The last couple of years have seen the introduction of more new supercars than the past decade. Witness the Ferrari Enzo, Lamborghini Murciélago, Mercedes- Benz SLR McLaren, Porsche Carrera GT and Saleen S7. Not to be left out, Maserati has stepped into the ring with a jaw-dropping showstopper of its own. Dubbed the MC12 (Maserati Corse 12-cylinder), this newest contender is as exotic as they get, with all the trappings of a genuine supercar: a shrieking V-12 engine, carbon-fiber monocoque chassis, 6-speed sequential gearbox and a sleek, sexy shape.
Once beyond its striking look, the first thing that stands out is its size. We're not talking Enzo or Murciélago or McLaren F1 proportions, but something a half-size larger. It's bigger in terms of length, width and, odd as it may sound, surface area. With long overhangs front and rear, a massive wing, diffuser and intakes galore, the MC12 screams speed. It looks unlike anything that's ever come from Maserati — sleek, powerful and supremely purposeful.
The marque's signature trident rests proudly in the center of the grille, announcing to the world that Maserati is back in the business of building ultra-serious sports cars. Not only that, the MC12 also signals the company's much-heralded return to international sports-car racing (see sidebar). As the road-going version of its newest GT race car, this street car's sole purpose is not to impress wide-eyed onlookers, but to pave the way for a championship-winning racer.
With that in mind, the long, downforce-producing nose, roof-mounted center air intake and take-no-prisoners tail all make more sense. Built entirely of carbon fiber, the MC12's body puts function first, form second. Like the similarly proportioned Saleen S7 (another supercar with a racing twin), its drawn-out silhouette endows it with the necessary high-downforce/low-drag aerodynamics essential for high-speed competition. As a bonus, the MC12 also sports a removable hardtop that transforms it into an attractive spider.
Swing open the conventionally hinged doors (no scissors-type shenanigans for this supercar) and prepare for an interior that could come only from Maserati. Working with the same basic cabin configuration as the Enzo, with which the MC12 shares its carbon and Nomex honeycomb tub, designer Frank Stephenson has crafted a spectacular blend of sport and elegance. It comes across as exotic, but also quite livable. Once comfortably inside, there's little of the claustrophobic closeness found in many exotics.
Unlike the Enzo, which is awash in carbon fiber, the Maserati's cockpit displays the material more sparingly, preferring instead to artfully combine leather, aluminum and the very hip-looking BrighTex fabric, which originally came from the fashion industry. Front and center is a large silver tachometer with huge, almost cartoon-like digits that quickly prove invaluable once underway. The seats and steering wheel are also Enzo-sourced pieces, but again, they're given a lower-key treatment. The overall effect is strangely subtle in an odd blue leather and carbon-fiber sort of way.