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2022 Maserati MC20 builds confidence through feedback – Car Planet
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    2022 Maserati MC20 builds confidence through feedback


    The Big Willow track at California’s Willow Springs International Raceway tests a driver’s confidence. The bumpy high-speed turns 7, 8, and 9 require more bravery the higher you push the speed. The Covid-19 pandemic has kept me away for more than two years, and it’s taking time to relearn the racing line and build my confidence. The 2022 Maserati MC20 is an ideal partner in this quest.

    Maserati’s first supercar since the MC12 of 2004-’05, the mid-engine MC20’s performance envelope is greater than my driving talent, but the feedback it provides helps me take advantage of the skills I do have.

    With professional race driver Jon Morley in the passenger seat as a coach, my speeds increase, the lap times decrease, and my confidence grows as I learn the car and cycle through its drive modes.

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    Sport mode

    The first time out, I twist the blue and gray metal selector on the center console once to the right to choose Sport mode. At first, I’m unsure of the racing line, the grip from the Bridgestone Sport summer performance tires, and how easy it will be to handle fingertip-light steering and the power and fury of 621 twin-turbocharged horses from the first engine Maserati has developed in two decades. 

    As I exit the pits and get into the power, the twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 revs quickly and rockets the car forward into turn 1. This engine helps the MC20 slay the 0-60-mph run in less than 2.9 seconds and pushes the car to a top speed in excess of 202 mph. While it launches hard, the best power begins at 3,000 rpm when the torque hits its 538 lb-ft maximum.

    The V-6 sounds a raucous whine under full throttle and sings a different tune based on mode. It’s higher-pitched and more relaxed in GT mode, it drops an octave in Sport mode, and Corsa mode quickens the idle and opens the active exhaust baffles completely. Those baffles open at 3,500 rpm in Sport mode and at 5,000 rpm in GT.

    The engine, branded Nettuno, uses advanced and proprietary technology drawn from Formula One to spin out 207 hp per liter. Dual combustion chambers for every cylinder, each with their own spark plug, complement each other to help the V-6 run efficiently and create such incredible power. The use of both port and direct injection serves a similar purpose, with port injection working mostly at lower speeds like the side chamber and the direct injection and pre-chamber working at higher speeds. Dry sump oiling drops it low in the chassis for a better center of gravity. It may not be a Ferrari powerplant like previous Maseratis, but it’s just as advanced and powerful.

    While acclimating myself to the racing line, the steering stands out. With a 12:1 ratio, it’s super quick, and while light it’s also stable. The MC20 dives willingly into corners, but I’m growing to appreciate the small wheel movements needed to get through turns. Even the longer, tighter turns don’t require flailing from lock to lock.

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    Corsa mode

    Corsa, or race, mode, stiffens the dampers, loosens the stability control and traction control, shortens the 8-speed dual-clutch automatic’s shifts, and heightens the throttle response. By now, I’m starting to find the racing line and better understand what the car is doing.

    Through corners, the car stays stubbornly flat, the rear end follows the front dutifully, and the tires keep sending signals about when the front or the rear are about to step out. It helps me balance the car with the throttle to get through the turns, especially the turn 2 horse shoe. Despite the good balance, it’s important to ease into the gas when exiting tighter turns, as the rear end can come around out as the engine delivers its wallop of power and the quicker, harder shifts in Corsa can also upset the balance.

    A stiff structure contributes to the car’s poise and light 3,300-lb curb weight. Maserati developed the carbon-fiber tub with Italian race car manufacturer Dallara, and it’s designed to accommodate a roadster body style as well as an electric version. Double-wishbone suspensions front and rear with adjustable dampers locate the tires for the best contact patch, and this car has the optional electronic limited-slip differential rather than the standard mechanical diff to optimize power delivery when exiting corners.

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    The dampers become rather stiff in Corsa mode, but not so much that it’s a problem on this notoriously bumpy track. As my confidence builds, so do the speeds through turns 7, 8, and 9, which make up the roughest section of the track. The bumps don’t cause the car to skip, which would be a wild ride at speeds approaching 120 mph. Instead, the 245/35R20 front and 305/30R20 rear Bridgestone Sport tires stay glued to the pavement and the bumps translate as bounding motions in the cabin, not at the wheels.

    A few lessons are yet to be learned. I’m over-braking into turns 1 and 7 and under braking into turn 5. This car’s optional carbon ceramic brakes, with 15.4-inch front rotors pinched by 6-piston calipers and 14.2-inch rear discs with 4-piston calipers, are doing everything I ask of them with a firm, progressive pedal. I’ve just underestimated the tires’ traction capabilities when entering high-speed corners and I haven’t scrubbed off enough speed before the downhill turn 5 lefthander to set up for the right line.

    Getting turn 5 right creates more speed going into 7, and releasing the brake earlier is a revelation. The tires bite the pavement at speeds that at first feel uncomfortable, but clearly demonstrate the car’s tenacious grip, and they stay stuck to the pavement to help me keep increasing speeds in the corners.

    Efficient aerodynamics help the car stay stuck. The MC20 boasts a cleaner design than other supercars, and Maserati achieved its aero targets with 2000 hours of wind tunnel testing. The typical mid-engine supercar has much larger air intakes up front and along the sides, and a large rear wing. This car has smaller ducts up front with a system of vortex generators, almost subtle rear air intakes on top of the rear fenders, a smooth underbody with a rising hump shape in the center, a large rear diffuser, and a simple built-in kick-up rear spoiler. It all works to make a net 2.2 lb of downforce at 124 mph and keep the car planted at speed.

    Maserati also lets drivers turn off all the nannies. It appears as another mode called ESC Off on the center dial, but it’s just Corsa without traction control or stability control. It requires holding the dial all the way to the right for a four count. For best results, stick with Corsa, and let the electronics save any driving missteps.

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    2022 Maserati MC20

    Maserati MC20

    Maserati MC20

    GT mode

    The MC20 is clearly brilliant on the track, and it’s not bad on the street, either. It’s relatively easy to climb into thanks to butterfly doors that open wide, though you do have to step over a wide carbon-fiber sill. Inside, it’s laid out like a tastefully appointed race car, with a pair of sport seats wide enough for larger drivers, leather and Alcantara upholstery, carbon-fiber trim, and a small carbon-fiber center tunnel. A short but wide 10.3-inch touchscreen that looks like an older Kindle Fire handles the infotainment, and a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster changes appearance by drive mode.

    GT is the drive mode for the street. It has the most comfortable ride, though it’s firmer than cars like the Acura NSX, Audi R8, McLaren 720S, and higher-end versions of the Porsche 911, which can work as everyday supercars. GT also relaxes the throttle response, which calms the V-6’s edgier tendencies. And while it keeps the exhaust’s dampers closed unless the revs climb high, the proximity of the engine behind the driver and a general lack of sound deadener make the V-6’s drone a constant companion that wants to interrupt conversation. The MC20 isn’t uncomfortable to drive on the street, but it’s not relaxing, either.

    But then street driving is no test for the MC20’s performance mission. A challenging track like Big Willow is, and that’s where Maserati’s new supercar shines. Priced from $212,000, the MC20 can stand toe to toe with elite supercars. It doesn’t need a Ferrari engine to deliver the power, and it’s future-proofed for the electric revolution. Then, like now, expect it to be a feedback machine that can raise the game of any driver.

    Maserati paid for airfare, lodging, and track time for Motor Authority to bring you this first-hand report.



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