McLaren 720S 2017 review
The 720S is the new Super Series McLaren, replacing the 650S, and the super-car maker claims it has no direct competitors. It has a twin-turbo V8, a carbon fibre tub and bristles with cleverness.
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With Ferrari leaving the Fiat-Chrysler family and becoming an independent entity in 2016, Maserati was left without a technology partner.
Suddenly, the Trident brand had to go it alone and come up with its own engines for the first time in more than 20 years. The MC20 sports-car is the result of that rebirth.
While there’s no doubt the Maserati brand has the currency to pull this off, the MC20 is also a big step outside the company’s usual grand-tourer box.
The new coupe is aimed at McLaren, Porsche and even Ferrari buyers, so can the first true Maserati sports car since the MC12 of 2004 walk the walk? And let’s not forget that the MC12 was Ferrari Enzo-based…
No-compromise cars are often the ones that impose the most compromises, and in that sense, the MC20’s shattering on-paper performance means its greatest attributes can’t be enjoyed on a public road.
That’s why this review was conducted entirely on Philip Island’s 4.4km Grand Prix layout. As a result, we can’t tell you much about parking ease or highway fuel consumption. But as for the things that give a super-sports car its identity, read on.
|Maserati MC20 2022: (base)|
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Perhaps the most striking thing about the MC20’s design is that it’s so restrained. You won’t find wings, vents, fins and diffusers all over the car, but rather an overall shape that creates downforce, rather than that job falling to tacked on additions.
And, like any modern supercar worth its salt, the MC20 is based around a carbon-fibre tub for rigidity and low weight. From that tub structure are hung aluminium front and rear subframes which, in turn, mount the suspension and other mechanical bits.
The wind tunnel still got a huge workout in the car’s development, of course, but the aim was to integrate the downforce-inducing elements rather than having them demanding your optical attention.
As a result, the whole car is an upside-down wing, if you want to simplify it. But a very pretty upside-down wing.
This gives the MC20 a smooth, sleek look that stands it apart from the rent-a-racer crowd and supports the theory that sometimes, less is, indeed, more.
Some of the detailing is lovely, too. The vents cut into the Perspex rear windscreen form Maserati’s trademark trident shape, there’s lots of visible carbon-fibre inside the door jambs, there’s lashings of Alcantara inside and the two-tone body kit breaks up the shape perfectly.
Elements we’re not so sure about include the 'Park' button mounted way down low under the dashboard, and the swing-up, scissor-type doors, which, if your more than about 180cm tall, still require you to duck under them.
On the upside, the carbon-and-leather steering wheel with its integrated controls is gorgeous to hold and gaze at.
Although the MC20 has a front and rear luggage compartment, they’re both small enough to be pretty much useless. This is a shame, because as a long-weekend getaway car, the Maserati otherwise makes a strong case for itself.
The other area that suffers for the car’s art is the interior practicality. While the driving position is great and the pedals and wheel relationship is spot on, when it comes to storing anything, you’re on your own. Best the MC20 can offer is a single cupholder at the rear of the central tunnel.
The mid-engined layout also means there’s precious little vision through the back window. To counter that, Maserati has fitted the MC20 with an interior rear-view mirror that can act as a conventional mirror (you can still see only the engine) or as a screen for the rear-mounted camera.
The catch is the image projected to the 'mirror' lacks depth of field and forces the driver to refocus on the image rather than simply glance at it.
Maserati has followed the lead of many a high-end carmaker by using the options list to ramp up the profitability of the MC20. Of course, that’s after the MSRP of $438,000 has been dealt with by your accountant.
The point is that you kind of need to suspend disbelief when it comes to supercars and their value-for-money credentials. By any sane, conventional measure, they’re seriously over-priced, but within its peer group, the Maserati is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive way to go this fast.
But back to those options: Again, it’s all a case of throwing away what you think you know, because there are several options for the Maserati that cost more than a good, brand-new hatchback.
The carbon-fibre engine cover alone will cost you a staggering $13,164, and according to Maserati management, it’s a popular option.
Then, there are the carbon-fibre brakes which not only cost $28,961, but if you want the yellow-painted calipers, that’ll be another $2962.
The hydraulic front-lifter which allows you to deal with driveways and speed humps is a monstrous $8721, but at least there’s some engineering in that. Unlike the black-roof option which is, er, a black roof at $10,202. And the external carbon-fibre kit? A cool $92,806!
Previous generations of Maseratis borrowed Ferrari (both brands were once part of the extended Fiat Chrysler family) technology for their drivelines in a deal that allowed both brands to share the cost of development.
And since having a Ferrari-built engine in your car was never seen as a sale hindrance, it was a sweet deal for Maserati. But when Ferrari was spun off and became a publicly-owned company in 2016, Maserati’s supply of engines dried up.
The solution was to take engine design in-house and the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 in the MC20 is one of the first fruits of that.
While it’s undoubtedly a high-tech powerplant, in other respects it’s fairly conventional. Maserati, for instance, has a long history with the V6 layout, and there’s no hybrid element to the driveline. Nor is there a hybrid option.
Maserati claims the V6 is the world’s most powerful six-cylinder production-car engine and, with no less than 463kW at 7500rpm and 730Nm between 3000 and 5500rpm, that’s a credible statement.
