Words: Calvin Chan
Published: February 14, 2021
Maserati haven’t produced a proper road-legal supercar since the MC12 back in 2004, and that was only because they wanted to go racing in GT1 and Le Mans. Essentially a homologated version of the Ferrari Enzo, the MC12 shared the bones and V12 engine of the Maranello steed but took the styling to another level, and remains one of the most beautiful designs ever taken from pen to metal. The GT1 race car was even more extreme, downright embarrassing its competition with barely legal specs and going on to win the 2005 FIA GT Manufacturers Cup with nearly double the points of the next team down, which was ironically Ferrari.
Now that the two Italian brands have cut ties, many have been left to wonder what comes next for the trident badge. Will they make their own engines, or continue to source and tinker from the Stellantis parts bin? Well the answer is here, and the future is the MC20, a mid-engined supercar with a hand-built V6 that was completely designed in-house. With 620 hp on tap, RWD, a top speed of over 200 mph, and styling that doesn’t betray its roots, the MC20 is the real deal, and Maserati brought us behind the scenes to their historic Maserati Engine Lab in Modena via a virtual tour to showcase the ins and outs of its construction.
The brand new 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 is called Nettuno, named after the god of the sea. Made of lightweight aluminum alloys, it features a 90-degree V-shaped architecture, two turbochargers on each bank, both direct and port injection, and dry sump lubrication, a common solution for supercars that allows the engine to be mounted as low as possible for optimal weight distribution.
With just three litres of displacement, the V6 isn’t a very large motor especially when compared to the massive 6.0-litre V12 in the MC12, but it houses more than 200 horsepower per liter, for a total output of 621 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque. The compact structure also allowed Maserati to install Formula 1 technology called pre-chamber combustion. It’s not an entirely new idea but definitely one of the few applications on a production road-car. Using two spark plugs and both direct and indirect injection, Nettuno is able to run very lean but stay stable without knocking from the engine. The second spark plug is placed directly inside the prechamber and allows for a quicker, more precise, and more efficient ignition cycle. The engine’s computer automatically alternates between this main spark and the side spark according to drive modes and load. Maserati says that with this, they can extract more power from the V6 and get better fuel efficiency numbers as well. When all is said and done, the MC20 will sprint from 0-100 km/h in 2.9 seconds, more than enough to keep up with the rivaling Lamborghini Huracan and McLaren 570S.
Watching the engine’s assembly process is like witnessing a tightly choreographed ballet. There are six stations where trained technicians take about 3-4 hours each to assemble everything by hand. To ensure pinpoint accuracy, Maserati utilizes artificial intelligence, cameras, and sensors to double check every procedure along the way to ensure everything is as prescribed.
They also do a final engine check before the V6 is signed off, which consists of 40 minutes of hot test conditions on a dynamometer. They load up fuel and oil, and fire up the engine to check pressure, torque, and that it’s producing the horsepower they expect. They will further check the oil for wear, and impurities such as metallic compounds. Once a month, Maserati will even gather and amalgamate all their engine data together to examine durability measures and to check that quality remains the same for every unit.
Nettuno is one of the most complex and powerful engines Maserati have ever produced. Such a feat is never cheap, and having it trickle down into more mainstream models like the Ghibli Trofeo would make financial sense, but Maserati remained tight-lipped on Nettuno’s future. Those that have dug a little deeper into the specs will also notice that Nettuno shares some internal designs with the Ferrari F154 V8 engine also used in the California T, as well as a six-cylinder variant in the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, but Maserati is quick to point out that while similar in design, they share nothing else.
We can’t wait to learn more about the upcoming 2021 Maserati MC20 and eventually get behind the wheel of it later this year. Judging by the specifications and the meticulous engine assembly process, we hope that this will take the brand to new heights. Want the cherry on top? Maserati plans to take the MC20 racing.