The gloves are off! Long owned by Fiat and then FCA, Maserati has for decades been forced to play second fiddle to Ferrari. But now the Prancing Horse has been let out the stable—after its 2015 IPO, Ferrari is 67 percent publicly owned, with FCA and Piero Ferrari controlling the rest—the Trident is being allowed to shine. A 630-hp mid-engine supercar that in form and function elbows the Ferrari F8 Tributo in the ribs, the 2021 Maserati MC20 is precisely the sort of car it would never have been allowed to build a few years ago.
Reportedly developed in a company record 24 months using virtual tools—including sophisticated dynamics simulators that allowed engineers to create and test fully digital versions of the car before constructing any prototypes—the MC20 is designed to be a supercar on the road and a race car on the track, development chief Luigi Sciarretta says. The clue is in the name—MC20 stands for Maserati Corse (Maserati Racing) 2020. And although there’s been no official confirmation from Maserati HQ in Modena, Italy, it’s logical to assume a GT3 race version will appear not long after the MC20 hits the road in 2021.
At first glance the MC20 looks a 21st-century mid-engine supercar on paper: carbon-fiber monocoque and body panels, twin-turbo powerplant, eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, compact multilink suspension front and rear, giant Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes. But scratch the surface, and this new Maserati bristles with interesting and innovative technologies.
What Engine Is in the Maserati MC20?
The heart of the MC20 is an all-new 90-degree twin-turbo V-6 that Maserati says has been entirely engineered in-house development chief Sciarretta says this engine configuration was chosen because it offered the most compact overall dimensions and a lower center of gravity. Dubbed Nettuno—Italian for Neptune, whose trident inspired the Maserati logo—the engine displaces 3.0 liters and produces 621 horsepower at 7,500 rpm and 538 lb-ft of torque from 3,000 to 5,500 rpm. It has a dry sump and double overhead camshafts with variable valve timing. It also features 12 spark plugs and 12 combustion chambers. You read that right.
The Nettuno engine’s patented Maserati Twin Combustion technology utilizes a pre-chamber that initiates combustion in each cylinder, fed by its own fuel injector and fired by its own spark plug. The flame front then propagates through a series of carefully sized holes into the regular combustion chamber above the piston, where more fuel is injected and ignited by a second spark plug. The result, Sciarretta says, is more complete and efficient combustion, which helps the Nettuno achieve its class-leading specific output of 210 horsepower per liter.
The prechamber system is a concept developed for modern Formula 1 racing engines. Maserati’s innovation has been to add a second spark plug in the combustion chamber above the piston. That means each combustion system can operate independently as well as simultaneously, depending on torque demand, to optimize efficiency, smoothness, or performance as required.
How Fast Is the Maserati MC20?
Maserati claims the MC20 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than 2.9 seconds, making it quicker than the 630-hp Lamborghini Huracán Evo and not far off the 710-hp F8 Tributo. The 0-124 sprint is said to take less than 8.8 seconds, and claimed top speed is 202 mph.
The key to the MC20’s performance is its relatively low overall mass. Although 5.9 inches longer, 1.2 inches wider, and 2.2 inches taller than the Huracán Evo, at a claimed 3,240 pounds it is 410 pounds lighter. Maserati claims the MC20 has a best-in-class weight-to-power ratio of 5.1 pounds per horsepower.
Designed at Maserati with input from race car carbon-composite specialist Dallara, the MC20’s central carbon-fiber monocoque is made up of 57 molded components. Aluminum structures bolted to the front and rear of the monocoque anchor the front suspension and steering components, the rear suspension, and the V-6 engine and transmission assembly.
Again, it’s 21st century supercar 101. Except the monocoque has been designed from the outset to underpin, with minor tweaks, both convertible and battery electric versions of the MC20.
The Electric-Powered MC20 Will Be Even Quicker
Yes, an all-electric version of the MC20 is scheduled to make its debut in 2022. Although the internal-combustion engine MC20 is rear drive, the electric version will be all-wheel drive, with motors at the front and rear axles and active torque vectoring.
Sciarretta won’t be drawn on technical details, but he says the electric MC20 will have a range of about 240 miles. And the instant-on torque of the motors, combined with four tires gnawing at the tarmac, means the battery-powered MC20 should be a couple of tenths of a second quicker to 60 mph than the V-6 version, according to Maserati, and at least three tenths of a second quicker to 124 mph despite the extra weight of the battery.
Claimed top speed is more than 190 mph.
Maserati MC20 Exterior Design
Voluptuous curves around the wheels, a cinched waist, a roofline that could have been drawn with a single sweep of a pencil: The MC20, styled under the direction of Maserati design chief Klaus Busse, who also heads up FCA’s European design studio, is a conventionally pretty supercar. But, again, a closer look reveals some interesting details.
