The Italian Brand Gets A Serious Performance Injection

The Italian Brand Gets A Serious Performance Injection

Maserati has entered a new era with the launch of the 2022 MC20 supercar. As the first of three all-new models in an 18-month period, 2022 will be one of the most product-intense years in the brand’s history. This comes on the heels of important changes for Maserati over the past 18 months, including the merging of parent company FCA with PSA to form the fourth-largest automaker on the planet, being positioned as the global luxury brand within the new Stellantis automotive group, and seeing the sales and financial success driven by its first modern SUV.

Introducing an all-new supercar in the midst of this flurry of activity feels like a “cherry on top” moment for the brand, and one look at the MC20 confirms its ability to serve that role. A winner of the “Product Design of the Year” award in Europe, the MC20 was designed at Centro Stile Maserati in Turin, and features a low profile, balanced proportions, “butterfly” doors, and a coefficient of drag under 0.38 that lets it achieve a 202 mph top speed. Of course the mid-engine “Nettuno” 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V6, generating 621 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque, also plays a role in that top speed number, along with the MC20’s zero-to-60 time of 2.9 seconds.

We recently had a chance to experience the new MC20 on both public roads and in the controlled environment of Willow Springs Raceway, north of Los Angeles. The new supercar impressed us in both environments with its combination of supercar performance and luxury car amenities. Opening those butterfly doors reveals the carbon fiber structure of the passenger tub, while the interior features high quality leather and Alcantara, a high-resolution 10.25-inch central touchscreen, and a digital rearview mirror delivering uncompromised rear visibility. Standard dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and high-quality switchgear continue the premium treatment for the driver and passenger.

The MC20’s interior performance features come in the form of stainless steel pedals, a carbon fiber gauge cluster cap, carbon fiber center console trim, and a thick steering wheel with engine start and launch control buttons. These items come standard in the MC20’s $212,000 base price. Optional features on our test car included lightweight racing seats ($7,000), leather and Alcantara door and dash panels ($2,500), Trident stitched headrests ($900), an Alcantara steering wheel with carbon fiber inserts ($500), a 12-speaker Sonus Faber audio system ($4,000), and carbon fiber trim on the paddle shifters and door sills ($7,000).

The MC20’s exterior options serve both visual and performance needs. The exterior carbon fiber pack adds a carbon fiber front splitter, carbon fiber rear diffuser, carbon fiber rocker panels, a carbon fiber hood and dark exhaust tips for $35,000. The standard 20-inch “birdcage” alloy wheels wear Bridgestone Potenza Sport tires, sized 245/35 in front and 305/30 in back. Performance enhancements on our test model included a carbon ceramic brake system ($10,000) and an electronic limited slip differential ($2,300), along with blue brake calipers ($1,200) and a front lift system ($4,000), the last a prude item on any car with the carbon fiber front splitter.

What do these items deliver in terms of public road and closed race track performance? We found the new MC20 fully accommodating on the desert two lanes north of Palmdale, California. With driving modes ranging from GT to Sport to Corse (or race, in Italian) there were distinct changes in the MC20’s ride quality, throttle response, transmission programming and exhaust note between these settings. GT (or “Gran Turismo” in Italian) offered a relatively relaxed demeanor, capable of muting road imperfections without feeling lazy or ponderous. Credit the MC20’s extremely precise steering and wide torque band from the twin-turbo engine. These traits allow for confident vehicle control, even on public roads in GT mode.

Those traits, along with the car’s supremely capable carbon ceramic brakes, gain prominence when switching to the Sport or Corse modes. Now the precise steering and responsive throttle pedal give the MC20 a highly engaging personality, further enhanced by the throatier exhaust note and focused gauge digital gauge cluster, which changes its layout and information priority based on driving mode. We particularly enjoyed the dueling, real-time boost and torque graphics that moved in sync with throttle applications. Also worth noting are the optional racing seats on our test car, which not only save weight but proved extremely comfortable and supportive during both street and track driving.

And while those seats felt capable of cross-country comfort, they were highly appreciated once we got the Maserati MC20 out on the track. In that environment the car’s lightweight carbon fiber tub, mid-engine layout and double-wishbone suspension merged with the torque-laden V6 to deliver brutal acceleration and confident handling through Willow Springs’ nine turns, including its potentially dicey turn 9 that you either get right or things go very wrong. If you get turn 9 right you can achieve 150 mph or more on Willow Springs front straight, depending on a given car’s power curve. This Maserati MC20 rapidly gained velocity on this part of the track, validating its “supercar” status.

And that’s really the key for Maserati at this stage in its evolution. The company has a long history of appealing design, and its recent history has established its premium status through successful mainstream models like the Levante SUV. What Maserati needs now is a substantial upgrade to is performance pedigree. The MC20, with its sultry shape, plush cabin, advanced tech features and (most importantly) genuine supercar performance, will elevate the brand with buyers seeking a revitalized image for this historic Italian nameplate.

We know Maserati will be making a strong push toward electrification over the next 2 years, with some of that electric technology showing up on future versions of the MC20. There’s also a convertible MC20 in the works, suggesting this model will continue to play a central role in positioning Maserati as a global luxury brand. That means even more MC20s on the road in the coming years, which is a very good thing.