Robb Review: Maserati MC20
A local look at the revolutionary new supercar from Maserati.
It’s not often that you get to do something genuinely new.
One of the few curses of success is that, having the means and the time to try, or buy, pretty much anything and everything you might desire results in a world of still exciting yet familiar experiences and fabulous yet expected brand offerings.
Ferrari’s new SF90 has super-keen new technology, but it’s still a supercar from Ferrari, so you know what to expect—being generally blown away and slightly frightened—based on past experience.
The first Apple iPhone was something genuinely new, but the latest is definitely a familiar device. The first Tesla I ever drove was a game changer, because entirely new car companies, particularly successful ones, are rather like unicorn’s teeth.
Maserati, however, has managed to come up with something genuinely exciting, and inarguably new in the stunning shape of the MC20. Yes, Maserati has made cars before, many of them quick and exciting, and nearly all of them powered by shouty and sexy Ferrari engines, but they have all been variations on a theme—classy, comfortable, long-distance luxo barges with lashings of Italian style. Sure, they offered go-faster Super Trofeo variants, but they’ve never made an actual, genuine supercar for public consumption before.
The MC20 (MC for Maserati Corse and 20 for “2020”, the year it was unveiled) is something new, then, a first crack at building something designed to take on the company that has been like a more attractive sister to it, Ferrari, not to mention the other Italians down the road as well as the McLaren folk over in Blighty.
There aren’t many companies in the supercar game—and that’s because they’re a lot more challenging to make than mere mortal vehicles, with a far more demanding customer base too. This Maserati certainly scores in one of the most vital areas at this end of the market—visual appeal. The MC20 is stunning to look at, either from the kerb or the driver’s seat, and just radiates that certain special quality you only get from Italian design.
The “butterfly” doors are a marvellous example of supercar extravagance. They look eye-catching, they feel fabulous when you throw them into the air as you prepare to leap out of the car and they are unabashedly impractical. I was warned to be careful with them if opening the door in a garage or car park as they might hit the roof.
To be fair, they’re also necessary, because the MC20 sits you so low to the road that if the doors didn’t go up at an angle you’d be trapped in there every time you pulled up next to a kerb.
There are worse places to be stuck, of course, as the Maserati’s modern yet classic interior manages to combine the serious aura of a track weapon with surfaces that feel expensive, refined and delightful.
The yellow stitching on the big and surprisingly comfortable seats even manages to look classy. While I love the overall shape, a favourite part of the car has to be the cooling vents in the perspex engine cover, which combine to form the shape of the famous Maserati trident. It’s one of those things you don’t quite notice at first. A surprise and delightful feature.
The seating position is quite simply perfect and seated just behind your left ear is one of the very few engines Maserati has designed and built for itself this century. It’s also the best—a 3.0-litre twin-turbo, six-cylinder screamer that makes 470 kW (the same as a V10 Lamborghini), a very hefty 730 Nm and hurls all this beauty to 100 km/h in just 2.9 seconds, with a top speed of 325 km/h.
The engine is called the Nettuno and it uses a high-tech twin-combustion system lifted from Formula 1 racing. It certainly sounds more like the strenuous F1 cars of the past, making a tremendous amount of whooshing and hissing and trumpet raspberry noises.
A lot of the noise is coming from the turbochargers, and, in many ways, the MC20 behaves like a classic turbo car with gradual shove through the bottom end and mid-range and then an explosion of madness once the tacho hits its upper reaches.
This means you can drive it around town without being intimidated, or worried that it’s going to bite the car in front or leap off a bridge. But, then, when you’ve found
some open spaces, you can switch from its gentler Grand Touring mode to the savage Sport setting and rip your face off.
A sub three-second time for the 100 km/h dash gives some indication of how mad this Maserati truly is. But it’s the way it really piles on speed while far exceeding legal boundaries, and logic, that really sticks with you.
The steering is also perfectly poised and highly communicative and on a nice, smooth bit of winding road the MC20 provides the kind of driving experience
that is worth shedding $438,000 for. It’s scintillating, hugely involving and yet nowhere near as terrifying as some Ferraris.
One letdown is that you’ll need to make sure you stay on those smooth, perfect roads, however, because the Maserati’s full carbon-fibre tub—while very serious and F1-worthy—makes the car’s body incredibly stiff, which is good and bad. On the right surface, it makes you feel connected to the road, but if there are bumps or holes, everyone of them is going to be sent through the seat and into your body.
The MC20 can be a challenge to drive on the wrong kind of road, and may make you squeal a little in fear every now and then. There’s also the small issue of its rear-vision mirror, which has been replaced by a camera, which sounds futuristic and exciting until you try it, and realise that your eyes can’t pull focus fast enough to live with the experience.
At the end of a few days together, and many hours spent just staring at it and thinking how lovely it is, it was not the minor annoyances that stuck with me about this properly supercar-worthy Maserati MC20, it was how much I’d loved having a truly new and entirely excellent driving experience.
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