2022 Maserati MC20 Review: A Powerful Yet Nimble Track Sweeper

That new Nettuno twin-turbo V6 might not be the most soulful thing in the world, but it sure gets the job done.

byJan 26, 2022 12:00 PM
2022 Maserati MC20 Review: A Powerful Yet Nimble Track Sweeper
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It’s been a hot Italian minute since a red-blooded supercar hailed from the Trident brand, let alone a mid-engine sports car or even a track-ready tool that wasn’t a crossover or a sedan. With Ferrari’s engine production for Maserati winding down this year, the brand has been scrambling to reassert its independence and relevancy within the bounds of its Stellantis parentage. All that pressure hasn’t been wasted though, because the 2022 Maserati MC20 is an absolute diamond. 

In the battle to win the fickle hearts and minds of supercar buyers, visual shock and awe matter. But Maserati’s MC20 sidesteps some of the drama with performance fundamentals that deliver overwhelming capability on the track. It's not bad on public roads, either.

2022 Maserati MC20 Specs

  • Base price not including destination (as tested with destination): $212,000 ($303,545)
  • Powertrain: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 | 8-speed dual-clutch | rear-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 621 at 7,500 rpm
  • Torque: 538 lb-ft at 3,000 to 5,500 rpm
  • 0-62 mph: 2.9 seconds
  • Curb weight: 3,306 pounds
  • EPA fuel economy: TBD
  • Seats: 2
  • Quick take: What it lacks in outright charisma, the MC20 makes up for in capability; this long-awaited supercar is a fresh-to-death win for the Italian automaker desperately in need of a new chapter.  
  • Score: 8/10

Enter MC20

Alfieri, Bindo, and Ernesto Maserati might have been mortified at the state of their namesake had they time-traveled to 2020. The Bolognese siblings launched the Italian brand in 1914 and their giant-slaying racecars campaigned everywhere from the Targa Florio to the Indy 500 to great effect. Back when tires were skinny and drivers fat, Maserati’s lusty lore was fluffed by Juan Manuel Fangio’s world championship, evocative road cars rolling off their assembly lines, and the inscrutable mystique of a brand that somehow managed to conjure both performance and poshness in one stylish package.

You wouldn’t know it from its existing

sedans and SUV, but Maserati has been chipping away at a two-seat flagship since it started developing its own powerplant in 2015. The MC20’s 3.0-liter, twin-turbo, 90-degree V6 is dubbed “Nettuno,” and claims F1-derived tech that combines port and direct injection via a pre-chamber for quicker combustion and higher compression ratios. The 8,000-rpm engine produces a record-setting 207 horsepower per liter for a total of 621 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. Perhaps more importantly, the mill was developed and built entirely by Maserati at their HQs in Ciro Menotti, Modena. 

Not all of the MC20 was developed in-house—and that’s not a bad thing when you’re partnering with the likes of motorsports giant Dallara. The shop has campaigned everywhere from IndyCar to F1, collaborated with the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini, and was responsible for the MC20’s carbon fiber chassis. Maserati’s first-ever carbon monocoque helps contribute to a curb weight of just over 3,300 pounds. Dallara also refined the package through over 2,000 man-hours of wind tunnel time and more than 1,000 computational fluid dynamics simulations to help fine-tune its aerodynamics.

The V6’s power runs through an eight-speed dual-clutch to the rear axle and via either a mechanical limited-slip or an optional electronic limited-slip differential. Active dampers complement forged aluminum suspension components, and available carbon-ceramic six and four-piston Brembo brakes handle stopping duties. The MC20 rolls on performance-focused bespoke Bridgestone rubber and manages to look sharp while doing it, too.

Grand Entrance, Simple Arrival

Maserati takes an uncharacteristically minimalist approach to styling with MC20, one that favors flat surfaces and smooth arcs over dramatic wedges or fiddly French curves. It takes a closer look to appreciate the details—peep the subtly modernized Maserati logo at the tail, where twin exhaust cannons disappear into a dark fascia just above a large rear diffuser. The rear three-quarters and side profile view are arguably the MC20’s strongest angles, with a blacked-out side skirt with functional scoops and air vents complementing the complex curves of the wheel arches. A metallic “MC20” blade at the leading edge of the door panel and a trident logo on the C-pillar add a touch of ornamentation to the otherwise business-focused theme. 

