Taking control of the Edo Competition Maserati MC12 R was a moment deserving of more majesty than the side of a nondescript German road could offer. This car, after all, was the automotive equivalent of a Hattori Hanzo sword--the most finely balanced weapon in the four-wheeled world, and there wasn't even a stereo in the car to crank out some excessive mood music.
I had been granted 100 miles of running, as much seat time as any journalist in the world has enjoyed in any of the 50 Maserati supercars. Most went directly to museums or private collections anyway, but this one has more than 5000km on its clock after three months on the road and serves as a daily driver to a man with a supercar collection that would make J-Lo jealous. And this one felt better, keener than the original, because it is. This one has been tricked up by a chassis engineer at the top of his game and given more horses than the all-conquering Ferrari Enzo.
Even in damp conditions, with the rear wheels banging headlong into the traction control, it was still special. This is car that accelerates to 60 mph in less than 3.7 seconds and will keep reeling in the horizon up to and beyond 245 mph. Considering this car weighs less than 3,500 pounds and the Bugatti Veyron considerably more, this car here might just be the fastest on Earth.
Steering is telepathic and the acceleration is an intense, emotional, spiritual journey. Just as the hackles raise in the 6.0-liter V12 engine beyond the burbling 2000-rpm level, the world is already melting into fast-moving streaks through the window. The rev counter flickers around from tickover to the point the pistons meet the rings in the blink of an eye, and the high-tech gearbox is the only thing that could keep up with the hard-charging powerplant. Keep it nailed, flatshift to the next gear, and the MC12 will scramble senses with its pure unabated speed. The Enzo was good; this is slightly better.
That weight disappears on the open road and at speed this car won't be touched thanks to aerodynamic grip pushing the tires to the road. It felt single-seater light thanks to assisted steering and zero body roll. When the ballast slops around atop the wheels you've got issues; when it's pressed to the ground it provides deep-rooted stability.
Inevitably it felt wondrously balanced, easy to handle, confidence inspiring, just about everything else you'd expect from a car built around the mechanically supreme carbon-fiber monocoque of the Ferrari Enzo, Le Mans-tuned aerodynamics and the racing know-how of the ultimate Porsche specialist. It boggles the mind that a guy with a backstreet garage can take on Maserati's wares and turn a mild disappointment into a world-beater. But he has. Winner of the Tuner Grand Prix with a 550-bhp Porsche GT2, Edo Karabegovic then took the same car on a 7-minute, 15-second lap of the Nordschleife--faster than the works Carrera GT effort. He has since been inundated with requests to sort glamour cars including Lamborghinis, Ferraris and this Maserati.
He was less inspired than I was by its reputation. "Only the doors and the windows were right; everything else was absolute shit," was his colorful assessment. The roadgoing versions, he argued, are thrown-together facsimiles of a racing car, a legal requirement before the MC12 can conquer all in the FIA GT Championship. It's a rough approximation of the rules, with steel brakes, long bodywork that only starts working at 150 mph and Pirelli P Zeros in a deferential nod to the Trident's on-track partner. The Enzo was better equipped in every way. "Steel brakes on a car like this are absolutely ridiculous," Karabegovic continued with passion. "And the fixed suspension on this car is just horrible, it feels very nervous beyond 300 km/h [186 mph]. It didn't feel comfortable to drive this car fast."
The racing legacies weren't the only handicaps. While Ferrari donated the Enzo's underpinnings, there was always one great unwritten clause in the deal, too. Despite costing more, the Maserati would never be allowed to outdo the Enzo as a road car. Politics run deep within Italian car companies; disgruntled Enzo buyers just wouldn't do. So the V12 was bridled at 623 bhp, the rev ceiling pegged at 7700 rpm. This is the automotive equivalent of doping a horse, or giving it a very fat jockey. Paying punters believed they were getting the best that money can buy. But this was an overweight, overpriced Enzo-lite with none of the Scuderia's finesse. It did, however, have the potential to improve beyond recognition.