8sec, and a maximum speed of 202mph?
The heart of it all is the Nettuno V6 engine, which develops its peak of 621bhp at 7500rpm and 539lb ft between 3000 and 5500rpm. All that grunt is relayed to the rear wheels by an eight-speed DCT (six power gears and two overdrive ratios) and a limited-slip differential.
Just as impressive as the forward thrust is the stopping power from 62mph to zero. When the carbon-ceramic discs and the tyres work in their optimum temperature window, the 1475kg coupe is claimed to squash all that kinetic energy in less than 33 metres. Sounds too good to be true, but credible on the track where the Brembo discs and grippy Bridgestones (245/35 ZR20 and 305/30 ZR20) can pluck your eyeballs from their sockets.
What is it like on track?
The MC20's composure and compliance are fine, but certain allowances must be made on rough and rippled byways. The triple-link double-wishbone suspension was designed for minimum camber changes in combination with a certain toe-in flexibility under braking and during turn-in.
Throw in a mix of tricky radii, sudden brake action and potholes, however, and vertical irritations are prone to battle horizontal excitations. The effect is distinct eruptions which can be felt through the steering, the seat and the floorpan. Like in a 911 GT3 or a 488 Pista, there is no need to take immediate action, but it helps to bear in mind that extreme amplitudes can deflect the flow and curb the underlying suppleness.
What about on a really fun country road?
The car starts in GT mode, like Porsche's Normal mode. Calibrated to save fuel and cut noise, GT triggers early upshifts and late downshifts, restricts turbo assistance, locks the dampers in Soft and won't open the exhaust floodgates below 5000rpm.
It's a frustratingly passive set-up further impeded by slow gearchanges and casual throttle action. When you spot a gap in traffic and floor the accelerator, the transmission has likely pre-selected the wrong gear and loses valuable time to change down – and a single shift most often won't do. By now, the confidence level has dropped a couple of notches, and the car is tied to a set of cogs wrong for the occasion.
Sport makes for a more entertaining option, but when exploring the limits is your plan, go Corsa. Now the gearbox is working with the whip in hand at all times, the exhaust is blowing at gale force, the suspension is in its firmest position, and maximum boost persists all the way to the 7200rpm redline. Gearchanges are ultra-quick now, and it's even possible to preselect a lower ratio, which will engage as soon as the balance of load and revs permits it.
The steering is super-precise and always keen on telling the full story, but since the gearing is on the tall side, hairpins can call for a momentary change of grip, and the turning circle in general of the sweeping kind. As Wet, GP and even Sport are not radical enough to make the MC20 unravel its full splendour, it might be an idea for the upcoming Sport version to wedge a spicy and more challenging Race mode between Corsa and everything off.
Squeezing the throttle hard in low gear drills deep dimples in your cheeks while furrowing the mane backwards for the rest of the day, and high-speed cornering g-force feels strong enough to dislocate a shoulder – all to a soundtrack punctuated by the sounds of a crashing-out chassis, stone chippings peppering the wheelhouses, the hum of the mid-range ground effect and swooshing as a massive phonetic wave makes its way along the trailing edges of the doors. And the eternal intake rasp and exhaust roar. The upshift vrroaam, the downshift yell, the flat-out bellow, the lift-off blat-blat, the countable idle-speed firing order and – best of all – the vocal 6200rpm constant-throttle right-hander that absolutely makes my day.
Maserati MC20: verdict
In the Mc20, when it's at its best, you're totally immersed in a car that sounds, looks and feels fantastic. It does a fantastic job of being both a sports car and a GT, but it feels like there's unexplored potential waiting to be tapped.
More Maserati reviews by CAR magazine