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After a decade and a half, Maserati again has a mid-engined sports car in its lineup and it’s named the MC20. Its name carries a great tradition, and the supercar itself is quite important for the company, which is looking to re-enter the exotic market in style. If you don’t already know why you should be thrilled with the MC20, dive into its origin story to find out why!
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Before the MC20 came to the drawing board, Maserati had to kickstart its sales by rejuvenating and diversifying its conservative line-up consisting of the Quattroporte sedan and the GranTurismo grand tourer. Maserati first presented a smaller Ghibli sedan in 2013, followed by the Levante SUV in 2017.
Both cars were seen as mass market compromises due to the use of diesel engines, but as they raked in profits and re-established Maserati’s market presence, the Modenese manufacturer could move on toward creating a pedigreed exotic for the die-hards.
The quest for a new halo car to complete the brand’s rebirth began in January 2019, with chief engineer Matteo Valentini on board. With the last mid-engined Maserati being the Bora in the 1970s, the MC20 had to be developed ground-up and it was tested throughout 2019 and early 2020, first on a series of Alfa Romeo 4C-looking mules, and then on camouflaged cars.
The emerging COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop the creative momentum, and in September 2020, the Maserati MC20 was unveiled in Modena, under the slogan ‘MMXX It’s time to be audacious’. There, the MC20 was presented to the crowd consisting of selected members of the public on the grandstands and VIP clients seated inside the current lineup of cars, followed by legendary models from the marque’s illustrious history acting as the most exclusive front row seats. The event was everything: original, theatrical, emotional—and audacious.
In its hometown of Modena, Maserati used another launching technique as old as time—yet always effective. The MC20 prototype was presented at the Piazza Grande, the city’s main square. Tradition is what matters the most in Italy, and it’s safe to say that the team paid respect to the old masters even when launching a brand-defining car meant to take Maserati into a bright future.
On May 25 2022, the open-top and handsomely-named MC20 Cielo joined the ranks. Featuring a retractable electrochromic composite glass roof, the Maserati MC20 Cielo offers an unobstructed skyview both with the roof up and down. Finally, the electric MC20 Folgore was announced in August 2022 as a 2023 model, for now just in drop-top form.
Name-wise, the MC20 is a successor to the magnificent Maserati MC12, an unicorn hypercar that is to this day the sole Maserati to use a V12 engine.The MC12 was built in only 62 examples as a homologation special, announcing the return of the Maserati Corse racing programme to the tracks after 37 years.
The Maserati MC12 was a proper race car even in its Stradale (street) guise, let alone the track-only Corsa version. But what was the most impressive feature of this car was the fact that it was essentially an Enzo Ferrari with a more drag efficient GT1 racing body, state of the art V12 and Neptune’s Trident on the front grille.
The MC20 nameplate on the other hand signifies “Maserati Corse 2020”, meaning that the company is continuing its racing efforts. The MC20 will debut in 2023 in GT2 class and when it comes to sales, Maserati has bigger plans, setting the annual production goal at 1500 cars.
The MC20’s slogan is “The First of Its Kind”, and it truly marks a new chapter for Maserati as a forward thinking sports car manufacturer. So, let’s see what this Trident-wearing supercar brings to the table and where its place is in today’s densely-populated and ever-so-competitive market.
Maserati MC20 Chassis
To achieve an unison of superb dynamic properties, utmost passenger safety and optimal weight, the development team conveyed a bespoke carbon fiber tub together with the famed sports car constructor Dallara, which has also taken charge of its production.
Keeping up with the lightweight theme, front and rear subframes are bolted onto the 220lb tub. Worth noting is that the chassis was designed to be used both for the coupé and the convertible, as well as to accommodate both the V6 and a fully electric powertrain, used for the MC20 Folgore.
Lightweight chassis construction helped keep the coupé’s weight at 3307 lb with a rear-biased 41:59 weight distribution, whereas the Cielo convertible tips the scale at 3757 lb. While these numbers are not lightest in-class, they’re still enough to make the MC20 act and feel like a true sports car.
Maserati MC20 Bodywork and Interior
New, fresh and modern, the design of the Maserati MC20 harkens back to the past and the previous Maserati Corse car. Chief designer Klaus Busse explained the design of the front end as a homage to Frank Stephenson’s MC12, drawing parallels between key character lines of their elegantly sculpted front fascia designs. The upper part of the discrete grille signifies a sculptural and pure form of the car, while the carbon fiber lip represents new technology.