The mood gets even more functional with the front view, where a pair of unremarkable headlights and hood extractors break up an otherwise smooth expanse of bodywork. Below is a darkened area that echoes the tail, with air inlets shrouded by a tapered end that’s easy to miss if you’re not viewing it crouched down at eye level.

Lest you forget Maserati is targeting the tony supercars from the likes of McLaren and Lamborghini, the MC20’s doors open upwards—that’s Billionaire, with a “B.” However, it’s an easy climb into the two-seat cabin, with no weird body contortion required and doors that swing shut with a light overhead tug—a refreshingly un-Italian experience given how quirky small-batch sports cars can be.

Rather than Maserati’s typically oh-so-Italian exotic interiors, the MC20’s cabin feels strangely simple and surprisingly accommodating. There are stretches of leather and Alcantara bits throughout, from seat trim to headliner. But the design is decidedly pared down, with a carbon fiber tunnel housing a drive mode selector and drive/manual and reverse buttons for the dual-clutch. Even the buttons and controls are straightforward, with simple plastic pushbuttons releasing the doors and the same drive mode controller you’ll find in other Maseratis. Dead ahead beyond the Trident-capped steering wheel is a 10.25-inch TFT instrument display that adjusts style based on driving mode. A centrally positioned 10.25-inch touchscreen for multimedia duty incorporates wireless Apple CarPlay and some vehicle setting menus. The standard audio setup is a six-speaker arrangement; also available is a 12-speaker, 695-watt Sonus Faber system.

Track Time

This MC20 experience came at Willow Springs International Raceway, the 2.5-mile road course whose pockmarked pavement has seen countless sports car races over the decades, including many of this Maserati’s forbears. 

The MC20’s engine fires up via a steering-wheel-mounted start button, but nestled inside a full-face helmet, the exhaust note is surprisingly mellow. Tap the right-hand carbon fiber paddle and the dual-clutch slides into first gear. The steering wheel incorporates the usual cruise control, multimedia, and launch control buttons, but still doesn’t feel nearly as jam-packed with switches as Ferrari or Lamborghini’s racecar-like setups are. 

The drive mode selector on the center tunnel uses a rotating knurled edge that rotates with a spring-loaded twist, with Wet, GT, Sport, and Corsa modes, the latter of which requires holding an extra few moments to engage. The modes control throttle response, shift speed, exhaust valves, suspension stiffness, and traction control settings. While most of the parameters are tied into each mode, it’s possible to soften the suspension by pushing the center of the dial or turn all driver aids off by selecting ESC off. 

Driven in a straight line onto the circuit, the MC20 feels fleet and light: Maserati claims zero to 62 mph in under 2.9 seconds, and the general availability of torque makes pushing through the 8,000-rpm powerband a breeze for the most part. Only during some mid-corner exits from lower rpms do the twin turbos lag momentarily before the power comes on. Whereas most supercars with this power-to-weight ratio tend to have more sonorous engine notes, the MC20’s is relatively sedate, even when in Corsa mode with the exhaust valves open at all rpms. 

Steering is light with very good feel, offering sharp but progressive turn-in and a sensation of weight transfer that’s communicated clearly through the comfortably padded Sabelt buckets. Though agile, the MC20 also exhibits excellent mid-corner grip through high-speed sweepers like Corner 2, or the seemingly endless arc of Turns 8 and 9. The only time sure-footedness gives way to instability is on the uphill kink midway up Turn 3, where the rear end can get loose if the driver allows impatience or sudden moves to creep into the equation. Though the carbon ceramics are capable of strong stops with enough pedal effort, initial bite is soft, requiring more effort than I’d like when scrubbing off speed. 

Impressively, MC20’s suspension soaks up Big Willow’s notoriously bumpy surfaces—particularly the upsettingly undulating Turns 8 and 9—with ease. And speaking of speed, the MC20’s reserves of power manifest grandiosely on the straight, where quick shifts scoot the two-seater to around 150 mph before slamming the left pedal for Turn 1. It may not be the most characterful powerplant on the market, but Maserati’s new powerplant most certainly gets the job done. 

Unfortunately, transmission behavior can’t be managed independently outside of the four drive modes, but the shifter operates smoothly enough not to warrant FOMO for other settings. Leave it in auto, and the computer does a solid job of selecting the proper cog for aggressive driving. In manual mode, the gears stay put until the driver clicks the paddles (which are large and stay blessedly fixed in the same vertical position on either side of the wheel, right where you left them). Wanna bounce off the rev limiter before you upshift? “Be my guest,” says Maserati. Tapping the paddles in automatic overrides the computer momentarily, but yields automatic upshifts when the tach kisses that 8,000 rpm redline.

