By Joseph Moss, International Banker
Despite ever-changing market conditions and ascents of electric vehicles and high-performance SUVs (sport utility vehicles) that can outpace the Ferraris of the 1990s with ease, enormous interest persists in thoroughbred sports cars—those pure driving machines with engines matching drivers’ ambitions, providing enough power to make heads spin, accompanied by sublime performance. Not to forget their latest technologies, modern materials and gorgeous designs, making them more like rolling art pieces than just cars. Are those machines the pinnacle of contemporary car engineering? Quite possibly, and today we bring you two of the most exciting models: the Maserati MC20 and McLaren 600LT. Both come from companies with tremendous experience in building racing and touring cars. They boast similar displacement, power and performance but distinctively different characters. Both are fantastic and highly desirable two-door, two-seater machines fueled by passion while striving for excellence.
After years of producing heavy, comfortable but gorgeous GT (grand touring) coupes, sedans and SUVs, Maserati finally returned to its roots by presenting a proper sports car. For a long time, Maserati teased the car community with rumors of a new mid-engine sports car, but until 2020, nothing happened. Then, in September 2020, the legendary Italian brand presented its beautiful new model during a special event streamed all over the globe.
The MC20 presents a whole new direction for this company, starting with its fantastic F1-technology engine, Nettuno. This is an entirely novel unit engineered with the help of Ferrari. With 3.0 liters of displacement and twin turbochargers, the Nettuno is filled with race-spec technology. The angle between the cylinder banks is 90 degrees, and each cylinder has twin sparkplugs. A dry-sump system allows the car to reach insane lateral acceleration without fear of oil starvation. The result is 621 horsepower (hp) and 538 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque, which, translated into the language of performance, equals 0 to 60 miles per hour (mph) in 2.9 seconds with a top speed of 202 mph.
However, the rest of this car is equally impressive, starting with lightweight composite construction and butterfly doors alongside a very effective aerodynamics package, which didn’t ruin the original design and swooping lines. Power is sent to rear wheels over an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, guaranteeing lightning-fast shifts with complete control. Since this is an Italian sports machine of the finest order, the interior is also a very pleasant place to be. However, it features driver-oriented architecture and benefits from the use of carbon fiber. The layout is straightforward, and in front of the driver lies a digital instrument cluster with a rectangular infotainment screen on the right. The rest of the command elements are logical and well appointed, resulting in minimal distractions while driving.
Interestingly, despite being a proper sports car, the MC20 has a reasonably spacious trunk (150 liters of usable space). It should be enough for a getaway weekend in the country. For those interested in this model, the starting price is around $210,000, with European deliveries having already started this past summer, while North American buyers began receiving the MC20 in October 2021.
With decades of motorsport experience, a few iconic supercars and unique know-how under its belt, the United Kingdom’s McLaren is one of the most respected sports and supercar business names. In 2011, this company presented the now legendary MP4-12C, their first road-going sports car since the mystical McLaren F1. This authoritative model introduced a brand-new chassis design and engine configuration and influenced further evolutions of McLaren’s sports cars.
Fast forward to 2015, when the McLaren 570S was presented. This car represented a substantial upgrade over the MP4-12C’s formula, featuring a more powerful engine, better suspension and more aggressive design. However, in 2018, McLaren introduced a new model, 600LT, the perfect competitor to the Maserati MC20.
The McLaren 600LT is an improved model with more power, better aerodynamics package and sharper driving dynamics. The heart of this beast is a 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine with 592 hp (hence the name) and 475 lb-ft of torque. The performance figures are astounding, and 0 to 60 mph takes just 2.9 seconds with a top speed of 200 mph. The McLaren 600LT uses a seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive layout, just like the MC20.
The interior of the 600LT, despite being covered in top-notch materials, resembles the inside of a classic racing car. With clear and visible instruments, flat-bottom steering wheel and digital dash, the focused environment is designed to help the driver concentrate on driving. The sport seats might be uncomfortable for everyday driving but are necessary on the track. The 600LT is also available as a convertible, the 600LT Spider, with the starting price of this magnificent sports car at $256,000.
By now, it is evident that sheer numbers will not win this comparison but that hidden details will determine the winner. The McLaren 600LT and Maserati MC20 have identical performance figures, power outputs, similar technologies and design features. However, one is a dedicated, hard-core track monster, and the other is a capable, more usable sports car. The difference in weight will show you which is which; the MC20 weighs in at a hefty 1,490 kilograms, while the 600LT has a curb weight of just 1,255 kilograms, more suited to the concept of high-strung sports machines.
The significant difference is that curb weight works in McLaren’s favor and makes the 600LT a sharper, lighter and more precise driving tool. However, this cannot mask the spartan interior, lack of creature comforts, outdated transmission and almost $50,000 higher asking price. The MC20, on the other hand, is a more refined proposition with identical performance but augmented modern engine and transmission with an enhanced, elegant design and fresher appearance. The asking price, although pretty high, is still more affordable than the 600LT’s, and the MC20’s all-around characteristics make it a more reasonable proposition for the average sports-car enthusiast. That is why we give the Italian exotic the upper hand in this comparison and believe it will have a bright future in the global sports-car market.