Many supercars of today utilize aggressive fronts with massive air ducts and other external downforce-generating add-ons, but Maserati designers regarded them as visual noise. So, by creating a clean, simple face, the designers evoked Maserati’s elite roots while also hinting at an electric future where exaggerated air duct design would’ve been obsolete both visually and functionally.
While the MC12 had the basic proportions of a GT1 race car and a simple nostalgic blue-on-white livery, the MC20 is more at home on the streets. Its design fits the traditional mid-engined sports car formula infused with futurism in all the right places with its super clean character lines, thin LED stop lights and non-conventional wheel designs. Rearwards, panels in exposed carbon fiber give the MC20 more aggressive presence, contrasting with the rest of the car and visually shortening it too.
Adding just the right amount of drama to the highly cerebral design, the MC20 got dihedral butterfly doors in both body styles. As another key visual feature fitting the minimalist theme, there’s an intelligently incorporated geometric trident gracing the engine bay cover, while the Cielo convertible is less subdued, replacing the simplified ornament with a fully detailed trident logo, dispelling any doubt that the MC20 is indeed a Maserati.
In a true less-is-more fashion, the Maserati supercar has is available in only six colors: Nero Essenza, Bianco Audace, Grigio Misterio, Rosso Vincente, Giallo Genio and Blu Infinito. Yet, if one doesn’t find this rational palette sufficient, the Maserati Fuoriserie programme offers a greater extent of customization.
While the MC20 is by all means a car of the future, Klaus Busse and the Centro Stile Maserati team resorted to designing the MC20 traditionally. The design was drawn by hand rather than using computers, while wind tunnel testing was conducted on a full-size clay model, enabling the team to perfect key visual features and refine even the tiniest curves.
This approach also provided immediate insight into the car’s aerodynamic properties, allowing the team to achieve a slippery cd of 0.38 in a clean and simple package without any unnecessary wings, ducts and other openings—including triple side vents, now reduced to an ornament.
Inside, the MC20 exudes Maserati’s distinctive luxury aura blended with race-inspired finishing touches. The cockpit is essential and driver-oriented, with a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster sitting behind the elegant three-spoke steering wheel. A centrally mounted 10.25-inch infotainment screen provides the driver with additional bits of information, but the MC20 doesn’t shy away from haptic buttons.
That being said, the drive mode selector is a physical rotating button mounted on the center console. To keep the interior firmly on the sporty side, the designers chose to let go of one Maserati’s trademark interior feature, the iconic analog dashboard clock.
The ergonomic seats are wrapped in leather and Alcantara, and so are the door cards and the dashboards. For an extra bit of sportiness, Maserati offers manually adjustable lightweight carbon fiber seats. Speaking of, carbon fiber is omnipresent in the interior, starting from the steering wheel, the dashboard and the wide door sills all the way to optional gearshift paddles.
Maserati MC20 Powertrain
Midship, the MC20 sports a twin-turbocharged longitudinally mounted 3.0-liter Nettuno 90° V6. The 8000 RPM Nettuno runs on 11:1 compression ratio and it is good for 621 horsepower at 7500 RPM and 538 lb-ft of torque available from 3000 to 5500 RPM. The figures make the Nettuno the highest specific power output for a non-hybrid V6 engine, at 207.6 horsepower per liter.
Moreover, dry sump lubrication keeps the oil supply steady even during the most challenging driving conditions while also helping achieve a lower center of gravity. Parallel turbochargers are side-mounted fixed geometry units with electronically actuated wastegates and are designed in Modena for the MC20.
The all-aluminum Nettuno is claimed to be developed in-house, in the Modena-based Maserati Engine Lab, yet numerous independent sources as well as Road & Track magazine pointed out to similarities between the V6 and Ferrari’s twin-turbocharged F154 engine, as well as its Alfa Romeo V6 derivative, the 690T.
Among a number of tells backing this claim, the most obvious are shared crankshaft pulley, oil filter housing and mounting pattern, the same 88mm x 82mm bore and stroke as the SF90’s F154, as well as 1-6-3-4-2-5 firing order the Nettuno shares with the 690T.
