Maserati forges a new path with MC20’s innovative F1-inspired engine

The Italian brings us behind the scenes of its all new Nettuno V6 powerplant.

- Advertisement -

Many have wondered what Maserati has been up to lately. I mean, while still highly desirable, powerful and respectfully capable from a performance standpoint, has become harder and harder to justify Maserati’s high premium considering that its vehicles share cabin components with Chrysler and Jeep,  and borrow their engines from Fiat and Ferrari. 

Except, now, Maserati is no longer associated with Ferrari. And since FCA and PSA joined forces to create Stellantis, new capital was injected into the brand to give it a breath of fresh air. It didn’t take long to see the results of these new investments.

MC20: Maserati’s first supercar in 15 years

Last fall, the iconic Italian carmaker unveiled a stunning mid-engine supercar called the MC20. Lightweight, beautifully designed and crammed with F1-inspired technology, the MC20 also housed Maserati’s very own twin-turbocharged V6 engine, a first since the years of the Biturbo during the 1980s.

2021 McLaren MC20
2021 Maserati MC20 with Klaus Busse VP of Design. Photo: Maserati

That engine happens to have a name: Nettuno, and it represents the beginning of what we should expect from Maserati’s New Era strategy. TractionLife was invited to a virtual tour of the facilities, in Modena, Italy, to see how that new engine is built.

MC20’s key specs

Engine layout: V6 90-degree (RWD)

Max. horsepower: 621-hp

Peak torque: 538 lb.-ft.

Top speed: over 202 mph

0-62 mph acceleration: under 2.9-seconds

Weight: under 3,306 pounds

Tires: 245/35 ZR 20 (front); 305/30 ZR 20

2021 McLaren MC20 interior
2021 Maserati MC20 interior. Photo: Maserati

Nettuno: a small engine with big output reviving the past

That’s right, Modena, and not Maranello where Ferrari builds its engines. With the help of Stellantis, Maserati took back control of its historic Viale Ciro Menotti plant while entirely modernizing it. This is where the MC20 is assembled. On the same lot, but in a different building, is where the Nettuno engine comes to life.

Six meticulous steps go into the engine’s assembly process. And while Maserati prides itself of maintaining a fully hand-built construction, a highly precise artificial intelligence validates each of the technician’s procedures by way of a camera system which monitors everything along the way. If the computer determines that a component was not well installed, of even that a serial number wasn’t inscribed properly, it refuses the process. All of this is then stored in a database for future reference. In other words, quality control is obsessive.

2021 McLaren MC20 nettuno engine 6
2021 Maserati MC20 Nettuno engine. Photo: Maserati

At only 3.0L of displacement, Maserati’s twin-turbocharged, 90-degree V6 isn’t very big, but it houses more than 200 horsepower per liter, for a total output of 621 horsepower and 538 lb-ft of torque. Most of it is achieved thanks to Maserati’s own dual ignition technology which adds a second spark plug directly inside the prechamber for a quicker, more precise ignition cycle. The engine’s computer automatically alternates between this main spark and the side spark according to drive modes and load.

Maserati didn’t want to comment if we’ll be seeing this engine in other models. For now, the Nettuno was specifically developed for the MC20 supercar. But it did hint at the fact that some of its technology could trickle down to other vehicles, most likely its upcoming Grecale compact SUV. As for electrification, yes, this engine, as well as the entire factory that surrounds it, were engineered for eventual electrified drivetrains. It’s however still unclear how all of this will unfold.

Oh, and for the record, no, this engine has nothing to do with the other 90-degree V6 found under the hoods of Alfa Romeo’s Quadrifoglio models. Maserati wants everyone to know that these two engines are only similar in design. In other words, the Nettuno has its own suppliers as well as unique technology that you won’t find in an Alfa, Maserati says.

William Clavey
Automotive journalist from Montreal, William is passionate about anything on four wheels. See his work in various outlets including Jalopnik, DriveTribe, TTAC, TractionLife, and others.