► New MC20 driven on UK roads
► 621bhp 3.0-litre V6, delectable dynamics
► Watch the CAR video review here
It’s long overdue, but Maserati’s return to the two-seat supercar stage is upon us with the MC20. Developed almost entirely virtually and housing patented F1-inspired engine tech, the now Stellantis-owned Maserati brand is not leaving anything on the table as it looks to reassert itself against the likes of McLaren, Lamborghini and – of course – Ferrari, to name but a few.
Billed as a successor to the low-volume MC12 of 2004, this latest model will eventually spawn a convertible and all-electric model. But for now, we’re looking at the circa £200k hard-top super sports car version and how it handles several hundred miles of winter road-testing on UK roads.
So, is the MC20 entirely new?
Yes. Completely. Underneath the MC20’s striking bodyshell is a carbon fibre monocoque developed in partnership with Dallara, allowing a flexible build structure depending on bodystyle. For example, the coupe prioritises lightweight architecture while the convertible demands greater torsional rigidity and the EV higher overall strength around the battery area.
The suspension, too, is complex yet entirely suited to the job at hand. A short spindle semi-virtual double-wishbone setup front and rear works to increase the consistency of the tyre’s contact patch while cornering and works in tandem with adjustable dampers to suit the conditions.
Is it heavy? No, but at circa 1,500kg it doesn’t exactly fit into the featherweight category, either – despite its carbon tub. That said, Maserati is keen to highlight that the MC20 isn’t a full-on one-tricky-pony supercar. Rather, it’s a super sports car designed to allow ample usability and devastating speed.
Spend any great time in the cabin and it does appear that, from a practical point of view, they’ve pulled this off. The infotainment system, for example, worked flawlessly during our time with the car. The Sabelt seats are utterly superb and well-positioned, plus there’s a sense of logic to the general layout that many cars in this price bracket would do well to observe.
Granted, some may be craving more theatre and individualism within the cabin, yet it feels like Maserati has got the balance between form and function just about right. That is, as long as you don’t plan on carrying much in the way of luggage. The ‘frunk’ is large enough for a laptop bag (just) and the boot measures up at just 100 litres.
What’s it like to drive?
Onto the good bit – very good bit, in fact. The MC20 is utterly sublime on the road and – at the time of writing – up there with the best we’ve seen from its neighbours in Maranello.
We’ll start with the handling. The beauty of the MC20 is how placeable and agile it is. Remember, it’s longer and only a fraction narrower than a Ferrari F8 Tributo yet thanks partly to an electromechanical steering setup brimming with feel, it’s possible to make the car follow whatever line the driver picks with minimal compromise.
The ratio isn’t crazy quick, either, so there’s none of the hyperactivity you get from less well-sorted cars trying to appear nimbler. It’s just a brilliantly gauged setup that, together with the low centre of gravity and mid-engined layout, means you can easily get into a precise but rapid rhythm as you scythe from corner-to-corner.
You’re not overly limited by the quality of the road, either, thanks to soft, stiff and racing suspension settings that can be adjusted independently to the GT, Wet, Sport, Corsa and ESC Off driving modes. Of course, on most British B-roads anything but the softest damper setting feels too stiff, but flick it into said preset and the MC20 delivers admirable compliance.
It’s hard to make a comment on overall grip levels due to our test drive taking place on the worst of a British January’s grimy roads, yet there’s no denying the potential stopping power in the carbon brakes. 380mm at the front and 350mm at the rear, the feel through the pedal inspires confidence in bucketloads, while stopping distances are eye-openingly small.
A word also on the MC20’s everyday usability. A supple ride, impressive refinement and general ease-of-use while driving at any speed mean it’s far more relaxing than any circa 600bhp rear-wheel drive thoroughbred has any real right to be. We covered serious miles in this car over a short period of time and not once did its existence on the road feel intimidating. From an engineering point of view, this is an exceptionally well-rounded car.
And what about the engine?
Possibly the most controversial part of the MC20 is it’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. And no, it’s not a Ferrari unit, instead made exclusively by Maserati after 20 years of shipping them in. Which, in itself, is a pretty big deal. It’s also got a name – Nettuno – and comes with a patented twin combustion system designed to improve efficiency and specific power output.
Producing 621bhp and 538lb ft of torque, it’s enough to send the MC20 from 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, with 120mph taking less than 9. Top speed is rated at 202mph. It’s a set of figures more than capable of matching its closest rivals, not to mention pushing it well clear of anything Maserati has made in the last decade. Naturally, power is sent to the rear wheels only via an eight-speed DCT transmissions.
Why is it controversial? Well, think about what you’d imagine a Maserati engine to be like, then completely erase that from your brain. This is a whooshy, wastegatey torque-filled weapon of a motor that abandons almost all of the symphonic delicacy and character from fast Maseratis of old.
Of course, the era of downsizing means it’s never going to sing or behave like the MC12’s V12, but you can’t help but wonder whether Maserati could have put a touch more of their DNA into the Nettuno. Like the powertrain offerings from McLaren, it is monstrously fast (by most standards too fast for the public) road, but as we approach the onset of the electrified supercar, it’s clear to many that a great engine is about more than just pure speed.
However, if you take the engine as a tool for pushing this car along and complimenting the wondrous chassis, it’s hard to fault on an objective level. There’s power everywhere in the rev range and the ability to use the inherent flexibility makes it a hugely effective accompaniment on-road. In more aggressive modes the gearbox is sharp, and the response respectable for a turbo’d unit.
Maserati MC20: verdict
We’ve waited a long time for Maserati to launch a car like the MC20 and by every measure, it’s absolutely been worth the wait. Despite the short development time (just 24 months), there’s a feeling of engineering sparkle and polish that underlines almost every aspect of the car, from its deft handling to the everyday usability (minus the boot space) that makes it a viable daily runner.
The only question mark (if we can even call it that), is on the engine. It’s damn effective and extremely clever, yet it doesn’t always feel like one that belongs in a Maserati. But then, maybe that’s the old Maserati we’re referring to. The new Trident has been kicked off in emphatic fashion with the MC20, a car that – objectively speaking – is hard to fault. Bravo.