THE 21st CENTURY, for the most part, has not been a sporty one for Maserati. Save for the MC12, released in 2004, which was seen by many as a Ferrari Enzo wearing different clothes, the trident brand has languished behind its Modena stablemate Ferrari when it comes to fast cars. This is largely due to agreements made when both marques were under the Fiat umbrella, which stipulated that Maserati couldn’t produce anything that would step too hard on Ferrari’s toes.
This means that Maserati has largely been content to appeal to a more sedate audience looking for luxury and comfort, albeit with a good dose of speed — evidenced by the expansion of its Trofeo collection last month.
No longer, however. Maserati has tonight, at its MMXX: Time to be Audacious event at its Italian HQ, begun a new era marked by the unveiling of the MC20 supercar, its first new model in five years (the last was the Levante SUV). That’s MC for “Maserati Corse” (“Maserati Racing”), and the car maker fully intends to use it on the track, saying that the MC20 is a car “with racing DNA”.
And the MC20, unlike the MC12, is 100% Maserati. Powering it is the Nettuno engine, the first in-house-built engine from Maserati in 20 years — until now, Maserati has largely relied on Ferrari engines, in a supply deal that Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri has said he will not renew once it expires.
The Nettuno is a twin-turbocharged V6, mid-mounted in the MC20, capable of sending 621bhp to the car’s rear wheels. That can get the car from 0-62mph in a more-than-satisfactory 2.9 seconds, on its way to a 202mph top speed. Sitting at a fairly petite 1,500kg kerb weight, the MC20 has a weight-to-power ratio of 2.33kg/hp, which Maserati claims is the best in its segment.
All Nettuno engines are being built at the brand spanking new Maserati Engine Lab, and while this its first appearance, it won’t be its last. Although the V6 is currently the only powerplant available for the MC20, Maserati is reportedly working on other powertrains including a pure-electric version.
Despite looking into a new era with the MC20, the past has very much inspired the design process, including Maserati’s strong motorsport heritage. The design language, while sleek and athletic — including dramatic butterfly doors — uses trademark Maserati brushstrokes (the front grille, for example), with definite cues taken from the MC12, the last car to use the Maserati Corse name.
The interior is bespoke to the MC12, and the six colours in which it will be offered have all been created especially for the new supercar. All of them, says Maserati, carry an important message: “a strong reference to Made in Italy, to Italian identity, and to the land, as well as one linked to Maserati tradition.”
Maserati has also made sure that the MC20, despite its sub-three-second 0-62mph time and 202mph top speed, has the creature comforts to which Maserati customers have become accustomed. There’s a 10in screen controlling Maserati’s MIA multimedia infotainment system, wireless smartphone charging, connected navigation, and the Maserati Connect app includes WiFi and Alexa hotspots. Drivers can choose from one of five modes: GT, Wet, Sport, Corsa and ESC Off, which deactivates all control functions.
The MC20, therefore, despite being the first step in Maserati’s self-reinvention, is in many ways the most true-to-itself Maserati that we’ve seen in a long time. Whether or not that proves enough to allow the MC20 to compete in a market Maserati has seen itself nudged out of for the last couple of decades, however, remains to be seen.
The order book for the MC20 opens from today, with the production launch set for later this year.