Connecting heaven and earth with Maserati’s roadster MC20 Cielo
While the latest breed of hypercar is capable of grabbing headline space, highlights Iain Robertson, for its gargantuan potency and, these days, extra electrical shove, there remains space and time for the archetypal supercar, as epitomised by the likes of Maserati and its Italian stablemates…oh, yes, and Teutonic Porsche.
Before we actually run out of the opportunity to say ‘good, old-fashioned grunt’, for which the American expression ‘ain’t no substitute for cubic inches’ also infers, it is worth noting that the near-silent electrical future, to which we appear to be adhered, will produce machines capable of halving the 3.2s 0-60mph sprint capabilities of some supercars, while leaving them choking in a microdust of electrical pollution. However, with carmakers charging wilfully for the chance to demand seven figure price-tags and even hybrid alternatives rounding out at half that rate, it does make me wonder how long it will be before the groundswell of anti-political opinion swings in the millionaires’ and not the multi-squillionaires’ direction.
Mind you, its 3.0-litre V6 Nettuno engine rocks a cool 626bhp, accompanied by a moderately punchy 538lbs ft of torque, neck-snapping acceleration is still more than smile inducing, the Cielo (pronounced like the stringed cello) blitzing it in around 3.3s, before topping out at around 205mph, although I am certain that I would not enjoy the wind rushing through my hair much, even if I still had some, at that speed. However, this is a machine built for purpose. Remember it is an open-topped sportscar. Open-topped cars are notoriously heavier than their tin-top coupe parents, even when the tin-top is produced from aluminium, or carbon-fibre, because of the additional strengthening, crossbars and spars that are needed to retain structural integrity. However, Cielo tips the scales at 1,540kgs overall, which makes it lighter than most of its rivals and, intriguingly, much heftier than its own Ferrari stablemate. The roof panel is produced from electrochromic PDLC, which means that its transparency can be switched from clear to opaque at the touch of a switch and a small rear window can also be raised between the pair of hood nacelles, to reduce blustery drafts.
Of course, there is a tremendous reason for being so weight advantaged…Dallara, the Italian racecar manufacturer, produces the carbon-fibre tub style chassis, which is pound for pound stronger and lighter than any alternatives. In fact, the open topped Cielo is a mere 65kgs heavier than the coupe (1,475kgs) and it includes a motorised roof section as well. The relative lack of torsional twist in the body means that its suspension can work mega-efficiently, with levels of compliance that provide a well-balanced and comfortable ride quality, minimal body roll and zero pitching, aspects of which you might not expect in a thoroughbred supercar but can seep through in soft-top variants not built the same race-related and meticulous way.
As with the MC20 coupe, butterfly doors provide unusual but easier access into and out of the cabin, as well as showing off the carbon fibre cockpit and the completely unmasked front wheel. Following Maserati’s own prescribed, sporting luxury aesthetics, the launch versions of Cielo feature a new three-layer metallic colour known as Acquamarina, available as part of the firm’s Fuoriserie bespoke programme. It is a colour that interacts with light, revealing a pastel grey base inspired by racing, accompanied by an iridescent aquamarine mica that enlivens the hue. As you might imagine, the car is packed with active safety systems including parking sensors, rear-view camera and blind spot monitoring, as well as autonomous emergency brake, traffic sign information and a new 360° camera, all presented, where necessary, on a touchscreen that also serves as the head unit for a flashy Sonus-Faber stereo system.
Maserati may have endured its ups and downs over the past few years but a well defined vitality exists within this long established Italian sporting icon. If anything, its raison d’etre has reached a fresh, if unexpected pinnacle, in recent times that is maintaining the ‘Trident’ brand’s glorious history and building it a strident future.