Hitting the Road

What a difference a helmet makes. Peel away your lid, and a new range of sound frequencies open themselves up from the MC20. The V6 is still has a relatively subdued soundtrack, but at least the turbine whir and wastegate flutter are audible to bare ears, especially when the windows are rolled down.

Whereas speed accumulates rapidly on the racetrack with seemingly little consequence, the MC20’s ability to propel itself through space on public roads yields obscenely high velocities in scant time. The digital speedometer’s readout tends to be alarming, not just because the Maserati’s power-to-weight ratio makes for fast going, but because the whole package doesn’t barrage the driver with sensory input while doing so. 

The MC20 lacks Lamborghini’s naturally aspirated auditory assault. It doesn’t deliver an RS Porsche’s spine-stirring connection to the tarmac below. And it trades Ferrari’s signature liveliness for more planted, long-distance friendly accommodation. As for McLaren, the MC20 overlaps with some of the Woking carmaker’s performance-oriented priorities (including but not limited to its purposeful alphanumeric model designation which recalls the awkwardly informational MP4-12C). However, whereas the McLaren GT seems more biased towards grand touring than track slaying, the MC20 manages to acquit itself well on the circuit while offering enough comfort to encourage all-day driving. 

The MC20 seems more comfortable playing the role of a straight shooter against its sensationalistic competitors: the surprise and delight factor falls a tad flat, but its road manners are exceptional. As such, it lacks some of the subtle high-end signifiers that might differentiate it from other luxury brands. Little things, like McLaren’s deliciously weighty aluminum turn signal stalks with their just-so anodized texture, or Aston Martin’s unrepentantly opulent trims and colors, are MIA in the Maserati. 

However, the MC20 comes across as a more broadly capable driver’s car that wields satisfying power and a smooth ride, which is a departure from Maserati’s eccentric past—think more Acura NSX/Audi R8 than Ferrari Roma/Lamborghini Huracán. But the more real comparison is against the new crop of V6 supercars, namely the hybridized Ferrari 296 GTB and McLaren Artura, both of which we’ll be testing later this year. Stay tuned for more.

Plot Twist

Maserati brass proudly point to the 2004-era MC12 as the company’s previous mid-engine offering. But the pointy supercar was heavily based on a Ferrari Enzo, making it difficult to dissociate from its prancing horse counterpart. For the real O.G. Maser mid-engine reference, dial your time machines back to the V6-powered Merak, which spanned 11 years of production before it wrapped up in 1983. And yet, the MC20 is no Merak, starting with its “Maserati Corse” nomenclature which tips a hat to the brand’s return to racing. Indeed, not only is the MC20 platform ready for a battery-electric vehicle iteration and a roadster counterpart, but it also happens to coincide with Maserati’s announced entry into Formula E racing. Go figure.

Yes, the MC20 achieves that track-worthiness and road-trip-ready comfort that so rarely co-exists in the same vehicle. But it’s also hard to not pine for the classic Maseratis that flaunted whimsical styling and were loaded to the gills with fragrant, ultrasoft leather. And then there’s the MC20's price, which starts at a steep $212,000 and can escalate rapidly when options like a $35,000 exterior carbon package are piled on. The test car came in at a dizzying $303,545 with destination charge. That’s pretty damn dear for a V6 supercar with no proven heritage like the Ford GT’s to fall back on.

Where does this put Maserati in the 21st century, net sum? It’s a curious niche to be in: Though the platform is designed to accommodate the inevitable shift to electrification (and avoids a hybrid configuration along the way), the brand very deliberately—and perhaps, unfortunately—doesn’t go all out with a V8 or V10. Instead, the V6 solution ticks a series of packaging and engineering boxes (not to mention a 200+ mph top speed), but lacks the emotional power delivery and sound of a V8, imparting a prevailing sense of clinicality that’s echoed in the cabin’s lack of flash or finesse. 

For those seeking a departure from the usual suspects, the MC20 offers a welcome alternative and has subsequently already sold out its 2022 allocation to customers. As for those nostalgic for Maserati’s storied past, I’d make the argument that somehow, inexplicably, this future-forward platform might make even more sense as an instantly torquey EV than an energy-dense V6. 

How’s that for a plot twist?

Basem Wasef is a motorcycle and automotive journalist. He's written for Wired, Men's Journal, and Automobile and resides in Los Angeles.

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