Maserati MC20 Takes Aim at McLaren with First Supercar in Ages
The question of “What would a McLaren 570S built by Maserati look like?” has been answered this week in the form of the MC20 — the latest mid-engine supercar that some, but by no means all, will be able to afford.
Is a McLaren-style supercoupe what the MC20 will be, joining the ranks of a bewildering number of six-figure, butterfly-doored cars, or will it find a way to stand out in this sea of carbon-fiber cupholdered coupes?
The 20 part of its name might as well stand for the number of years since Maserati has fielded a halo car. But, in reality, it hasn’t been that long, even though it certainly feels like it. In that time, Maserati busied itself with its usual pastime: trying to build a BMW 3-Series competitor. It finally struck gold, but not too much gold, with its first-ever volume model, the Ghibli. After some time and some strain, the automaker has also fielded the Levante SUV.
Maserati is now a much different automaker since it offered the Ferrari Enzo-derived MC12, and it faces slightly different competitors while not being able to rely on the Ferrari parts bin at all. And, unlike the MC12, this time around its supercar will be far more restaurant parking-friendly, without several feet of long and low overhangs.
The MC20, unveiled this week, will have the McLaren 600LT in its sights if its exterior looks and horsepower output are any indication. But instead of a V8, it’ll feature a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 producing 621 hp and 538 lb-ft of torque.
Designed in-house by Maserati the engine is named Nettuno, which is Italian for Neptune and sounds even cooler if you pronounce it with an Italian accent. This powerplant features Maserati’s trick twin combustion twin-spark ignition system, which acts as a part of a pre-chamber combustion system. The twin-spark setup effectively features a separate, second combustion chamber positioned between the main combustion chamber and the electrode, and connected by a series of specially-placed holes.
The pre-chamber system, sourced from Formula One tech, improves fuel consumption and lowers engine noise at low revs while improving fuel economy. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, promising 0 to 62 mph launches in 2.9 seconds and a 0 to 124 mph blast in just 8.8 seconds. Where permitted, of course.
“The new engine is the result of a technical revolution, one protected by international patents,” the automaker said regarding the Nettuno engine. “The project was born from the passion and commitment of a team of highly-qualified technicians and engineers. After twenty years, Maserati has once again enthusiastically taken on the challenge of returning to its Modena HQ with the development and production of a new, highly-technological, high-performance engine.”
Five driving modes will be on the menu: Sport, GT, Corsa, Wet and ESC-Off, with the fifth promised to be the real thing, shutting off all the electronic nannies.
The rest of the car, including the chassis, is perhaps a window into supercar design and engineering of this exact point in time, pointing to the fact that Maserati knows what buyers of this sort of car expect on a technical level. With plenty of carbon-fiber elements and a carbon-fiber monocoque, a double-wishbone suspension setup all around, the MC20 will offer a curb weight below 3,306 lbs with a trick floor design to thank for slippery drag coefficient and plenty of downforce, despite a minimal rear spoiler. The cabin, in keeping with the conventions of the genre, is on the spartan side, preferring business over pleasure while ensuring a lightweight curb weight.
But yes — there will be an infotainment screen. Albeit a small one.
Will the MC20 be as single-minded as the MC12 was?
That’s another thing that will be different this time around: Maserati plans a convertible version, due in 2021 after production of the coupe begins late this year, in addition to a fully-electric version in 2022. Yet another version will be a hardcore track variant, though the availability and usability of that model have not been sketched out in detail for the moment.
Speaking of an electric variant, does the MC20 look like a natural recipient of a battery-electric powertrain? Not quite, because such models have traditionally opted to position the battery in the floor itself. But it sounds like a battery pack and electric motor could be positioned the place of its engine, keeping roughly the same dimensions as the gas-engined version. After all, there are only so many places where a battery could go in car this small and this light. It’ll be curious to see how Maserati plans out the EV version, and how close it’ll be in engineering to the Nettuno-engined MC20.
But the company has already promised a 0 to 62 launch time of 2.8 seconds in the EV version, and a very respectable 236-mile range in the very liberal European cycle, suggesting that EV variants have been testing on the road for quite some time.
Speaking of the Nettuno-engined MC20, Maserati is currently accepting orders for it but has not nailed down a price. However, it’s best to budget around $200,000 before options and various exorbitant luxury taxes, depending on which southern European seaside jurisdiction you plan to register it. Start picking out custom license plates with “MC20” in it today.
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