Maserati breaks free

A BOX-FRESH TWIN-TURBO V6 HERALDS A NEW ERA FOR MASERATI, AS IT GOES IT ALONE FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2002

CAMERON KIRBY

IN FOCUS

S OMEWHERE IN an executive’s office at Maserati HQ in Modena, Italy, we imagine a set of speakers are blaring The Vines’ 2002 grunge banger ‘Get Free’, as the company prepares to step out of Maranello’s lengthy shadow. Almost every new Maserati since 2002 has been powered by an engine sourced from Ferrari, but that tradition is coming to an end as Maserati readies its own in-house creation to usher in a new beginning for the trident badge.

With no public engine code, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 project is known simply as Nettuno (Neptune in Italian). It’s claimed this new engine is “100 percent Maserati” and is designed entirely without input from fellow Fiat alliance manufacturers. The car it will debut in, the MC20, is yet to launch but Maserati has revealed some intriguing information on the new engine to whet our appetites.

First, the core numbers. Peak power of 464kW arrives at 7000rpm, with max torque of 730Nm spread between 3000-5500rpm. That’s in the same ballpark as key rivals like Porsche’s 992 911 Turbo S (478kW/800Nm). Importantly it’s also a single kilowatt more powerful than the naturally aspirated F140 6.0-litre V12 that powered Maserati’s last supercar, the MC12, meaning the MC20 will be the most powerful Maserati ever.

Instead of opting for a compact hot-vee design, Maserati has placed a twin-scroll turbocharger under each of the cylinder banks, which are splayed at a 90-degree angle. Both turbos have their own intake manifold and throttle body, and a dry-sump oiling system is utilised. An oversquare engine design (88mm bore/82mm stroke) helps the V6 rev hard, with Maserati reporting a redline of 8000rpm. Both port and direct injection are utilised, resulting in a compression ratio of 11.0:1.

Maserati is particularly proud of its Twin Spark combustion system, and no, it’s not the same as the ancient Alfa architecture. This utilises a prechamber atop the main combustion chamber, with its own spark plug. The twin-spark set-up is claimed to generate a more uniform combustion within the chamber, which “reduces noise low down on the rev range, lowering emissions and improving consumption”. It sounds promising.

The Nettuno powerplant will remain exclusive to Maserati and will spawn its own family of engines

Development on Nettuno started in 2015, when a small team of engineers were tasked with seeing if the twin-combustion tech was feasible. International patents filed were filed and a driveable test mule arrived two years later.

Budget for a production run was assigned in 2019, with the new engine requiring a significant overhauling of Maserati’s facilities in Modena – new engine dynos, emission testing dynos, inertia test benches, workshops and assembly areas have all been installed. Nettuno will remain exclusive to Maserati and will spawn its own family of engines.

As bellowed by Vines lead singer Craig Nicholls – “I’m gonna get free/ ride into the sun” – a new, unchained, era of Maserati is upon us. Time to see if the 464kW Nettuno can ride fast enough in a rapidly changing automotive landscape.

CAMERON KIRBY

Back to the grid

The MC20 will fill the shoes left by the MC12 in multiple ways. Maserati’s first mid-engined supercar since the Enzo-based cult hero will also be its first factory-backed racer in 16 years. The MC20 will see the brand return to the global motorsport stage but Maserati hasn’t confirmed in which category. Our bet is GT3 or GTE – the latter allowing a return to Le Mans.