First drive: Maserati MC20

This supercar comeback is an MC with a point to make

2021 Maserati MC20 review
Gallery28
9.0/10Score

Things we like

  • Outstanding dynamic bandwidth
  • Gun drivetrain
  • Exterior design

Not so much

  • Engine sound
  • Bare-essentials interior
  • Skimpy luggage space

Butterflies are aerodynamic, obviously. They flutter through the air, after all. But the enchanting insects are not designed for speed, unlike the butterfly doors of the Maserati MC20.

Swinging them up exposes this car’s nose-to-tail dividing line, where engineering encounters art. With its single hefty hinge high up near the base of the A-pillar, the butterfly door makes room below for an air duct. This tapers from behind the front wheel, emerging into view to meet a channel beneath the door aperture. The result? Front-axle downforce.

Except for a vestigial rear spoiler, the MC20’s aerodynamics are mostly concealed from view. The objective was to deliver downforce and stability with maximum visual discretion.

It’s also true that the butterfly doors add a touch of visual drama to a car that otherwise aims for restrained elegance. This isn’t an accident...

Wheels Reviews 2021 Maserati MC 20 Scissor Door Open
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While the black art of the aerodynamicists ruled downstairs, up top the designers reigned colourfully supreme. It was a fruitful division of responsibilities. The MC20 may lack the overt aggression or thrusting angularity of other supercars from Italy, but it is classically beautiful.

It’s also very easy to get into, another benefit of those doors. From the driver’s seat a section of the MC20’s central carbonfibre monocoque and portion of the broad front Bridgestone Potenza’s tread is visible before the door is pulled shut.

It closes with the dead thud typical of carbonfibre cars; all the Maserati’s exterior panels, as well as its core structure, are made from the stuff.

Wheels Reviews 2021 Maserati MC 20 Side Profile
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The interior of the MC20 is almost austere, despite all the Alcantara, leather and carbon fibre. The most overtly decorative element is the driving mode selector dial, mounted on the central tunnel forward of the transmission selector buttons.

Switchgear is minimal and many functions are managed via the low-mounted central display screen. The instrument display is also a screen. So, too, is the rear-view mirror, though the driver can toggle between the view provided by an extra external camera and normal mirroring.

While the black art of the aerodynamicists ruled downstairs, up top the designers reigned colourfully supreme.
Wheels Reviews 2021 Maserati MC 20 Interior
28

Thumbing the starter button wakes the Nettuno engine cradled in the aluminium subframe attached to the rear wall of the central monocoque. There’s another subframe at the front.

For the last 20 years most Maserati engines have been made by Ferrari. Understandably, Maserati’s engineers are proud of this twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6, which is all their own work. It was designed and developed in-house, and is being manufactured in the company’s hometown of Modena.

The Nettuno’s combustion chambers have an F1-style pre-chamber around one of its two spark plugs. It’s made from a copper alloy, but Maserati guards the engine’s patented secrets closely.

Wheels Reviews 2021 Maserati MC 20 Top Engine Cover
28

What isn’t secret is the Nettuno’s prodigious output for its capacity; 463kW. This number, combined with the MC20’s relative lightness, means Maserati can claim its supercar has the best power-to-weight ratio in the class. And an elite-grade sub-3.0-second 0-100km/h time.

It feels special, too. The swelling surge from middling revs to the cut-out a little beyond the 7500rpm power peak is truly epic. But what’s surprising is the engine’s amiable elasticity when driven sedately on the road in default GT and sportier Sport modes.

The impression of easy-going flexibility is enhanced by a near-perfectly calibrated transmission. The MC20’s eight-speed dual-clutch is made by Tremec, and Maserati engineers reveal that it’s the same transmission as used in the Chevrolet Corvette C8.

Wheels Reviews 2021 Maserati MC 20 Top Design
28

On awfully rough roads through the hills south of Modena, the MC20’s chassis also reveals a great talent. Especially in GT mode, the Maserati’s variable dampers deliver a supple ride and outstanding wheel control.

Superbly direct and beautifully weighted, the steering is also a joy. If only the raspy engine sounded as good as it feels there would be almost nothing to criticise. With a little more luggage space – there’s a small 50-litre compartment under the bonnet and double that in the tail – the MC20 would make a very grand tourer.

463kW combined with the MC20’s relative lightness, means Maserati can claim its supercar has the best power-to-weight ratio in the class.
Wheels Reviews 2021 Maserati MC 20 Handling Review
28

Though it excels on the public road, the Maserati is equally adept on a track in Corsa mode. Around the short but testing Autodromo di Modena, the MC20 reveals the fiercely focused side of its character: awesome adhesion, delicious precision and the fabulous stopping power of the optional carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes.

Maserati may have been a serial disappointer in the recent past, but the MC20 is a superbly resolved, lovely to look at supercar, with an easy-going side to its character that sets it apart from the others. It’s a butterfly among bees…

Wheels Reviews 2021 Maserati MC 20 Top Side Profile
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Maserati MC20 specifications

Engine 3000cc V6 (90°), dohc, 24v, twin-turbo
Max power 463kW @ 7500rpm
Max torque 730Nm @ 3000-5500rpm
Transmission 8-speed dual-clutch
Weight 1475kg
0-100km/h 2.9sec (claimed)
Economy 11.5L/100km (WLTP)
Price $440,000 (estimated)
On sale Q4, 2021

9.0/10Score

Things we like

  • Outstanding dynamic bandwidth
  • Gun drivetrain
  • Exterior design

Not so much

  • Engine sound
  • Bare-essentials interior
  • Skimpy luggage space

 

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