Technical details that you won’t see on most road cars include a dry-sump lubrication system (where the engine oil lives in a remote tank rather than the hot sump of the engine itself) and a sophisticated fuel injection system with two injectors per cylinder.
The real trick, however, is an ignition system with two spark plugs per cylinder. There are also effectively two combustion chambers, the first ensuring multiple flame fronts to achieve a more complete burn of the fuel in the main combustion chamber.
The rest of the driveline is similarly aimed at the purists out there; the transmission is an eight-speed dual-clutch, driving not all four wheels, but only the rears through a mechanical limited-slip differential.
Selectable drive modes from GT (the default setting) through to 'Wet', 'Sport', 'Corsa' (Track) and 'ESC Off' tailor the shift points, throttle sensitivity and suspension behaviour, but still allow for full engine power.
Fuel economy is probably not going to be top of mind for most MC20 buyers, but the official combined figure of 11.6 litres per 100km is still pretty greedy by 2022 standards.
Balanced against the available performance, however, and an engine making more than 600 old-fashioned horsepower with that combined fuel-economy number is still cause to reflect on modern technology and efficiency.
The MC20 has a 60-litre fuel tank, making it a handy cross-country car for weekends away.
Here’s where your half-a-million bucks has gone.
The MC20’s acceleration is absolutely shattering and is all the more amazing for the fact the car uses neither all-wheel drive grip nor hybrid torque to achieve its sprinting abilities.
While the V6 is not the most sonorous of powerplants, it does manage to sound high-end and pretty sophisticated and it’s never as shouty as some of its opposition which seem to confuse decibels with kiloWatts.
While the sheer thrust confirms the existence of two turbochargers, the lack of lag (or throttle delay) and the ability to charge into the rev limiter in the lower gears does not.
Even though power peaks at 6500rpm (as with many a modern turbo motor) the MC20 will happily smash on to the redline at 8000rpm; sometimes too happily if you don’t have your finger over the upshift paddle. As with other good modern turbocharged units, this one doesn’t actually feel overtly turbocharged.
The transmission shifts relatively smoothly in GT mode, but as you crank up the mode selector to Sport, the shifts become very fast with an accompanying jolt through the backrest as each gear clicks home. The shifting process is fairly foolproof, although you do get full over-ride, so you need to pay attention.
Both the cars we were able to sample at Philip Island were sporting the optional carbon-ceramic braking package, and one was also fitted with the optional 'birdcage' alloy wheels which are lighter.
Each of them needed a firm shove on the pedal to slow things down, but it’s true the lighter wheels seem to be worth their almost-$3000 ask as that car required less leg-pressure for the same result.
The lack of a hybrid element to the driveline, as well as the rear-drive layout, suggests a degree of purity of purpose in the car’s design. And that’s backed up by its behaviour in the first corner.
Fundamentally, instead of just hurling it at an apex and allowing the electronics to sort it all out for you, the Maserati requires a more 'classical' technique if it’s to really shine.
It doesn’t, for instance, reward trail-braking (where you continue to brake once you’ve turned into a corner) and would much prefer you get your braking over and done with before applying any meaningful steering lock.
Ignore this, and the rear weight bias of the mid-engined layout can see the car try to yaw, with the rear end becoming light and the vehicle over-rotating (which is a spin, to you and I).
Similarly, getting on the power before you’ve actually got the MC20 turned, can unload the front end and send the front wheels ploughing (ploughing is an exaggeration, but at the speeds we’re dealing with here, even a small degree is a big deal) towards the outside of the turn.
Ultimately, then, the technique becomes a text-book case of brake, turn and then power out, at which point the MC20 reveals itself to be huge fun and incredibly fast. The only thing to deal with then is the knowledge that whatever happens next is going to happen extremely quickly.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Neither ANCAP nor Euro NCAP have tested the MC20 for crash safety, so we can’t give it a star rating.
But the lack of standard safety gear such as rear-cross traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring (it’s optional at $2797) can’t go unmentioned. That’s especially concerning when you consider the mid-engined layout makes for very poor rear visibility.
High-end cars often disappoint on the details, and the Maserati is no different here, offering just a three-year factory warranty (albeit with unlimited kilometres).
That trails even the most humble commuter cars these days, and suggests there’s still a degree of indifference from some carmakers. And, possibly, their customers.
There is, however, the option of fixed-price servicing for the MC20 with the first three years’ worth of servicing costing $4000.
Scheduled services are every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
With a 320km/h-plus top speed and the ability to get from rest to 100km/h in under three seconds, there’s no doubting the MC20 meets or exceeds its performance brief. But when you’re paying these prices, there must be more than just the measurable stuff going on.
And there is. The MC20 brings a big dollop of purity to the ranks of current supercars, doing away with all-wheel drive and hybrid tech and relying instead on and old-school approach in terms of handling and overall feel.
Anybody who wants to argue that call has plenty of alternatives to the MC20 from other manufacturers, and for some of us, that less-is-more thing will ring true.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with meals provided.
|(base)||3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$438,000||2022 Maserati MC20 2022 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||5|
|Engine & trans||9|