AT FIRST THE STEERING feels almost too light, too eager, too keen to please. But confidence soon starts to flow, every movement of the wheel bringing about a faithful response in a way that makes life at the limit incredibly transparent and manageable. Same goes for the brakes. Don’t be afraid to drop the hammer late; just make sure you drop it hard. Maserati’s awesome stopping system simply delivers, no matter how often the driver hits the repeat button.
In the MC20, you get what you feel, and what you feel is the road; pure and simple. Better still, that trusted connection remains intact at all times – on full lock, during quick changes of direction, when braking hard into a bend, over ripples and along longitudinal grooves.
The new mid-engined Maserati is astonishingly accomplished, especially when you consider that it’s been many years since the company even tried to do something this driver-focused and radical. And that’s before you get to the engine, made by Maserati itself, after 18 years of buying in engines from Ferrari. It’s called Nettuno, Italian for Neptune, as in the trident badge.
Maserati is immensely proud of the V6’s key innovations: ignition pre-chambers, side sparkplugs that fire when the pre-chambers are bypassed, and the dual (direct and indirect) high-pressure fuel-injection system. By igniting the mixture in the pre-chambers ahead of full combustion, two thermodynamic sequences are unleashed within milliseconds of each other. The result? High swirl and multiple flame fronts for enhanced power and efficiency. Contrary to rumour, the engine did not start life as an evolution of Ferrari’s V8 F154, and the car was not originally kicked off at Ferrari as a future ‘new Dino’. It is true, however, that Maserati did hire for this project a number of engineers who were previously gainfully employed for the prancing horse on Via Abetone.
But don’t think of the MC20 as a reimagined Ferrari F8 Tributo. It isn’t a direct McLaren rival either. Its character is very different to that of Aston Martin’s Vantage and it spreads its talent over a much broader range than the Lamborghini Huracan. The MC20 is a radical yet reasonable driving machine which excels when it matters. It pushes the bookends of sports car DNA a good bit further apart than any of those alternatives. It flashes its wild side when challenged, but can also assume a more easygoing personality. How has this been achieved? By starting with a clean sheet of paper (probably several, in truth) without conceptual restrictions, compulsory synergies and cost-driven compromises.
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