2022 Maserati MC20 First Test Drive: Mid-Engine Moonshot

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Which car.

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Maserati earned its reputation through decades of building exotic sports cars, but this legendary Italian manufacturer has been left in the lurch for far too long. That’s why the MC20 is more than just a breath of fresh air blowing the dust off the old Trident. This mid-engined supercar is both a much-needed adrenaline rush and an exquisite return to form.

The shape of the MC20 is unequivocally supercar. Long, low, wide and sleek, Maserati has incorporated styling cues into the MC20 that both pay homage to the company’s storied past and signal a new design language for the future. It’s impossible not to see the MC12 resemblance in the low grille, and vertically oriented headlights will make their way to future Maseratis, starting with the Grecale SUV.

My favorite details are on the rear hatch, where the lightweight polycarbonate engine cover has cutouts in the shape of Maserati’s Trident logo. On either side, a trio of vents mimic the portholes you’ll find on the front fenders of other Maseratis. Or Buicks. Make your choice.

Beneath that striking body, nearly every component is new. Maserati enlisted race car manufacturer Dallara to develop the MC20’s one-piece carbon fiber tub, and that monocoque chassis was designed from the ground up to not only support the next Spider MC20, but also a fully electric version. That carbon-fiber spine is as light as it is stiff, and the MC20 coupe hits the road with a curb weight of 3,306 pounds, less than a base Porsche 911.

You can really feel that lightness behind the wheel. Both on the road and on the track, the MC20 has an effervescent nature for its agility, and this car is extremely nimble. 245/35 front and 305/30 rear summer tires keep the MC20 glued to the pavement at all times, but the chassis’ featherweight demeanor makes the car feel like a boulder is being hopped over across a calm pond – hovering while staying in touch.

Maserati uses a double-wishbone front and rear suspension setup for excellent balance and control, and the steering is both light and quick with plenty of feedback. Six-piston Brembo brake calipers grab 15.4-inch carbon-ceramic front rotors — a $10,000 option — and they don’t mind taking a hard hit before entering a corner to eliminate instantly the speed. There’s little squat or dive under braking, which means the rear end of the MC20 settles down almost immediately, allowing you to get back on the power as soon as possible.

There’s a lot of MC12 influence in that nose.

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Maserati has had the chance to borrow engines from its sister Ferrari in recent years, but for the MC20 the company has developed an all-new powertrain. The so-called Nettuno engine is handcrafted and tested inside the Maserati factory in Modena, a 25-hour process. This twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter 90-degree V6 produces 621 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 538 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. Power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels, managed by an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Despite a high torque peak at 3,000 rpm, the Nettuno engine has virtually no turbo lag and pulls hard all the way to its 8,000 rpm redline. Thanks to the high power of the V6 and the low weight of the MC20, Maserati claims the coupe can accelerate to 62 mph in 2.9 seconds and will hit 124 mph in under 8.8. Top speed? 202 mph. Appropriate supercar stuff.

In GT and Sport drive modes, the MC20’s transmission is on its best behavior. Shifts are quick and well-timed, and the gearbox will preemptively downshift under braking. There’s a fully manual mode so you can take charge (literally) and operate the drivetrain via large carbon fiber shift paddles. Manual upshifts are accompanied by a satisfying kick, and downshifts are super quick. Oh, and bonus points to Maserati for mounting the paddles to the steering column, which, in case you forgot, is the correct way.

The MC20 has a third Corsa riding mode that reduces traction control intervention, which can also be turned off entirely if that’s how you ride. Grippy 305-section rear tires and an electronic limited-slip rear differential—which costs $2,300 more but should be standard—ensure the power to the rear axle is easy to manage and handle. The MC20 rarely gives in to understeer unless it’s intentionally provoked, in which case it’s easy to control itself.

Multimedia technology leaves a lot to be desired, but the cabin of the MC20 is otherwise excellent.

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On top of all that, Maserati nails the visceral drama necessary for the full supercar experience. The V6 doesn’t sound amazing on its own – what does the V6 do? – but there’s a whole arrangement of percussive extras that enhance the auditory thrill. You can hear the air being sucked in through the side vents and into the turbochargers, with an audible hiss as the big snails roll up. There’s a lot going on and it’s all right behind your head. Who needs a stereo when you can just hit the gas and laugh?

By supercar standards, the MC20 is relatively comfortable and fully compatible with driving on city streets and highways. A two-mode adjustable suspension lets you stiffen the dampers regardless of which GT or Sport drive mode you choose, although the differences here aren’t that big. You’ll feel every bump and stain, which in a car like this isn’t entirely a demerit. Just be sure to specify the $4,000 electronic front-lifter. It’s cheaper than re-grading your driveway approach.

Wide swaths of Alcantara suede and exposed carbon fiber make up the MC20’s cabin, with just a few buttons and knobs for the coupe’s various controls. A pair of 10.3-inch screens make up the gauge cluster and media display, and while the MC20 runs Google’s Android Automotive operating system, the Maserati Intelligent Assist software leaves a lot to be desired. Small icons are hard to reach while driving and responses are often slow. The navigation interface is courtesy of TomTom, which is a name I had pretty much forgotten about, and is both dumb and crashy. As in, the system froze and restarted three times during a 45-minute driving loop. Other authors driving other MC20s had similar issues.

I hate to see you go, but I love to see you go.

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When you stop at Malibu Cars & Coffee, you can exit through dihedral doors that open like a supercar. The MC20’s standard seats will be fine for most buyers, but for an additional $7,000 you can install one-piece carbon fiber buckets that save a total of 15 pounds. Oh, and a crucial part of the MC20’s interior is its standard digital rear-view mirror, which shows feed from a camera mounted in a little shark fin on the rear hatch. Without this digital technology behind you, you wouldn’t be able to see anything.

Maserati offers six colors in the standard MC20 catalog, although the company says many buyers choose to go with the new one. Fuorierie personalization program to make their MC20s even more special. Speaking of which, if you want an MC20, you’ll have to wait a bit, because the 2022 model year allocation is already sold out, and no, Maserati won’t tell me how many cars that entails. Order books for the 2023 model year are expected to open up in the coming months, and the MC20’s base price of $212,000 is expected to hold steady.

The MC20 is an absolute stunner in almost every way. It’s an exotic marvel worthy of the Maserati name, and that makes me excited about where the brand is headed. That Nettuno V6 will make its way into other Maseratis, and the upcoming MC20 Spider will offer all the beauty of the coupe with added outdoor entertainment. The fact that the supercar’s chassis was designed to support electrification also guarantees its longevity. It’s been a long time coming, but Maserati’s revival looks hot.


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