The Maserati MC20 is a big deal.
To be sure, the brand’s GranTurismo (literally “Grand Tourer” and not “teeth-baring super sports car”), for all 13 years it was in production, was loud and beautiful.
The Quattroporte, Ghibli, and Levante brought much needed sensuality to their otherwise stodgy and stolid market segments.
The MC20, however, is a new dawn for a storied brand that has needed many dawns for having suffered many long and frigid nights.
During these times, Ferrari and Lamborghini have hummed (roared?) merrily along, and even Audi and Chevrolet have dived into the mid-engine waters.
Meanwhile, the universe and its collective automotive soul cried out for the Maserati trident, so steeped in romance and legend, to birth an entrant for the party.
Well, here it is. And I got to put my grubby paws on it.
Only for 15 minutes at the wheel, and that is sufficient merely to make me even more ravenous with anticipation, but I am not about to pass up the chance to experience this brilliant blue Italian messiah.
Especially when standing next to the car ready to chaperone and chauffeur is championship-winning racer Sean Hudspeth and his wealth of acumen.
A full road test will follow in due time, so consider this a teaser for a trailer to the actual movie.
TO TEMPT AND TANTALISE
Key details? The 620hp engine is in the middle, a V6 “Nettuno” mill of Maserati’s very own design and construction, suffused with F1 tech to sharpen throttle response and connected to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.
A carbon fibre monocoque is bracketed by aluminium subframes for an impressively svelte 1475kg kerb weight. Oh, and the 0-100km/h time of 2.9 seconds is in a dead heat with Ferrari’s F8 Tributo.
My eyes naturally gravitate from the numbers to the actual car. What a graceful and pretty thing it is. It seems to strike a Goldilocks balance of restraint and supercar-obligatory pizzazz.
Not too bland like the McLaren MP4-12C, nor is it the shotgun blast of frenzied detailing that is the wont of the modern supercar. The thrusting snout is signature Maserati, and technical details are there for the knowingly searching eye.
Upturned vanes at the edges of the front skirt evoke a jet’s wingtips, while the diffuser, flat underbody, and intakes over the rear haunches that camouflage themselves in profile serve as evidence for a shape beautiful for having its form so clearly informed by function.
In the best supercar fashion, you can almost see the way flowing wind has caressed the silhouette into being.
Hopping over the sills into the passenger seat, we amble gently out into the Leng Kee Road throng with Sean at the wheel and serenading me with a stream of insider insight.
I notice that his towering 1.88m frame is still left with a full hand’s worth of headroom. Sean’s hand reaches for the drive selector in a fluid, almost unthinking fashion, as he enthuses about the simple clarity of the driving ergonomics. “The steering wheel is the perfect size and diameter”, he says.
This is an environment rich in Alcantara and constructed in an attractive, legible geometry. Sean flicks the drivetrain to Sport, and prods the selector to slacken the dampers back to GT, his preferred setup for the road.
UP AND AWAY
I can hear Sean speak quite easily, and it strikes me how unstressed the car feels in traffic, reassuring amounts of sunlight flowing in through the generous windows.
Soon, we arrive at a twisted, contorted set of bends, and Sean cannons the car into the knotted curves, his fingers dancing upon the column mounted shifters.
I try to keep one eye on Sean’s limbs and the rest of my attention on the sensations being transmitted through the monocoque and bespoke Bridgestone Potenza Sports.
The chassis, developed with racecar specialists Dallara, lasers its way up a hill.
Even from the passenger seat the balletic agility is palpable. The chassis conveys a real eagerness to pivot and yet remain on good terms with the rutted bitumen below. It feels light, sympathetic, and therefore fleet-footed.
Even more remarkable is the stream of nonchalant chatter emanating from Sean as we dogfight physics. Being shown around and driven in a super sports car by a racing driver providing commentary is invaluable in the perspective it provides.
Neither the car nor its driver seemed the least bit perturbed pulling off manoeuvres that would far exhaust my own limits of courage and talent. Trail-braking through a particularly sharp transition, Sean remarks on the massive reserves of grip.
The car stayed flat, the tyres stayed resolute, the front and rear nailed to neutrality. Pilot and machine, cool as cucumbers.
The Nettuno V6 does not have the most extroverted vocals. It is meaty and purposeful for sure, but neither has the guttural edge nor banshee-like wail of its V8 and V10 contemporaries. The hairs stand on end here for other reasons than a saturating soundtrack.
After swapping places with Sean, we head back down the hill, my stomach beginning in tangles like the road we just traversed. One of the first things anyone experiences recumbent in a super sports car is fear.
It is like standing at the mouth of a Krayt Dragon’s lair. The last thing I want to do is bin Maserati’s precious demo vehicle into the bushes. My intestines, however, very quickly untwine, reassured by the car’s accessibility.
The MC20 has a delightfully friendly demeanour, and there is a lightness of touch that has distinct echoes of Alpine’s hypnotically addictive Alpine A110 about it, except given a huge shot of anabolic steroids and a pair of samurai swords to play with.
Sightlines are excellent and the car feels liberatingly compact relative to the supercar norm, even through the narrowest points of Vigilante Drive.
Sean, of course, was right about the delicious-feeling steering. It is a fairly light setup, lighter than what you tend to find in 911s, and at 2.2 turns lock to lock, is an alert-feeling rack that talks vibrantly.
I play around with the throttle on the straight blast back to the showroom, trying but mostly failing to catch the powertrain off-guard, except in the lowest depths of the rev range necessitating the slightest of pauses for a downshift.
Just like that, it was over. You can be sure, though, that we will pounce hungrily on the car again at the first opportunity for a comprehensive workout.
Maserati MC20 3.0 (A)
ENGINE 2992cc, 24-valves, V6, turbocharged
MAX POWER 620hp at 7500rpm
MAX TORQUE 730Nm at 3000rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 420.3hp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed dual-clutch with manual select
0-100KM/H 2.9 seconds
TOP SPEED 325km/h
CONSUMPTION 8.7km/L (combined)
PRICE EXCL. COE From $788,000
AGENT Tridente Automobili