Viewed from side on, there’s no obvious air intake. “Most mid-engine cars are designed around an air intake in front of the rear wheels, and on some it’s becoming an excessive design detail,” Busse says. “We focused on creating a car that’s not all about holes.” The MC20 breathes through vents snuggled away on top of the rear fenders. At the front of the car is a reductively simple interpretation of the iconic Maserati grille, flanked by two discreet vents. Vents on either side of the frunk help define the form of the front fenders. At the rear, the bodywork drapes down over technical carbon fiber.
“We’ve put a veil over the engineering skeleton,” Busse says. The upper section of the MC20 is all sculpted and painted panels (six colors will be available at launch, though the roof stays black no matter which you choose), with the overtly technical and functional elements of the bodywork finished in clear-coated carbon fiber peeking out from underneath to manage airflow.
The MC20 is the first Maserati to have vertical format headlights, while the horizontal, lozenge-shaped taillights give the MC20 a familial link to the rest of the Maserati lineup. The engine cover is polycarbonate, which delivers a 45 percent weight savings compared with glass. Louvers to help vent hot air from the engine compartment have been cleverly arranged to form an abstract trident when the car is viewed from behind.
The very clean lines of the Maserati MC20—the absence of obvious aerodynamic aids such as wings and spoilers—is the result of more than 1,000 CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulations and more than 2,000 man-hours of tuning work in the Formula 1-spec Dallara wind tunnel. The front splitter is relatively modest, as are the vents along the lower bodyside. There’s only the merest hint of a rear spoiler.
The heavy-duty aero stuff is all underneath. A complex arrangement of vortex generators at the front of the car is paired with a hump-shaped floor that increases airflow and helps generate downforce on the front axle. At the rear, a large diffuser with channels of different depths and tuned vertical spoilers loads the rear axle.
As a result, Sciarretta says, the MC20 is the only production car that generates measurable downforce on both axles with a completely passive aero setup. “We got a big result without having to go for big wings or for a complex active aero system,” he says.
Maserati MC20 Interior Features
The MC20’s generous exterior dimensions mean it is roomy inside for a two-seat, mid-engine hypercar. “I’m 6 feet, 6 inches, and I fit comfortably, with plenty of leg and headroom,” says Busse, who notes the car also has 5.3 cubic feet of luggage capacity.
The interior design is clean and simple, the carbon fiber on display softened by leather and Alcantara. The instrument panel is digital, and there’s a large, almost free-standing infotainment touchscreen immediately to the right of the steering wheel, which features engine stop/start and launch-control buttons hung from the horizontal spokes.
There are just a handful of buttons on the low center console: a rotary audio controller and power window switches to the rear, reverse gear and drive/manual shift selector buttons midway along, and a large rotary controller that allows the driver to switch between four drive modes (GT, Wet, Sport, and Corsa).
GT is the default mode. Wet mode limits engine boost and makes sure all the nannies are on duty. Sport mode stiffens the suspension, speeds up the gearshifts, reduces the resistance, heightens the sensitivity of the gas pedal, switches the traction control to sport settings, and allows the exhaust valves to open at 3,500 rpm instead of 5,000 rpm.
In Corsa mode, the traction- and stability-control settings are dialed way back, and the suspension and transmission are switched to race settings. Engine boost is maximized, the gas pedal made even more sensitive, and the exhaust valves are pinned open. Corsa mode also enables the launch-control function.
Drivers can opt to switch all the nannies off if they’re feeling brave, and in Sport and Corsa modes they can use the button at the center of the drive mode controller to soften the suspension on rough roads. An optional hydraulic lift system will raise the front of the car 2.0 inches to clear obstacles and will keep the nose raised up to 25 mph. To help with rearward visibility, the rearview mirror uses a video feed from a rear-mounted camera.
The Verdict (So Far)
The MC20 is the most surprising Maserati in years, and not just because it muscles in on what has long been the sole preserve of Ferrari. The MC20’s powertrain and aerodynamics are the result of some truly innovative engineering, and the design successfully integrates classic Maserati visual DNA into a modern supercar format.
But most impressive, perhaps, is the technology that allowed this car to be designed, engineered, and developed in truly record time. Maserati claims 97 percent of the car’s development was done in the virtual world, to the point where engineers even tuned the car’s suspension using computer simulations of back-to-back runs on the same virtual road.
“It’s been the quickest program I have ever worked on,” Sciarretta says. Has it delivered? We’ll wait until we drive the MC20 to give a definitive judgement. But Sciarretta says that when his team built the first physical MC20 prototype, the car performed and handled exactly the way they’d set it up in the simulator. If that’s true, then the Maserati MC20 may be a game changer in more ways than one.