Tested: 2022 Maserati MC20 Marks a Return to Glory

Tested: 2022 Maserati MC20 Marks a Return to Glory

The 2022 Maserati MC20 is not related to any Ferrari. Or, for that matter, to any Alfa Romeo, or Fiat, or Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep. It is its own machine, with its own purpose-built engine and carbon-fiber monocoque, and it heralds a new era of independence for Maserati. Not from the Stellantis empire, mind you, but from its own recent muddled past, when a Maserati’s exhaust note might remind you of a Ferrari, but its instrument cluster would say Dodge Dart. The MC20 is a pair of dihedral doors pointing skyward, toward Maserati’s newfound ambition. The MC20 is what you might call an entry-level exotic, with a base price of $215,995 and a list of options that can push the price beyond $300K. It’s powered by a 621-hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 that Maserati boasts is the highest-output production six-cylinder on earth, conveniently forgetting the Porsche 911 Turbo S (640 horsepower), Ferrari 296 GTB (654 horsepower), and Ford GT (660 horsepower). The upcoming McLaren Artura hybrid also has a V-6, so it appears we’re entering a golden era for six-pot performance, provided you have at least a couple hundred grand to spend. Great engines should have their own names, and Maserati obliged by dubbing its 3.0-liter “Nettuno,” which is Italian for Neptune. It uses a patented precombustion design that gives each cylinder two combustion chambers, each with its own spark plug. It’s a turbocharged, dry-sump design, oversquare and built to rev. The horsepower peak arrives at 7500 rpm and its 538 pound-feet of torque is available by 3000 rpm. This ferocious little engine is connected to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels. While the McLaren and Ferrari V-6s are hybridized, Maserati plans to skip that step and offer the MC20 as a full electric—its carbon tub is designed to accommodate coupe, convertible, and electric variants. For now, though, the MC20 is pure internal combustion. And it’s not shy about it. From the driver’s seat, this engine plays a singular soundtrack. There’s the heavy breathing from the turbos commingled with an angry blat from the exhaust and the distinctive sound of combustion. There’s no Alfa-style howl here. At steady throttle, the Nettuno issues a sort of pissed-off gurgle that almost sounds like detonation, which is presumably those clever—and patented—dual combustion chambers at work. Just when you thought you’d heard all the sounds an engine could make, here comes Maserati with a new one. Crack the throttle wide open and that gurgle is subsumed by lots of other noises, like the blood pooling in your ears as your body is crushed into the Sabelt seat. The MC20 dispatches 60 mph in 3.2 seconds, a time that reflects those initial moments when launch control is fighting to keep the rear 305/30ZR-20 Bridgestone Potenza Sport tires from going up in smoke. Once fully hooked up, those 621 horses fully assert themselves, with the quarter-mile passing in 11.0 seconds at 131 mph. It’s cliché to say that a car’s passing power feels like getting rear-ended by a dump truck, but that’s really what it feels like when you abruptly mat the accelerator on the move in the MC20. The transmission downshifts instantly and violently, and then you’re on your way to license-losing speeds. In our 50-to-70-mph acceleration test, the MC20 required only 2.4 seconds. The sensation is that there’s no slack in the system—until you hit the brakes and find that the pedal goes most of the way to the floor before the pads really bite into the optional $10,000 carbon-ceramic rotors. Since this is a brake-by-wire system, we’d suggest Maserati sacrifices some of that easy modulation in the name of increased immediacy. As with its drag-strip performance, the MC20’s grip also befits a car that looks like it just rolled off the grid at Circuit de la Sarthe, posting 1.08 g’s on the skidpad. But that number, as well as those for acceleration and braking, would’ve likely been better if the car weighed anywhere near Maserati’s claimed weight of “less than 3307” pounds. Our scales put the MC20 at 3757 pounds, a full 450 pounds beyond Maserati’s figure. Granted, the MC20 is a deceptively large machine—at 183.8 inches long, it’s an inch and a half longer than a Chevrolet Corvette—but that’s still a lot of weight for a rear-wheel-drive car with a carbon-fiber tub and a tiny V-6. Perhaps Dallara, which supplies the tub, needs to squeeze out a few more gallons of resin before hitting the ol’ autoclave. We’ll try to weigh another MC20 at some point to see if this one might’ve been an early production anomaly. Whatever the scales say, the MC20 certainly doesn’t feel heavy. It offers four drive modes—GT, Sport, and Corsa, plus a Wet mode—and the first three run the gamut from aggressive to fully antisocial. A button in the middle of the rotary mode-selection dial allows the driver to soften the suspension independently, so the powertrain can be in Sport mode while the suspension stays relaxed, which is perfect for attacking real roads. Corsa mode is probably best left to actual tracks (among other things, it opens the active exhaust at all times) unless you need to access launch control, which can be toggled from the steering wheel.While the MC20 has its practical side, with a rear trunk fit for a couple duffle bags and a front one about large enough for the owner’s manual and some light contraband, this is not a GT car. The interior is elegant but austere, committed to the race-car vibe that’s established the moment you open the dihedral door. The roofline is low, with a single wiper sweeping the windshield—probably not as effectively as a pair of them might be, but it looks extremely cool doing it. The view rearward is also compromised by the low rake of the roof, with the tiny rear window casting reflections that cause the rearview mirror to show the view ahead of you rather than behind. Fortunately, the mirror also has a Video mode, for when you need to know whether there are any police-spec Explorers on your bumper before you leap to hyperspace. The standard six-way power sport seats are comfortable for multi-hour stints, and the 10.3-inch touchscreen is a fine conduit for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Our test car was treated to minimal interior finery other than a $4000 Sonus Faber sound system and upgraded leather and Alcantara ($1000), but it still looked high quality—and, importantly, like nothing else in the Stellantis portfolio. No climbing in here and saying, “Oh yeah, just like that Jeep Compass I rented last year.”Which is as it should be for a car that costs an as-tested $260,045. Yet Maserati promises that the MC20 isn’t an abstract halo car but a portent for the more attainable models as well. We certainly hope so. It remains to be seen whether Fiat-Chrysler’s sale of Ferrari in 2016 will ultimately be good for Maranello, but it’s certainly looking good for Maserati, which is now free to build cars like this. If Ferrari doesn’t like it—and they probably don’t—well, too bad for them. But the MC20 is great for the rest of us.

Source : caranddriver.com
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