Since my first, tantalisingly brief encounter with the MC20 two months ago, the desire to finally experience it in depth had progressively intensified into a full-blown generalised pruritis (aka itchy skin).
Today, instead of sitting beneath the saturating glow of the showroom’s spotlights, this sultry wedge is silhouetted against the throng of morning rush hour Leng Kee Road and a dramatically darkening sky.
Against this gritty backdrop and from a greater, more natural distance, the MC20 looks even better than I remember.
Against all odds, it even manages to make the “ComfortDelGro Blue” hue sexy. I’ll let your eyes trace the car’s contours. Journey from its pouting lips, wander over the sensual curves, and arrive at the seductive rump.
Aggression is married in perfect balance with grace, and angularity exists in just-right amounts relative to smooth arcs. Maserati’s artisans have a delightful sense of proportion, and it is these reflexively recognisable suggestions of glamour and speed that push all the right buttons in the monkey brain.
The MC20 is immediately beautiful in that same instinctive, sharp-intake-of-breath way that catching a glimpse of Tom Hiddleston or Anya Taylor Joy evokes.
Study the detailing, integrated with greater subtlety in the overall shape than many modern supercars manage, with more learned scrutiny and you will find much to geek out over.
Aerodynamic appendages hide in plain sight, with a front splitter mimicking winglets sitting ahead of an undercarriage bearing vortex generators and exiting through a full-width diffuser.
The vents for the engine melt into the bodywork as the angle of your gaze settles into the side profile.
Behind said vents is an engine of Maserati’s own design. The turbocharged V6, with banks of 90 degrees, is called Nettuno. And it has for emphasis, nothing to do with any Ferrari engine.
Its party trick is a patented piece of tech called “Maserati Twin Combustion” that achieves pre-chamber ignition like in a Formula 1 car.
Paired with two turbos and port and direct injection, the 3-litre motor spits out 621 horsepower at maximum attack. Hybrid assistance is completely absent.
Wrench the “butterfly” doors upwards (assuming your parking space neighbour left you enough space to do so) climb in over the easily navigable sills, and settle in.
Greeting the driver is an environment that is clear-eyed and effective. Fairly straight laced in execution, the ergonomics are intuitive while gratuitous design flourishes are kept to a minimum.
Critically, sightlines are excellent despite the ground-hugging stance, although the view out the rear window is but a sliver of sky. A high-resolution camera instead provides footage to the rear-view mirror.
Before we go any further with descriptions of the car, however, let’s talk about Singapore’s road infrastructure.
A full 12 percent of our land area is asphalt. The city was built with vehicle-accommodating infrastructure baked in, rather than stuffed desperately around historical buildings like in many European metropolises.
The result is a small island with very large roads. Throw COE into the mix, and we have a flowing rather than choking traffic situation, painting trajectories on patched and re-patched bitumen that are quick and challenging.
We may not have twisting mountain roads but we have the BlueSG horde and PHVs, laying down their own shape-shifting chicanes in a driving environment that is a special dynamic workout – much like a badminton match.
No prisoners are taken. Agility, reflexes, response and acceleration are core virtues.
It is a bit of a cliché, but the most enjoyable supercars in this uniquely vigorous scenario are those that genuinely exhibit a duality of character.
BROAD TALENT SCOPE
The MC20 makes a good case for itself right from the off. I remember my brief preview drive to be a friendly, reassuring experience despite the potency of the car underfoot, and I am reminded of the MC20’s affability as I tiptoe out into traffic.
The car feels small and supremely easy to place within Lentor Highway’s stingy lane markings. I am reminded of Alpine’s sublime A110, except angrier and with a bigger stick.
All four corners are registered clearly in your mind. Drive as hard or as gently as you please, the car neither chokes with impatience nor spikes with overzealousness, serving up wave after wave of useable torque.
The 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox behaves as you expect from a modern unit of its type, snappily and cleverly serving up gearshifts with ratios well chosen to exploit the V6’s talents over a range of speeds.
Sport mode with dampers tuned back to comfort is racecar driver Sean Hudspeth’s preferred setting, and I discover why within the first hour of feeling my way around the city.
So configured, the powertrain is at the right level of alertness, while the springs are just about liveable over Newton Road’s moon-like surface.
Confidence built, I let her rip.
A mid-engine layout confers some innate advantages – especially with regard to balance. The MC20 takes these virtues and makes the absolute most of them.
Placing the driver directly over the centre of gravity, the car’s nose extends barely beyond the driver’s legs and generously low front cowl. The unburdened front end responds as if connected by synapse.
ZIPPING AND DASHING
The steering is light, and initially seems to convey less information about the road textures than the chassis vibrantly does.
However, it weights up with precise proportion to the forces acting on the front wheels, allowing the driver to push on with confidence and react to (and even pre-empt) the conditions of grip in a flash.
Throw the car around harder over even damp and cambered surfaces and one discovers massive reserves of grip. The bespoke Bridgestone Potenza tyres feel like they can hold off a sideways shoulder charge from the Incredible Hulk.
Yet, because of the car’s abiding sense of lightness, they do not feel like they are straining against very much at all.
Being primarily of carbon fibre, the patter of road detritus flicking off the body is ever present. Through that soundscape is a perceptible sensation of unyielding structural integrity.
The sounds and textures of mechanical operation are allowed to filter through just enough to render the driving experience a thrillingly involving one.
Internally combusted V6 sitting in the middle of a carbon-tubbed supercar with mass kept to a minimum. It is a simple, honest recipe and it feels rewardingly so.
If there is one caveat to the delightful time I’m having, it is the comparative lack of aural drama. The V6 has a distinctive, grumpily determined growl, perhaps owing to its innovative pre-chamber ignition system.
With greater exertion, it escalates in intensity and volume but does not transform in timbre, lacking the baleful howl and visceral scream of its more cylindrically well-endowed peers. The MC20’s engine, used in the city, seems happiest muscularly pushing ahead in the mid-range rather than bouncing off the rev limiter.
A RETURN TO FORM
After decades of treading water and directional ambiguity, Maserati has risen again to show the world just what it can do.
The trident stands proud on the nose of its own bona-fide, mid-engine, carbon fibre super sports car. It is one that is not just enthralling and scintillating, but useable and broadly talented as well. This is finally Maserati living its best life.
Maserati MC20 3.0 (A)
ENGINE 2992cc, 24-valves, V6, twin-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