The Maserati MC20 bolsters its technological simplicity with the addition of bespoke interior detailing. Throw in some inspiration via vintage Pininfarina and you have a compelling package
Maserati has written the latest chapter in its design story with the MC20, a super sports car that aims to win hearts on the road and trophies at the track. The first iteration, seen here, is the mid-engined coupé, with a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 that produces 621 hp ‑ a first for an engine of that size, thanks to technology passed down from Formula 1. As its name suggests, a racing version of the MC20 (for Maserati Corse and 2020) will follow later, as well as a road-going cabriolet. For those scratching their heads over the petrol engine, fear not: a fully electric version of the MC20 is also on the way, reportedly for 2022. Sources at Maserati have said the EV will use a tri-motor configuration good for more than 700 hp and a 0-100 km time of just 2 seconds. (A spokesperson for Maserati in the U.S., however, couldn’t confirm those specs.)
The new car is the first to bear the MC name since 2004, when the MC12 – which offered the same 612 hp, but with a 6.0-litre V12 – was homologated to compete in GT racing. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and Frank Stephenson, the MC12 was built on the Ferrari Enzo chassis and the road-going version was limited to just 50 examples. Considering its predecessors and Maserati’s rich racing history, the MC20 has big shoes to fill. And it looks to do so nicely.
"It was clear this would coincide with the re-launch of Maserati, with Davide Grasso’s moving the brand forward,” says head designer Klaus Busse. “We wanted to create a car that’s not ostentatious, not a car that screams at everyone, but something that would be respected for its beauty and proportion. And secondly, the idea of going beyond telling just the story of hand-sculpted Italian design, but really engineered beauty – this coexistence of engineering and beautiful design.” The result is a car with elegant proportions and clean lines, some dictated by the wind tunnel and others inspired by the 1954 A6GCS Berlinetta Pininfarina, with a few dramatic flourishes such as butterfly doors, bold “Birdcage” wheels, and a rear window whose cooling slots form the shape of Maserati’s trident (a late addition by Busse, who created the shape with pieces of tape during a design walkthrough).
"It was very important to make the elements that are in touch with the customer unique"
The interior of this halo car needed to telegraph luxury and performance, while complementing the relative simplicity of the MC20’s exterior design. “We understood quite quickly what direction we would take,” says Andreas Wuppinger, head of interior design. We had several different [themes] at the beginning, and a lot of them were more expressive, a more complex design language, but when we sat inside the car, we understood we wanted to keep it cleaner and pure as possible.” The final design is minimalist and driver-focused, with simple shapes and very few sharp corners.
With the MC20’s compact cabin, creating space was a main priority, perhaps motivated by a head designer who stands more than 2 metres tall. As one example, designers were able to add 2cm of roof height by minimising the size of the floor tunnel. “At first we wanted to have a massive big tunnel, and we realised it’s not necessary,” Busse recalls. “It takes a lot of space away from the cabin and it reminded ourselves not to fall into that temptation.”
Interior and exterior designers also worked together on the butterfly doors to optimize ingress and egress. “You have a very low driving position and you are sitting very far inboard,” Wuppinger explains. “Together we found the best systems for the door, which sounds a little bit strange, because on a super sports car you are expecting some compromise.” It apparently worked for the two-metre-tall Busse, who tells us he fits in the MC20 just fine. And, since the carbon fibre monocoque is nearly identical for the coupé, convertible and EV, the design did not need to be changed to accommodate different body styles and powertrains.
Controls are simple and straightforward, with the drive-select knob dominating the centre console. “We tried to reduce the amount of mechanical buttons, to celebrate them,” Wuppinger explains. The most important element, the drive mode selector, is made like a jewel, to give the perception of currency and quality.” It’s no secret that various knobs and switches are often shared between brands of a parent manufacturer, but Wuppinger says the majority of parts in the MC20 are exclusive to the car. “It was very important to make the elements that are in touch with the customer unique.”
On the IP, there’s a configurable TFT cluster in front of the driver and a central touch screen; both measure 10.25 inches. “We didn’t have the need for huge displays,” Wuppinger says. “Of course, the size is also determined by the cabin itself, but we found it appropriate for this kind of car, to keep it simple and not overload it.” Augmenting the two screens is a digital rearview mirror, which displays the image from the rearward camera when the car is in reverse. The MC20 will run the latest generation of FCA’s R1 interface, powered by the Android Automotive OS, with a unique Maserati front face and graphics specific to the car. “Those were the two sides we wanted to unify with this car: the mechanical elements with the use of refined and very precious materials, but also the digital side, the aspects that look toward the future,” Wuppinger says.
Of course, one can’t talk Italian cars without talking colour and materials. “The use of material is very much in line with the final expectation of the customer, having a high-performance car with high-performance material.” Wuppinger says. “What I really love about the car is this straight collaboration between colour and trim and the interior department,” Wuppinger shares. “This was big fun because we were sitting together inside of the car understanding where to put what. We are quite far away from a standard process where you start to do volumes; we have a constant interchange of ideas from colour and trim that are completely changing the design because they have different technical needs.” He also notes that his team worked closely with suppliers during the design process, something that isn’t typical on most projects.
"It’s powerful, ready for the track, and can go the distance in comfort and style"
The colour and trim team used lightweight materials like carbon and Alcantara to reduce the vehicle’s weight and enhance performance. “But we also tried to reduce the complexity. And here we are coming to a topic that’s very much connected with Maserati. Getting it down to the essence is something that is driving us very much, but then we fill it up with super exclusive and special materials.” One example Wuppinger gives is the two-layer Alcantara on the door panels, and seats. “It’s a very unique way of treating these kinds of materials,” he says. The blue-on-black colourway created for the launch car was meant to create “a uniform, almost stealth interior, in order to not distract the driver.”
A customisation program, launching in the coming months, will allow customers to choose from a much broader palette. When asked specifically about sustainably made and sourced fabrics, Wuppinger hinted these could be more of a focus for the EV. “We will have a push toward more materials that have eco-sustainability. This electric powertrain and sustainable materials work very well together, and I think you can expect some new elements.” No matter the propulsion system, designers underscore that the essence of the MC20 is one of a true Gran Turismo. Busse sums it up in these simple terms: “It’s powerful, ready for the track, and can go the distance in comfort and style.”
Head of Design Maserati & FCA EMEA: Klaus Busse
Head of User Experience & Surface Lab: Marco Bertolazzi
Head of Colour & Material, Design: Rossella Guasco
Head of Exterior Maserati, Design: Marco Tencone
Head of Interior, Design: Andreas Wuppinger
Maserati Chief Interior Designer: Fred Latino
Component Chief Designer: Massimiliano Baudo
Interior Senior Designer: Alga Zaharescu
Interior Designer: Axel Verquin
Component Senior Designer: Stefano Bertolo
Component Designer: David Lyckberg
Project started / completed: 24 months
Launch: September 9, 2020
Dimensions: L x D x H (inch) 184 x 77 x 48 inches
(4,669 mm x 1,965 mm x 1,224mm)
Text: Laura Burstein