Regardless of what the marketing department had to say, the Nettuno V6 is a stellar power unit worthy of a super sports car like the MC20. The features that make the Nettuno truly special are the engine’s heads. A work of art in their own right, they incorporate F1-derived pre-chamber technology, increasing combustion efficiency and enabling the V6 mill to achieve its impressive figures.
Dubbed MTC or Maserati Twin Combustion, this system employs dual spark plugs per cylinder, in which the fuel is first mixed in the pre-chamber where it’s ignited by the first spark plug and sent to the cylinder via a system of holes, where the ignition process continues.
The 8-speed dual clutch Tremec TR-9080 transmission distributes torque between the rear wheels via a mechanical or an optional electronic limited slip differential. Both units can divert up to 100% of torque to each individual wheel.
The MC20 has four driving modes: GT, Sport, Corsa and Wet. The Sport and Corsa gradually improve engine, transmission and damper response compared to the default GT mode, as well as exhaust valve opening, enabling the driver to experience all layers of the MC20’s character.
Speaking of performance, the 621-horsepower Nettuno can propel the MC20 from a standstill to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, while the top speed is rated at 202 mph.
In addition to the Nettuno powertrain, Maserati introduced the MC20 as a fully electric car as well. Available only as a Cielo drop-top for now, the 2023 Maserati MC20 Folgore will be powered by three motors: one located at the front and the other two packed in a rear-mounted ZF eAxle unit.
The compact battery pack will be mid-mounted, ensuring optimal weight distribution. The numbers are not available as of now, but given that the MC20 Folgore is set to be the flagship Maserati, we can expect it to have a four-figure output.
Maserati MC20 Suspension and Handling
Forged aluminum double wishbone suspension two bottom links and a single top link is present both front and rear, with a semi-virtual steering axis at the front.
As expected of a car in its class, it features adaptive dampers, as well as an optional hydraulic lift raising the car’s front suspension by 40mm to ease crossing over obstacles such as speed bumps.
Maserati MC20 Brakes, Wheels, and Tires
The MC20 sports a Brembo braking system, with 380mm front and 350mm cross drilled and ventilated steel rotors gripped by radial mounted monobloc 6-piston calipers front and 4-piston monobloc calipers rear. Optionally, the Maserati MC20 can be equipped with carbon ceramic rotors measuring 390mm and 360mm paired up with the same calipers.
The Maserati MC20 comes with idiosyncratic triangular 20-inch wheel designs wrapped in Bridgestone 245/35 R20 and 305/30 R30 tires with a bespoke asymmetric pattern developed exclusively for the car.
While the future looks bright and fresh for Maserati, we must not forget that the $250,000 MC20 faces tough competition from other exotic brands. McLaren, Lamborghini and Audi are all established in the mid-engined supercar niche, and their respective models like Artura, Huracán and R8 are all rivals to the MC20. In addition to that, MC20 also goes against higher end Porsche 911 and the C8 Corvette Z06.
Inevitably, Maserati will face competition from Ferrari, for the first time in the mid-engined segment since the 1970s, and the Bora and Merak having their way with the 308 and the 208 GT4 models. The MC20’s main in-house rival will be the 296 GTB, a $320,000 hybrid-assisted V6-powered mid-engined Ferrari, as well as the more traditional V8-powered F8 Tributo.
In the all-electric exotic niche, it’s still hard to pit the MC20 Folgore against any particular car, but assuming it will be priced at much higher than its petrol-burning counterpart, competition might come from Lotus Evija, Rimac Nevera and Pininfarina Battista.
Maserati is a brand of great tradition, but is it really enough nowadays? The MC20 will have to prove worthy of its name. After all, Maserati represents the very core of exotic Italian marques, and this is a supercar that has all it takes to kickstart a new chapter at the top end of the high-performance automotive market.
Furthermore, plans to electrify the brand will refresh Maserati, differentiating it further from Ferrari, possibly attracting a new kind of customers, and that’s where the all-electric range headlined by the MC20 Folgore needs to shine to keep Maserati relevant in crucial times for its place under the Stellantis umbrella.
Passionate in spirit, intelligent in execution and conscious underneath its skin, the Maserati MC20 is just the right car for the moment—and it’s exactly what Maserati needed to reawaken its spirit and carry it into the future. The aging Maserati lineup needed some fresh blood, and an exciting supercar is exactly the way towards returning to long lost glory. That being said, the MC20 might be the most important Maserati in the last few decades, and we’d love to see it carrying Neptune’s Trident towards the future.