Trident vs Prancing Horse. Italy remains the jewel of the supercar crown
There might only be roughly 12 miles between Ferrari’s headquarters in Maranello and Maserati in Modena but production at these two Italian supercar companies has been at polar opposites in the last decade. Ferrari continues to keep its shareholders extremely happy by slicing its regular models this way and that – and Ferrari also developed its first mainstream hybrid in the SF90. It has become hard to keep up with this so-called niche brand, and yet the internal burgeoning doesn’t appear to be diluting the brand’s core appeal. Then there’s Maserati who despite riding on immense brand heritage, has failed to produce anything game-changing in the last decade or two. Like many others, they poured efforts into an SUV with the Levante but nothing about it feels all that new. But you can’t write Maserati off, no matter how hard you try. As for Ferrari, their finger never leaves the pulse. Meet the latest Italian supercars, the Maserati MC20 and the Ferrari Roma.
Maserati has been teasing something like this for a long time and admittedly the headline numbers instantly pop out at you. A 0-60mph time in under 3 seconds and a top speed over 186mph. However, despite the more laser-focused supercar angle than anything in recent times, the MC20 isn’t going to live on a track either. On the other hand, the Ferrari Roma can be described as a GT with styling that has been downplayed for buyers who demand more discretion from their supercar. Even so, some of the styling elements on the Roma will be the base layer for future models, so it’s packing influence around Maranello’s car park.
The Maserati’s design stems from the mid-engine placement, then evolves into the theatrical butterfly doors that, when opened, ever so slightly disrupt the flow of the roofline. The MC20 is compact, slippery, and subtle and generally ticks all the tropes of a supercar. At around 155mph it will deliver 220lbs of downforce – hardly benchmark figures but impressive in the absence of wings; relying instead on a flat floor and integrated diffuser. More importantly, if you removed the Trident badge from the grille, you might just guess correctly which side of Italy it comes from Ferrari’s 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8 sits in the car’s nose rather than behind the seats.
That alone should give a pretty clear idea of where this car sits in the Ferrari stable – excuse the pun. Nevertheless, whether in a 488 or a Roma, this engine is still the leader when it comes to lag-free screamer but to suit the Roma’s less-edged character the camshafts, valves and exhaust system are new. Power outputs of 612bhp are fractionally up on the Ferrari Portofino. The eight-speed gearbox promises even faster shift times and is amazingly some 13lbs lighter than the Portofino’s gearbox which carries one fewer gears. It is hardly necessary, given that nobody was complaining before, but Ferrari doesn’t easily rest on its laurels. On paper the Roma is a bit slower than the Maserati; 0-60mph in 3.4 seconds which in supercar parlance is just OK.
Switch back to the Maserati’s powerplant and there’s certainly more tasty newness to savor. The 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 looks small alongside the Ferrari but it can be planted low in the chassis and is light. Interestingly that despite the rumors of Maserati’s electrified future the MC20 doesn’t feature any hybrid assistance. Instead, the engine’s party piece is the preignition system designed to yield a cleaner and fuller burn in the combustion chambers. A power output of 621bhp suggests that it works. An eight-speed gearbox is mapped between delivering thrust in the initial phases and efficiency in the final two.
Both interiors keep the button count down, preferring touchscreens to hold all the functions. That’s a brave move, considering that nothing beats the solid placement and tactile feel of button when you’ve got over 550bhp on a pinned throttle. As a result, there’s a degree of minimalism to both cabins – with the screens switched off there’d be even less life to it than there is now. For sheer size, Ferrari’s 16-inch screen takes the win and like all modern Ferraris, turn signals are on the wheel itself, as is the Manettino switch. Adaptive cruise control and a suite of cameras complement the notion that this is going to be one of the higher-mileage Ferraris out there.
Italy is still regarded as the capital of the supercar and now Maserati has accepted the invitation in emphatic style. Like all petrol heads should be, we’re salivating at the thought of a new, purer Maserati. As for the Ferrari Roma, this is another attempt to lure new buyers to the brand – in the same vain as the softer California and then the Portofino. Ferrari now has a formula while Maserati tore theirs apart and started over again. Hard to choose which will be more exciting. Pawan Dhingara