First Drive: 2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

Supercar. No word in the automotive lexicon carries such weight or expectation. Performance is a prerequisite, and petrolheads expect the utmost, but this elite class shoulders the burden of our imagination more than any other. We demand class, speed, power, and grasp for the intangibles like status — these machines are a four-wheeled fantasy for most and wish fulfillment for those lucky enough to hold their keys. That’s the heady space that the 2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo inhabits and a feather one of Italy’s most storied automakers seeks to stick back in its cap with its wicked Spyder.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

Admittedly, my Italian can barely fill an espresso cup and is weaker than a lukewarm brew from Tims. Still, the MC20 Cielo’s press materials tell me “Cielo” translates to “sky,” highlighting the core difference between the MC20 coupe and its convertible sibling. Thumbing through the 10.25-inch touchscreen and the glass hardtop slinks beneath the Cielo’s sleek clamshell within 12 seconds, all done from the cabin’s comfort while watching the magic happen. That isn’t its only trick, as roof glass uses polymer-dispersed liquid crystal technology, transforming from transparent to opaque at a button’s touch.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

Naturally, the peanut gallery will quickly point out that convertibles make compromises on a few fronts. In most cases, they’d be right. Weight gain? A mere 65 kg (143 lbs) over the coupe. Softened handling? I wouldn’t dare mention those words near it. A fall down the ugly tree? Heavens, no.  The MC20 Cielo might have an MSRP that lofts far into six figures and fit for the stars, but it also manages to reach them.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo


That yarn begins with its looks, seeing as the Spyder’s curvaceous form is breathtaking with the top up or down; no crumpled canvas folded up in the rear or an unsightly top cover spoils the purity of its sleek silhouette. Bordering on lurid from any angle, the Cielo-specific Acquamarina colourway adds to its eye-catching mystique and is bolstered by a heaping dose of carbon fiber throughout. It’s enough to make any onlooker weak in the knees, despite their preferred persuasion or orientation. That seems a superficial take, which I assure you it is, but supercars need to titillate all the senses, and the MC20 is well-equipped to do so.

That works in the Cielo’s favour because when the butterfly doors are open and angle skyward, it is difficult not to imagine yourself climbing into its bucket seat, zipping along the shores of Lake Como, a supermodel at your side and the wind through your hair. These cars inspire — eat your veggies, get good grades, and maybe you’ll own a Maserati when you’re big and strong, too, kids.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

Propelling those visions is true performance from the Nettuno twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 engine, pumping out a deliciously raw 621 horsepower and 538 pound-feet of torque. A throttle tap dolls out whirrs, whooshes, and wastegate whizzing spew from this positively roiling mill that is oozing with character, living up to whatever dream you’ve cooked up all by your lonesome. There is a touch of turbo lag when turning fewer than 3,000 rpm,  a broad and bountiful playground from there all the way through to the 8,000 rpm redline.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

The mid-engine V-6 is the undeniable star of the show, delivering lovely torque directly to the rear wheels via an ultra-smooth eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Even at full tilt, a tap of the paddle shifters results in a perfectly executed gear change. A burly, though quite tasteful, exhaust note barks with authority, but what stands out is the old-school charm seen in the six-cylinder powerplant. When exiting an apex, the acceleration is positively astonishing, which naturally reminds us of how hard that grippy 305mm Bridgestone Potenza Sport rubber must work to keep things in line.

There are more than a few modern sport and supercars that lean towards the antiseptic side, with traction control algorithms frantically keeping vehicles locked in on rails. The Cielo is not one of those cars, and it’s all the better for it. A solid jab to the accelerator in the more aggressive Sport or Corsa modes is enough to illicit tail wagging that’ll put a bead of sweat on your brow. This isn’t a passive or half-hearted drive, either—the Cielo wants to push.

Of course, it’s naïve to think that all those characteristics bubble to the surface without the help of its stellar carbon-fiber monocoque chassis. Nearly a carbon copy of the sharp-handling MC20 coupe, there are a handful of wise model-specific tweaks unique to its Spyder sibling. First, the adaptive suspension modes are reconfigured, followed by physical changes like a stiffer rear end, mainly to compensate for the retractable roof’s additional weight.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

Flipping through the rotary dial, we have Wet, GT, Sport, and Corsa driving modes at our disposal. In addition, the adaptive suspension offers Soft, Mid, and Hard. And here is where Maserati has diverted from its increasingly hard-edged competition compared to supercar contemporaries that continue edging towards the racetrack. In reality, the MC20 Cielo and its ilk will live out their lives on pothole-filled roads across the globe, leaving us with reconfigured modes that make the GT setting completely livable in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, California. Racetrack thrashing is undoubtedly in its purview, though it doesn’t limit itself to that alone.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

Things are firmed up once you’re scything through the San Gabriel Mountains and flicked into Sport mode. That’s where the supercar fantasy materializes in the Cielo, with its ultra-responsive steering letting you adjust or carve a tidy line without ever becoming twitchy. The lean, low car is suspended firmly to match any canyon run bravery, where only its hardest damping settings can start taking their toll on well-worn roads. Corsa, frankly, is a setting that cranks everything to 11, and unless you’re tackling some pristine winding highway, it’d probably be best used on the odd track day since nannies go out the window.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

Naturally, all that spirited driving will rely on the bite of the immense carbon-ceramic brakes, which have the kind of power that you’d expect of any car with a racetrack pedigree flowing through its veins. If there is one slight smudge on the Cielo’s otherwise spotless performance record, it’s in this section. These serving-plate-sized discs stop aplomb while trailing into curves at pace, getting good heat into the entire system with all the components at operating temp. But the feel isn’t quite there when more reasonable speeds are hit or when headed out on Sunday morning.

Sprinting around SoCal allowed lots of time to become acquainted with the spartan, near-minimalist interior. Luxury appointments are all there, and our test unit took things further with Alcantara trimmings amongst the supple leather seating. Carbon fiber bits hint at the inherent sportiness while the rest of it all seems fit for purpose, one that reports to the pleasures of performance. The accessory Sonus Faber stereo system is nothing short of excellent. As with the rest of the MC20, much of the effort seems to focus on the sound, the experience, and the drive itself.

2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo
2023 Maserati MC20 Cielo

Supercar. It’s a word that comes loaded with enormous expectations. Performance, style, and elegance are all met with the MC20 Cielo, which are unquestionably apparent from the first rude exhaust blast to the last. There is something special about the Maserati, even in Southern California, where the likes of Lamborghini, Ferrari, and McLaren roam free. The Maserati stands apart with a mature subtlety and understated confidence.

Supercar. It’s a word that I’ll never tire of typing about. Even within that halo category, this Maserati hits as something special. The performance from its rowdy V-6 is excellent, and paired with its carbon chassis; drivers will feel downright heroic. But the word supercar encapsulates more than the tangible. Luckily, the MC20 Cielo lives up to it.

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