The hot MC20 marks Maserati’s return to the supercar ranks and we get a taste of it at the Sepang Circuit.
I have no idea how usable the Maserati MC20’s front and rear luggage spaces are, and I haven’t a clue what its touchscreen is like. What I can tell you after a precious few laps of the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia is that this Maserati supercar is up there with the very best in the world.
To get you up to speed, the MC20 is Maserati’s answer to the mid-engined McLarens, Lamborghinis and Ferraris of the world. And it’s a Maserati through and through; no helping hand from Ferrari. The carbonfibre monocoque and the engine it houses are Maserati’s own. The engine in question is the new Nettuno (Italian for Neptune) unit, and one number will tell you why this 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 is of such interest. A specific output of 210hp per litre! In all, the engine makes 630hp at 7,500rpm and 730Nm from 3,000rpm. It only helps that the engine has to move just 1,500kg of car.
Maserati MC20: ride, handling
Entertaining MC20 delivers the goods on track.
Turn 1 at Sepang is a tightening radius right-hander that leads into a sharp left-hander. And it’s within these first set of corners alone that some of the MC20’s underlying characteristics come through. It’s a tight car with a very reactive chassis. There’s no delay in the execution of steering inputs and what that gives is an immediate feeling of being at one with the car. It drives like a point-and-shoot device.
Handling balance and quick steering make you feel one with the MC20.
As the track opens up, my attention shifts to the engine. Power delivery is meaty and strong through the rev range and what is particularly impressive for a twin-turbo engine is its willingness to rev hard. It’ll rev to 8,000rpm and there’s just no let up in the build of speed right till the end. Snapping the steering column-mounted gearshift paddle has the 8-speed dual-clutch transmission grant a brisk upshift and what follows is another long, hard push to the top end. That lightness with which the MC20 builds speed stays with you.
The lightness with which the MC20 builds speed stays with you.
The Maserati is properly poised on braking too, which is just as well because this is a car you can easily get carried away in. That mid-engined balance, the quick steering and the thunderous engine have that effect. It’s a pity then that the sound the MC20 makes is a bit anti-climactic. Yes, it’s loud, but it doesn’t suck you in as much as the rest of the driving experience does.
I don’t glance at the digital instrument cluster over my laps, but having experienced the might of the Nettuno engine, I wouldn’t doubt that claimed 325kph top speed or the 0-100kph time of 2.9 seconds.
Maserati MC20: powertrain, interior
The mega Nettuno engine will find use in future Maseratis.
There’d be no full-throttle driving on the cool down lap, my minder from Maserati on the passenger seat politely reminds me, and at the easygoing pace I’m forced to keep to, it’s all about the broad spread of power at my disposal. Far from feeling like a highly strung unit out of its comfort zone, the engine is torquey with pulling power even in the higher gears, which promises to make the MC20 a relatively friendly supercar.
Blue mode selector dial draws inspiration from luxury watches.
Five drive modes allow you to fine-tune the experience, and it’s telling that ‘GT’ is the default setting. This is intended to be a supercar you can use often. An optional lift function that raises the front end by 50mm only helps to this end. Good visibility is another unexpected takeaway from my session. The windshield is large, a switchable display at the mirror (a la Land Rover) takes care of rearward visibility and there’s thankfully not much inside to distract you from the job of driving.
Digital instrument screen gives pride of place to the tacho.
There’s a touchscreen, yes, but the important controls are physical buttons on the steering and console between the form-fitting seats. A geeky factoid is the luxury watch inspiration for the dark blue drive mode selector. It’s a detail of note, because, in a break from Maserati tradition, there’s no analogue clock in the MC20.
The trident insignia is subtly integrated into glass engine cover.
Expectedly, the interior is high-grade Italian fare. ‘My’ MC20’s interior is finished in Alcantara and many of the visible hard surfaces are finished in carbon fibre.
Maserati MC20: design, verdict
It’s over the lunch break that I get to really admire the MC20. If it looks amazing in the photos, wait till you see one in the metal. This is one gorgeous car. It’s not outlandish as a Lamborghini or aggressive as a Ferrari; this Maserati is classically beautiful. The mid-engined proportions with that look of centralised mass give it a purposeful stance and there’s a delicate flow of curves on the bodywork. Air ducts and the like are beautifully integrated into the lines; the lower portion is finished in contrasting black; and carbon fibre conceals the larger aero and cooling aids altogether. The MC20 would be my entry for the poster car of the 2020s.
And did I mention that it’s got butterfly doors? The doors swivel upwards glamorously to reveal the carbon fibre frame and the cosy cabin it ensconces. Would it even be Italian without some amount of showmanship built into it? In case you’re wondering, getting in and out is no harder than in your average supercar.
Butterfly doors lend requisite levels of drama.
Maserati might not have the cache of Ferrari or Lamborghini in supercar circles, but the MC20 looks set to change things. It’s a car that will lure you for the way it looks and then reel you in for the way it drives. Maserati has opened orders for the MC20 in India with the first of the deliveries lined up for the second quarter of 2023. Prices are expected to start at about Rs 3.5 crore (estimated, ex-showroom), which is Huracan RWD money.
How well the MC20 fits into the India scheme of things is something that remains to be seen. For the moment, I’m leaving the Sepang circuit with a very high opinion of the Maserati. It’s Italian exotica done right.
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